2020 Spring Seed List and Growing Guide

After a week of milking goats after breakfast, bottle feeding kids, feeding and watering the breeding geese, new chicks out, exercising the dogs, a little frantic garden work, then goats in from pastures, kids in from their green manure pen, lunch, goats out again, then two hours of afternoon kid goat grazing in the orchard while I prune, then everyone back to bed before dinner, rinse and repeat, I utterly lost track of the days. As such there will be no long form post today but I did get around to putting together my warm season seed list (and an upgrade to the website should be coming shortly as well).

In south east Queensland these seeds can start going in from September given the current season. It is shaping up to be a lovely damp la nina spring (a huge relief after the nightmare drought, heatwaves and fires last spring) likely followed up by a wet summer. It is a great chance to contrast how these crops perform at the two moisture extremes that our climate can dish out.

Below is a brief description of the species on offer as seed, with basic growing instructions for novices. Thin every type to one seedling per position as they get established. Please email me at the address below to place an order. Seed is $5 per packet plus $5 postage per order. Your support helps make it possible for me to continue my experiments so that I can offer even more exciting seed in the future. Seed from the earlier cool season list are still available and may be suitable for more southern growers to sow at this time of year. Just ask me if you want any of those varieties and I can check availability. If they are not on this list then I don’t recommend growing them at this time of year, though with more generous conditions than I grow under they could still perform well in the subtropics and be finished before the real summer heat arrives.

zeroinputagriculture {at} gmail.com


Snake bean bush- A compact bush to about 40 cm tall that continually produces 20-30 cm long thin green snake beans. These plants have an astonishingly strong root system and germinate even in dry ground. Sow 2 seeds per hole, about 30-40 cm apart and cover with about 1 cm of crumbled earth. Unlike climbing snake beans it produces continuously until late autumn if picked regularly. A mix of at least two distinct forms.

Snake bean bush red- A smaller version of the plant above with deep red pods. Slightly weaker grower and much rarer, so fewer seed per packet and more for the collector/breeder.

Lagos spinach (Celosia spicata)- A 1 m tall semi-succulent shrub with pinkish stems and pale pink flowers late in the season. The young shoots and leaves are always tender and tasty but have about the same oxalate levels as silver beet. This seems to be the true edible form. I also have a form with purple red foliage and deep fuchsia flowers that is a bit more robust but slightly less edible. Sow about 1 m apart. The tiny seed just need to be sprinkled over freshly broken ground.

Shona cabbage (Cleome gynandra)- A fairly new one for me, finally available after chasing viable seed for many years. A distant relative of Brassicas but more tolerant of hot/wet conditions. Young leaves are used as a green, with a peppery taste slightly milder than rocket. Small packets aimed mostly at collectors. Tiny seed may be better started in pots to be sure, otherwise sown as for Lagos spinach.

Okra- The plant everyone loves to hate (alongside eggplant). Robust shrubs up to 1.5 m tall with tender immature pods. The slimy texture varies a lot depending on how they are prepared. I like it personally though the different slime of Malabar spinach turns my stomach. Finely sliced, rolled in polenta and fried they are magnificent. Sow 2-3 seeds about 1 cm deep 0.5-1 m apart.

Rosella- A close relative of okra and in my opinion superior in every way. Shrub to 1 m tall with purplish foliage and yellow/pink flowers. Flower bases can be used for jam and tea, but the real power is in the young shoots as a summer vegetable. They are delicious with a lightly tangy floral note, great for stir fries and stews. Sow as for okra.

Basil Sweet mildew resistant- A new mildew disease has arrived in Australia and is wiping out the sweet basil strains in circulation. This form is closer to the wilder ancestors and is resistant. Flavour is still great and performance is more consistent as weather changes. Sow as for lagos spinach, or start in a pot if you have slug/snail issues.

Malabar spinach green- Small semi-succulent vine with large rounded green leaves that are used in stir fries and stews, though rubbery/slimy texture is an acquired taste. Loves hot and wet weather. Sow as for okra on a trellis or fence.

Lab lab bean- vegetable strain mix- Climber to 1-2 m with soft leaves and pretty pink flowers. A mix of at least six different south east Asian strains used as a vegetable, with tender leaves, flowers and young pods used in stir fries and stews. Seeds only edible after careful preparation. Quite different to common cattle fodder form in Australia. Sow 2 seeds about 1 m apart, 1 cm deep.


