Car­rots seed far and wide


What a gold­mine a flow­er­ing car­rot is. Apart from the tall, ele­gant vis­ual dis­play of its um­bel­lif­er­ous flow­ers, it pro­duces a heap of seed.

Many fly­ing in­sects ap­pre­ci­ate the flow­ers, some of them ben­e­fi­cial – many use­ful for pol­li­na­tion around the garden – and it all comes from one tiny seed.

Car­rot seeds on the plant, un­like in the packet, are cov­ered with a set of firm hairs, ready to catch a ride on any an­i­mal or woolly jersey that brushes past. They can spread them­selves far and wide or merely drop be­low the plant and con­tinue from there. For a cheap way to col­lect your own seed, a few car­rots left to go to seed pro­vide an abun­dance.

Parsnips are the same, as are so many veg­eta­bles, so if you let the best of them re­pro­duce in this way, you can sup­ply much of your seed needs. Larger veg­eta­bles such as sweet corn and pump­kins may need to be grown in large amounts and away from other va­ri­eties to main­tain their type qual­i­ties.

But a let­tuce or two, gone-toseed broc­coli or cab­bage will give a way­ward swathe of yel­low or white flow­ers which again, at­tract use­ful in­sects and will in time pro­vide you with plenty of seeds.

Herbs such as pars­ley, co­rian­der and chives are easy to grow for their flow­ers and seeds. Co­rian­der is one of those plants that pro­vides each step of the way; first leaves for sal­ads then seed for stir-fries and cur­ries. Chives pro­vide leaves and flow­ers for sal­ads, and any that are not used will set seed, and are worth sav­ing for plant­ing in spring.

When col­lect­ing seeds from your garden, take pa­per bags, scis­sors and a pen with you.

Some can be col­lected straight away when they have clearly dried on the plant and gone brown. For oth­ers though, you may have to be crafty to stop the birds eat­ing the lot. Sun­flow­ers are an ex­am­ple of this, where you are best to col­lect the droop­ing and heavy head of seed and hang it in a dry and airy place. Po­si­tion the head into a bag and tie firmly around the stem so that mice and birds can’t eas­ily get into it and wait for it to dry enough that any seeds that fall out are caught in the bag.

You can do this in the garden too, while any seed head is still at­tached to the plant. A plas­tic bag tied around the head will en­sure seeds even­tu­ally fall into your hands rather than drop­ping on the ground. Just check how they’re look­ing from time to time, es­pe­cially af­ter rain. Tall stalks of broc­coli once browned off and full of seed pods can be cut and stored in a dry dark place. It’s fun for gar­den­ers to later package up and la­bel seed pack­ets for gifts.

Car­rots can be sown through sum­mer un­til about the end of March, when the soil tem­per­a­tures start low­er­ing and growth will be slow through win­ter. So there is still time to grow your own blowsy blooms and col­lect thou­sands of seeds.

You won’t want to let all those good eat­ing car­rots go to seed though, so suc­ces­sively sow ev­ery two or three weeks and keep wa­tered through dry times.

If you’ve grown peas, let­tuce or spinach and th­ese crops have fin­ished, then car­rots are good to fol­low with. Leeks are good neigh­bours with car­rots, as are onions and the herbs rose­mary and sage. They ma­ture in 60 to 80 days for eat­ing, with the har­vest­ing of seeds much later.


Seed mines: The abun­dant in­flo­res­cence of the hum­ble car­rot.

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