Seed list 2019/20

That’s pretty much all the seeds I have added to my online seed list now. This is a good time for sowing seeds that need stratification (winter cold) before germination, which in the forest garden is a lot of them.

New seeds this year include angelica, Manchurian spikenard (a continental version of udo), common storksbill, spignel, evening primrose, orpine, fen nettle and Scottish-grown chamnamul (Pimpinella brachycarpa). As usual they are offered for swaps, donations or the love of plants.

One new thing I have done this year is add codes to the plant listings which should save me spending ages hunting for them. Please quote Latin names with the code. The list is at https://scottishforestgarden.wordpress.com/forest-garden-seeds/

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Common storksbill, Erodium cicutarium

Forest garden courses 2019

I have set dates for a couple of Introduction to Forest Gardening courses in the next few months. These are the only courses that I’ll have time to do this year.

Day courses

The one-day course will cover all the basics that you need to start forest gardening, including designing, planting, looking after, harvesting, cooking and eating from your garden. It should be particularly relevant to those growing in an allotment, small garden or community setting. It will cost £50 and will be on the dates below. I can take a maximum of 8 people on each, so please book in advance. You can book by clicking on the booking link below. If you would like to come but really can’t afford the fee, email me.

Saturday 27th July  11:00 – 17:00 – booking link
Tuesday 8th October 11:00 – 17:00 – booking link

Accommodation

If you need to stay over in Aberdeen for any course I can put one person up in my spare room (two if they are willing to share a small bed). First come, first served!

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Late autumn harvests 2018

The leaves are all off the trees now and autumn is shading gently but firmly into winter, but there is still plenty happening in the forest garden. Low light and wet plants make photography difficult, but a friend with a better camera and better skills than me recently took some shots, which prompted me to write a round-up post.

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Photos by Julian Maunder

It’s counter-intuitive if you are used to an annual garden, but autumn is a major sowing and germination time in both nature and the forest garden. Many seeds require stratification, or a period of cold, to germinate, and the easiest way to achieve this is to sow in autumn and let nature take its course. Other plants are self-sowing and coming up in autumn, taking a punt on managing to survive the winter and seed early. A mild autumn can be a really productive period with such plants: I’ve particularly enjoyed having copious supplies of rocket this November. I wonder if, after many generations of self-sowing, rocket is becoming hardier in my garden? Last winter – by no means a mild one – was the first time a plant survived the whole winter through and managed to seed in the spring. It is the offspring of this plant that are growing so vigorously in the cool weather now.
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I was also very pleased to see miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) self-seeding freely. It has been a bit frustrating watching this species thrive in unexpected places like the nearby university car park while taking a long time to really get established in my allotment. It is a really nice, mild salad crop, so I’m sure the wait will be worth it.

Miner's lettuce

I particularly like getting biennial carrot family members established as self-seeding populations in the garden These are often quite difficult to grow each year from seed, having often short-lived seed with demanding stratification requirements and vulnerability to various diseases that are ingrained in our long-established allotment site. Saving seed, or allowing plants to self seed, is the only way to really guarantee fresh, viable seed. Parsnips, coriander, fennel, celery, angelica, alexanders and turnip-rooted chervil all self-seed this way. Of these, autumn is a particularly productive time for the celery and alexanders. I’m also getting there with Hamburg parsley, a variety of parsley that produces an edible root.

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Seeds of alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) can be put in a pepper grinder and used as a spice

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Angelica (Angelica archangelica) showing a wonderful deep red at the base

Another pair of related plants providing both food and colour at this time of year are the pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis) and chop suey greens or shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium). Both are producing cheerful yellow and orange flowers against the gloom, and the flower shoots of both can be used in stir fries. With the marigolds I use them flower bud and all, but the bud of the shungiku is very bitter so I remove it.

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Chrysanthemum coronarium

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Calendula officinalis

The wood mallow is also still going strong, providing edible leaves and flowers, and the little seed-heads known as ‘cheeses’. When you add in the kale, the leeks and the veritable treasury of root crops still to be dug up, winter may be coming but that is no cause for the forest gardener to worry.
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Forest garden seeds 2018

It’s that time of year again, when every time I go down to the garden I come back with a pocket full of seeds. I’m going to take a slightly different approach this year to what I usually do. I normally wait until I have got all the year’s seeds in, then make up my trade list. The trouble with this is that by the time the last seeds are ready, the earliest ones have been in store for over six months and in some cases have already missed their ideal sowing time, so this year I am simply going to list seeds as I pick them.

