Saturday, September 12, 2009

Virtual visit to The Gravel Garden

I have mentioned in previous blogs that I am using a lot of heirloom seeds this year. I have bought them from two sources - and The Gravel Garden. Because Shannon (from the Gravel Garden) doesn't yet have a website, I asked her to send me a little info about her heirloom seed business. All the photos here are her glorious tomatoes.

"I am a mother of two who loves making compost ,cooking and growing fresh food,keeping chickens and saving seed . I started gardening 12 years ago by necessity rather than passion. We had moved from Cape town to Somerset West to inherit a neglected garden on a 2400m2 plot.

It wasn't long before passion bloomed and in order to justify "staying" put in the garden. I opened a small backyard herb nursery in 1999. Saving seed from old varieties of vegetable has seen the demise of lovingly planted Roses and extensive indigenous gardens planted by myself in the last ten years.If we cant eat it , we generally don't grow it.. (barring a couple of pretties for the bees and butterflies) Seventy percent of the garden is now utilized for the growing of heirloom vegetables and saving seed which takes the plants well past harvest stage.

I love what I do and am continuously motivated by the enthusiasm of my children and their friends . This is a way of life that percolates and inspires people of all ages to better appreciate how and where their food is produced."

The chicken coop @ The Gravel Garden

A little on heirloom seeds:

"My definition of an heirloom vegetable (and there are a few) is the seed that has been nurtured and saved over generations. These seeds were smuggled over borders and seas in times of strife. Often sown into hemlines and jackets, immigrants from all over have always travelled with seed that had traits they found desirable. Flavour, productivity, disease resistance being some of them. Some modern day varieties have been bred and although not strictly heirlooms (50 years or older) are still on seed lists for heirlooms because of their ability to produce true seed.

I started growing heirloom vegetables about 4 years ago. Having had a veggie garden for a couple of years I was constantly on the lookout for “new” varieties. What I didn't figure on was that finding that “old” varieties were where all the taste was, especially when it comes to tomatoes. The tomatoes that we have become accustomed to are generally all picked green for shipping countrywide and gassed with ethylene to speed up ripening. This means that they can sit in cold storage for a long period and make it to your salad looking perky and ripe as if it where just plucked from the vine.

The taste....well, that seems to have fallen by the wayside hasn't it? Older, tastier (so much tastier) varieties are just not marketable. They don’t travel or store well. Their shapes are far from uniform and just don’t fit in those little polystyrene punnets. So the flavour of our fruit has been compromised and we forget how good that used to be.

There are virtually thousands of open-pollinated varieties out there. The real beauty of this is that gardeners and farmers can save their own seed from these fruit and vegetable and hold these 'genetically diverse gems' in safe keeping for future generations who just might need to have a little “food security” in the future."

For a full list of heirloom seeds contact Shannon at

We mail countrywide and seeds can also be purchased from me at my Backyard Nursery and Kitchen gardens.


Linnie said...

Wow, thank you for these information! Just what I were looking for while planning my first vegetable garden. I once heard someone said: "When it is worth doing it, do it good." That's how I feel about this vegetable garden. I want to do it to the best of my ability and resources.

Wendy said...

Pleasure Linnie.