The Barbara Good Project #7

Remember this, I haven’t posted about it for ages so I’ll give you a quick run down.  Basically Digger’s were offering a seed collection for low income families that claimed it could provide you with two tonnes of food (hopefully not all at once!).  I decided to put this claim to the test, ordered the collection and set to work.  At first I was very careful at keeping records of the number of seeds I planted, calculating the germination rates and planned to weigh the harvest as I collected it.  Unsurprisingly, when it came to the busy time of the garden year, the whole weighing thing didn’t really happen, but I do have a rough idea of how much I’ve harvested.  So now it’s time to review the Summer crops.

1. Lettuce Italian Lollo Mix (87% Germination rate) – Claim was for 560 lettuces
Actual germination rate was close to 100%
Two lost to snails when planted out (the only two red ones that came up curiously)
Harvest – I opted to pick leaves rather than the whole plant at once, but had a steady supply for most of the summer and the lettuce was particularly tasty.
Verdict – I think you could easily reach the goal for lettuces and with staggered planting have lettuce all year round (I’ve just planted more so we’ll see how they go in the cooler months).  The plants did eventually go to seed, but then you could very easily collect the seeds for more planting (or just shake the dry seed heads over the garden bed which is my usual method of seed saving).

2. Tomato Amish Paste (93% Germination rate)
Tomato Principe Borghese (86% Germination rate) – Claim 824kg
The Principe Borghese were a cherry tomato variety and the Amish Paste were similar to a Roma in size and shape.  Both reached or bettered the germination rate and they survived the transition into the garden.
Harvest – Principe Borghese performed quite well and have provided enough cherry tomatoes for all summer salads as well as being the main ingredient in risottos and pasta dishes.  I also made two jars of relish and had a constant supply of snacks for Miss Two while we were playing outside.  They are still heavy with fruit.  The Amish Paste on the other hand have been very disappointing, I have only picked one ripe fruit so far though there are quite a few on the plants now.
Verdict – I most definitely won’t be able to reach this goal, though I will try both again next year, planting the seeds earlier and making sure I find a better spot for the Amish Pastes (these ones ended up in the compost pots, plus a few less desirable positions due to a lack of planning).  I have recently seen and read about huge harvest from the Amish Paste variety, so I’m keen to give them another try.

3. Bean Stringless Pioneer (89% Germination rate) – Claim 21kg beans
I didn’t get anywhere near this germination rate, more like 60% at the most.  I also had huge trouble with snails getting the seedlings so had to use snail bait.
In the end I had three plants around a teepee (though they never really climbed it very well) and eight plants in with the corn.
Harvest – I have been picking up to 500g of beans a week and most plants are still going strong.  Some plants have produced far more beans than others, though I can’t really pin point why some have grown better than others.
Verdict – I think this claim could have been achieved had I had a better germination rate and fewer issues with snails.  As it is I planted probably 2/3 of the seeds in the packet to get the eleven plants I ended up with so won’t be able to achieve the 21kg target.  I have already saved some seeds for later though.  I was also slightly disappointed with the flavour of these beans, they were nice but I think I could find even better ones – any suggestions?

4. Pumpkin Waltham Butternut (90% Germination rate) – 120kg Pumpkin
Germination rate was a little less than the 90%, more like 66% and then lost one as a seedling (note I only planted 6 seeds to begin with)
I think I planted these out far too late and they took forever to get going.  Now they’re rambling all over the garden.
Harvest – nothing to date!  There is one pumpkin that looks like it will make it to maturity all the rest have grown then shriveled and rotted (like the zucchinis actually).  Everyone I know seems to be able to grow pumpkin from scraps in the compost, but I seem to be having more difficulty than most.
Verdict – never going to happen!  I’m hoping for 500g.

5. Cucumber Armenian (94% Germination rate) – Claim 268kg cucumbers
My germination rate was pathetic and then every time they did emerge the snails ate them.  In the end out of about half a packet of seeds I ended up with ONE plant.
Harvest – nothing (except for those from the seedlings I bought from the big green shed)
Verdict – NO WAY!

6. Carrots All Seasons (96% Germination rate) – 42kg carrots
I planted roughly 200 seeds and about 10 came up, that makes my germination rate of 5%.
Harvest – of the ten that came up only three survived to harvest time.  Those three did look pretty impressively carrot-like (not huge, but a good size).
Verdict – Obviously this one is quite definitely not going to happen.  And I was pretty disappointed with the taste, quite bland.  I’m trying Andrea’s carrot seeds now, I’m hoping for better harvest and taste.

The remaining seeds include onions, peas, broccoli, parsnips and silverbeet.  Let’s hope I have slightly more success with the winter crops.

To date I think Diggers have dramatically overstated the potential from this seed collection.  This two tonnes of food was supposed to be achievable for a novice gardener – like me.  I feel like they’ve totally disregarded the normal issues like pests when making they’re claims.  Maybe it is possible to reach the targets in the absolute ideal conditions, free from pests and with loads of time to spend in the garden.  This is just not realistic.

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2 Responses to The Barbara Good Project #7

  1. Liz says:

    Good assessment, my pumpkins have been poor too this year and in a fit of pique I ripped them out – prematurely as after I’d done it I noticed all the little pumpkins forming on one end of the vine….. My dad grew Amish Paste too this year and like yours they have been slow to set fruit, perhaps they need more consistent warmth to do really well? Regarding beans it depends how you want to grow them and how you like to eat them. I was really excited by two bush bean varieties I grew this year – Beanette which are small, thin and good for eating whole and Majestic Butter which as the name suggests is a yellow butter bean. Both cropped well and tasted good. Jade is also an excellent tasting bush bean variety but the germination rates are appalling. I haven’t found a climbing bean that I really rate for flavour yet either.

  2. Ami Hillege says:

    You’ve given a good summary of what could happen. I planted cucumbers and all I got was leaves! Some seeds don’t even come up. BUT, the veggies that do grow are wonderful. I’ll still keep growing my own. Nothing more satisfying. I was dissappointed with my tomato harvest. I planted seeds in punnets in my greenhouse last October. Hardly any grew to full size and the tomatoes I did harvest were the random plants that popped up from seed from the previous year. I will try again this year. I wonder when I should try and plant tomato seeds again. We’re in the Colac area and it’s cool here.

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