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Kings Seeds catalogueI look forward to the Kings Seeds catalogue arriving in the mail. On-line catalogues are great but there is nothing like curling up with a printed catalogue and reading about all the new and exciting things you could grow in the coming season. I have been buying seeds from Kings for ages – since they were Kings Herb Seeds – and have found that they have the best range of unusual herbs and vegetables available in NZ.

Once I have looked through and marked everything that looks interesting, I look through my store of seed from previous years to see what I have that is still likely to be viable. My seed packets are stored (alphabetically of course – I am a librarian!) in a old cake tin with a divider down the middle. Whenever I get little packs of moisture-absorbing granules (often found in new shoes) I put these in the tin with the seeds. The tin lives in the larder which is cool and dark.

I then go through the catalogue again adding standard items that I am out of and deleting anything I have already.  When it comes to ordering I usually do this on-line.

The new things I am trying this year include:

Caper bush – I usually pickle nasturtium pods as a caper substitute but thought I would try growing the real thing. I think I will plant this in a large pot so I can put it under the verandah so as to keep it reasonably dry.

Cucumber Mini White – my son (10 yr) doesn’t eat fruit so I like to give him a chunk of cucumber in his lunch. He is a bit fussy and won’t eat it if the surface dries out so these mini cucumbers look like a good option. I can turn some into gherkins too.

Pea Petit Provencal – I have tried various types of peas in the past but I like the sound of these ones which can be eaten as snow peas as well as shelled peas and have tasty tendrils as well.

Pumpkin Baby Bear – Now there are only 2 of us that like pumpkin these mini pumpkins sound ideal. I have grown Pumpkin Austrian Oil Seed for a couple of years for the hull-less seeds but the flesh looks unappetising – pale and stringy – so these pumpkins with their semi hull-less seeds may be a good alternative. I wonder what semi hull-less means – do some of the seeds have no hulls or all the seeds have partial hulls?

Purslane Red and Gold – I have been growing green purslane for a number of years and find it an excellent addition to green salads. It also self-sows quite well – a definite bonus in my books! This variety sounds just as good with the added bonus of different colours to liven up our salads.

Samphire– I read about samphire some time ago in A Country Harvest but at that stage it wasn’t available in NZ. Something else to add variety to summer salads.

Tomato Peron – I like to try a different variety of tomato each year to add to the best varieties I have grown in previous years. This year Peron caught my eye for its resistance to fungal diseases. I have a continual battle with blight so I hope this one will do well.

Water Spinach Bamboo Leaf – Whilst travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia we saw lots of water spinach growing and no doubt ate quite a bit of it too. I really enjoy South East Asian cooking so thought I would give this a go.

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Baby seedlings of purslane, fennel, pak choi & mustard lettuce

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Potted seedling ready to plant

I like to grow my vegetable plants from seeds – it is cheaper and the range of varieties is much greater. Also, if you are organised, you can have plants ready when you want them rather than when the garden centre thinks you might. Unfortunately, since starting work a year ago, I haven’t been sowing seeds as diligently as in the past and have had to buy a lot more seedlings than in other years. I decided to turn over a new leaf this year and make more of an effort to keep up with the sowing and subsequent transplanting. In order to help me with this I have set up a spreadsheet with the months of the year across the top and the vegetable names down the side. I then put an ‘X’ in the appropriate squares to indicate the sowing times for various vegetables.

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Master sowing calendar

While I was compiling this table, I did a search to find the right sowing time for celeriac (something I have never grown successfully) and found a great New Zealand website with most of the information I needed. You can even sign up for email reminders of what to plant. Once I had my main spreadsheet, I copied the relevant information for each month to a separate spreadsheet and added rows for: variety, seed source, sowing date, germination date, time till germination, pricking out date, transplanting date and harvest start and finish dates. Hopefully this will be a useful resource in future years.

Sowing calendar for February

Sowing calendar for February

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