Gardening Magazine

Volunteering for Duty

By Gardenamateur

This is the dream scenario for vegie gardeners: crops that plant themselves. Pictured below is my first-ever self-seeded lettuce baby, doing well this morning. 

Volunteering for duty

And it's not on its own, either. There are four more almost identical siblings popping up in what is now my shallot patch, but I am sure those skinny people don't mind interlopers.

I do like the term for these self-planting vegies: "Volunteers". Prior to this I've had volunteer potatoes aplenty, tomatoes and strawberries too, but never any salad greens.

Now, how this all came about is due to my "lettuce tower" which I blogged about in October. I like letting some vegies live out a full life cycle, and it seems my purple lettuce tower not only flowered, but it also set seed which has now germinated. Woo hoo!
Volunteering for duty

The cheapness of my thrills is appalling sometimes ...

Volunteering for duty

But those yellow lettuce flowers did look nice against that purple backdrop.

Onto the next minor thrill ...
Volunteering for duty

No, this is not a self-seeded story, this is just a story about a new plant developing crops very early in its life. Yes, another thrill, I'm afraid.

Volunteering for duty

The problem for us with cucumbers is that the plants take up too much space, so I am always on the lookout for smaller growing versions. I spotted this "CuteCumber" at Bunnings a few weeks ago, and the "cute mini size" label had me sold the moment I saw it.

Volunteering for duty

So I've set up a teepee over the seedling and it is powering along, a bit too much in fact for my liking. The label says its size is "90-150cm" and so I am really hoping for 90 but have a very nervous 150 feeling deep in my bones. Pam absolutely loves cucumbers, and so I am hoping to be able to provide some of this summer's supply for her.

Volunteering for duty

Finally, another small beginning that is working out well. A while back I realised that when I didn't have any fresh chillies at home, I mostly bought the red, 10cm (4 inch) long chillies for cooking. And so a while back I opened up one of my supermarket 10cm chillies, saved eight seeds, sowed them in a punnet, and all eight seeds came up and turned into healthy plants. Chillies are like that. They really like life.

While all the familiar uses of chillies (chopped and tossed into everything from sambals to curries and stir-fries) are not worth mentioning yet again, one other way that I like to use those bigger, more gently heated chillies is in cooking tomato-based pasta sauces. For "a touch of chilli" I just toss one whole, uncut, unopened chilli into the sauce and let it slowly infuse a very gentle heat into the sauce, whether it's a vego tomato sauce or a meat-rich tomato sauce. Just before serving, lift out the soggy cooked chilli and discard. Lovely effect it gives to a tomato sauce, without making it "hot". 

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