Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Exotic seeds and a Homegrown Revolution

I have been sorting my seeds, thinking about seeds and pondering what else I want to grow in this new gardening year. With our changing climate one thing I am interested in growing more of, are "unusual" and "exotic" vegetable crops (although, after last year's wet weather maybe I should think about just growing rice?)

At the end of January I was supposed to be volunteering at Garden Organic’s 20th National Potato Day  I was very excited because Garden Organic Ambassador and Ethnobotanist James Wong was due to give a talk about the many exotic edible tubers that can be grown in British gardens.  You may remember he presented a very interesting BBC TV series " Grow your own Drugs" plus  he appears on BBC 1 "Countryfile".

Sadly, because of the snow on the roads around us  I could not get to Ryton for this event, but I wondered if James was going to be speaking anywhere else about growing more "exotic" seeds in the UK. So I was delighted to discover, after an wander around the Internet yesterday afternoon (Google is a wonderful invention)  that  James Wong is doing a tour of the UK speaking at various events. The next event is 16th Feb, in Bristol  followed by an event at Kew Gardens on 26th Feb. Further events are listed during the next few months.

I also discovered that Sutton Seeds   produce  James'  "Homegrown Revolution" seed range. I did not know there was a "tie- in" seed range, and was interested to see the seeds on offer. I already grow, or have grown in the past, some of them (Purslane, Borage, Asparagus pea, Chinese Chives, Quinoa, Mooli) but there are many other interesting seeds which I quite fancy trying to grow this year.

There is a special offer on the Suttons website on  his book and a selection of  6 seed packets for free, for a very good price. Yes, you could get the book and seeds from various different suppliers but it IS convenient to find them all in one place, ready to order.

Having followed the link to the Suttons Seeds website, I had a look around and was pleased to see an ever more extensive selection of organic vegetable seeds -  as you know I try to use only organically certified seeds, growing media etc here at Compost Mansions!  I buy a lot of my seeds from The Organic Gardening Catalogue but  I do buy seeds from other places including the Real Seed Co, Suttons, Franchii, Victoriana Nurseries and MoreVeg.

The website is very well laid out as well, far too tempting for a seed -a-holic like me! As well as seeds there are lot of useful pages on what to be doing at different times of year and how to grow various plants.

I have a future post in mind about my seed order and plans  for 2013 and it looks like I might be adding still yet more seeds  to my list. And maybe a hint to Compostman about an early birthday present :-)

Anyone growing any "exotic" seeds? Or going to see/have seen James Wong speak?

Disclosure  - I was paid to link to Suttons Seeds  - but as always on The Compost Bin all the words and views are entirely my own :-) 


  1. I've definitely been trying to grow more over-wintering crops such as greens from Japan or China; I think it's important in our changing climate to grow things which may not necessarily be traditional but can adapt to varying conditions. I have got seeds coming which are from a Japanese variety which is called "land seaweed". It's trendy stuff and insanely priced so I thought I'd give it a go in my garden. I also grow quite a few berries which are unusual but can handle harsher winters, such as honeyberries and ligonberries. I had bergamot in my garden last year and loved it; it's both delicious and an interesting looking plant so would love to grow more.

    What's called "Inca Berry" on that last was just groundberries where I grew up, and used to grow all over on abandoned lots. They're not a favourite of mine but I recognise them.

    I'm trying to be a bit saner with my seed purchases as I just don't have the space, but who knows? I keep trying to make winter squash happens - maybe someday I'll find a variety that can grow in super-sodden clay but I doubt it:P

  2. I have grown asparagus peas 3 years. I have not been won over by them and they aren't on my plan for this year.

    I have grown fever few for quite a few years. it seems to grow like mad if left

  3. Hi Oya's Daughter - I knowwhat you mean about too many seeds...!

    I was interested to see how many things james Wong had listed as "exotic" when I have been growing them for years already - yes I forgot to mention bergamot - love the scent of it :-)

    Sol - Nice to see you back commenting :-)
    I agree about the Asparagus peas - I grow HSL ones and although they are pretty to look at they taste somehow furry in the mouth I find - I still gorwo a few very year just for the flowers though and the unusual seed pods :-)

  4. And yes, Feverfew is a weed in my garden - good job the hens like to nibble on it ( can birds with beaks nibble? )

  5. I'm down here in Victoria, Australia and plan on trying a few exotics too and exotic versions of the norm as well. I've planted purple sprouting broccoli (maybe my kids will eat purple food) although I chose white cauli's over the pink ones. I've also got purple brussel sprouts (my mad husband and 4-year-old eat the horrid things) which I'm going to try. I've also just bought some mangel wurzel seeds to have a go planting here. I'd only ever read about them in Enid Blyton books but I want to plant them and try them as food for our family (when young) and for our chickens too. To be honest though, it's more because I can if you know what I mean. :) I've planned some exotic varieties of garlic but otherwise going into winter will just be broad beans and carrots etc although I do have some gorgeous purple carrot seeds. I get some of my seeds from the diggers club who have an amazing range of heirloom/heritage seeds and I've even bought a banana tree to give it a try even though we are in a cold climate area (greenhouses are wonderful things :D ) The only other exotic I tried this year was sugarbaby watermelons, a small sweet varietal but they never grew enough and we have some pretty short summers here. I've transplanted it to the greenhouse even though they hate being transplanted (no loss if it dies as it won't fruit before the frost anyway)

  6. You are lucky to be able to grow thibgs like that!

    I am pleased I managed to grow some lemongrass and some sweet potatoes :-)


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