One of my motivations for seed saving is that I find a lot of species, especially those in the carrot family, difficult to grow from bought seed. This applies not only to forest garden exotics but to well established crops like parsnips. I know I’m not the only one and I’m convinced that this is the reason why some crops like turnip-rooted chervil and Hamburg parsley aren’t more popular, despite how delicious they are. I’m hoping that this approach will help other people around that barrier.

My seeds are listed on the Forest Garden Seeds page.

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Parsnip flowers

Update on forest gardening courses 2018

I’m happy to say that the the first forest gardening course went very well, apart from me almost losing my voice from talking so much! The two participants who made themselves my guinea pigs were great company, and the weather was so good that we didn’t leave the garden once in the whole six hours (thanks to the Kelly kettle).

I’ve now added one more day course and settled on dates and a format for the evening course. This should be all the courses I do this year now (but if a date is booked out or you can’t make any of the dates, email me). A quirk of the booking site that I used meant that booking for the August and September courses closed after the July one, so if you tried to book and were told that there were no tickets, try again!

The full course details now go like this:

Day courses

The one-day course will cover all the basics that you need to start forest gardening. It will cost £50 and will be on the dates below. I can take a maximum of 8 people on each, so please book in advance. You can book by clicking on the booking links below. Please note that for the August and September courses the booking site will tell you that there are no tickets for sale until you choose a date.

Sunday 12 August  11:00 – 17:00 – booking link
Sunday 9 September  11:00 – 17:00 – booking link
Sunday 14 October 11:00 – 17:00 – booking link

Evening classes

The evening classes will be more informal, and will be about having a look at whatever crops and tasks are happening in the garden on that date. Over the course of a year, participants should get a full picture of the workings of a forest garden. The cost per evening will be £5. If you are interested in the evening classes please email me at dalancarter@yahoo.co.uk. The dates and times are below – note that the times change because it gets dark earlier each time!

Thursday 16 August 19:00 – 20:00
Thursday 13 September 18:00 – 19:00
Thursday 11 October 16:30 – 17:30

Accommodation

If you need to stay over in Aberdeen for any course I can put one person up in my spare room (two if they are willing to share a small bed). First come, first served!

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Forest gardening courses 2018

After many requests, I have finally organised some official forest gardening courses, based in the garden itself. There are two kinds: a one-day introductory course and a monthly evening course.

Day courses

The one-day course will cover all the basics that you need to start forest gardening. It will cost £50 and will be on the dates below. I can take a maximum of 8 people on each, so please book in advance. You can book by clicking on the booking link below. Please note that for the August and September courses the booking site will tell you that there are no tickets for sale until you choose a date.

Sunday 15 July  11:00 – 17:00
Sunday 12 August  11:00 – 17:00 – booking link
Sunday 9 September  11:00 – 17:00 – booking link
Sunday 14 October 11:00 – 17:00 – booking link

Evening classes

The evening classes will be more informal, and will be about having a look at whatever crops and tasks are happening in the garden on that date. Over the course of a year, participants should get a full picture of the workings of a forest garden. The cost per evening will be £5. If you are interested in the evening classes please email me at dalancarter@yahoo.co.uk. The dates and times are below – note that the times change because it gets dark earlier each time!

Thursday 16 August 19:00 – 20:00
Thursday 13 September 18:00 – 19:00
Thursday 11 October 16:30 – 17:30

Accommodation

If you need to stay over in Aberdeen for any course I can put one person up in my spare room (two if they are willing to share a small bed). First come, first served!

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Eating flower stems

At this time of year, flower stems feature on the forest garden menu in a big way. Flower stems have a number of advantages over other parts of the plant. A mature flower stem may be fibrous and tough, but while growing they are generally soft. They are usually quite chunky compared to other stems, which is handy in preparing them. And compared to the rest of the plant, they are often far less loaded with the defensive chemicals that make plants taste bitter or nasty to us. Finally, removing the flower stems can divert the plant’s resources from seeding and into vegetative growth, which is often what we want from it.

Here, from left to right, are a number of flower stems that I picked for an entirely flower-stem-based dinner recently:

Skirret: chunky, carroty and produced in abundance; best to strip the leaves off.
Radish: leaves, stem and flower heads are all good, not just the root.
Alexanders: less strong tasting than the rest of the plant at this stage.
Mint: minty.
Welsh onion and walking onion: stems becoming a little fibrous but dissolve into a sauce with a lovely sweet onion flavour if cut fine; flowers and bulbils still soft enough to use.
Salsify: abundantly produced, with an artichoke flavour’
Udo – disappearing out of the picture!
Leaf beet: chunky with an earthy, asparagus-like taste.
Celery: the leaf rather than the stem variety, but flower stems are soft enough to use.
Turkish rocket: soft and tasty.

There’s a patience dock in there too, with surprisingly sweet stems, but I can’t see it!

edible flower stems