Ping Tung Eggplant- I hated eggplant until I found this variety. It grows into a low bush about 0.5 m tall with fuzzy purple leaves. Fruit are under 5 cm in diameter and up to 30 cm long with very thin skin and mild flavour. Very strong root system, very productive and individual plants keep going for years. I usually sow mine in late summer/early autumn then overwinter, but can be started in spring as well. Sow seed as for lagos spinach direct, or start in a pot first if you have slugs and snails since they are a little slow to get started.

Ancho capsicum- A low heat chilli on a small 30 cm shrub with a strong root system. Shrubs keep producing for a few years. Only moderate heat around the seeds, so you can remove them if you just want the milder flesh with its rich smoky flavour. Thick walls unlike most chillies since it is dried in its Mexican homeland. Sow as for eggplant.

Aji Amarillo chilli- A very different chilli from a different original species to the common chillies and capsicums, which means it wont cross with your less hot capsicums. Grows into a 30 cm shrub with a very strong root system and good perennial tendencies. Abundantly produces 5 cm fruit that turn yellow when ripe which have a medium heat that is very zingy, with fruit also carrying distinct fruity notes of pineapple and passionfruit. Ripe fruit last on the plant very well. Sow as for eggplant.

Seminole pumpkin- A very old heritage pumpkin from the Seminole tribe of northern Florida, a region with a climate very similar to coastal south east Queensland. Grows into a vigorous vine with thinner stems than common pumpkins that produces a large number of grapefruit sized fruit, perfect for a single meal (no more squeezing half a monster pumpkin into the fridge). This means it can handle climbing much better than large pumpkins. The fruit have a moderate amount of very deep orange flesh with a great flavour. Seeds are produced abundantly and make great roasted snacks. Best of all unlike any pumpkin I have grown the fruit store easily for up to a year, meaning no more wasted pumpkins rotting before you can use them. Incredibly strong and vigorous plants that outperformed a dozen other heritage varieties during a prolonged drought. Sow 2-3 seeds about 2 m apart about 1 cm deep. Responds well to growing over piles of decomposing organic matter like piles of pruned branches.

Seminole hybrid pumpkin- A random outcross of Seminole from the original variety trial. Somehow produces basket ball sized fruit despite the small fruit of the seed parent. Storage ability untested but looks better than common pumpkins so far.

Traveston Kent pumpkin- A lucky find from a long time resident of the area who is a master gardener. This pumpkin produces a Jap or Kent style fruit but on incredibly vigorous vines. Small cavity and lots of tasty flesh good for traditional uses. Stores for a few months at least.

Giant bottle gourd- Not exactly an edible but mostly grown for its very large gourd containers that can be made from its fruit, growing up to 30 cm across. This is the less common large round variety which I find is most versatile in its uses for crafting. Very vigorous vines that no pest will touch. Likes climbing cut branches like Seminole. Seeds are edible after roasting but not as tasty as Seminole. Sow as for Seminole.

Luffa- Another vigorous and trouble free cucurbit but this one produces natural sponges and scrubbers. Fruit somewhat edible when very young, but angled luffa is better for this purpose. Sow as for Seminole but grows best climbing straight up a trellis.

Watermelon Janosik Grex- The current result from a heritage watermelon trial many years ago, focused on varieties with orange and yellow flesh. One strain called Janosik stood out that produced 20 cm diameter rounded fruit with a deep green thin skin and glorious golden flesh with small black seeds. The fruit has a unique aroma I can only describe as “green”…maybe because it reminds me a little of honeydew melon, but this is layered over the strong sweetness of watermelon. The flesh is also normally a bit less mushy than common watermelons. This variety grew and fruited more heavily than any of the others, making up for its smaller size with a greater number of fruit per plant. In following years mostly the hybridised seed of this variety were grown and only the better seed carried forward. The most recent crop grew through the horrific 2019-2020 drought and yet still managed to produce some excellent fruit without any irrigation. This mix will also contain seed that has more traits like the other orange and yellow fleshed varieties from the original trial that have persisted so far and are still generally good quality. Sow as for Seminole and also performs well on low piles of branches.

Jam melon grex- An ancestor of watermelons which is a fair bit more vigorous and grows much the same. Produces fruit with hard white flesh which is very rich in pectin and can be added to jams to bulk them out and help them set. Great for mixing with strongly flavoured jam fruits like rosella, especially since it cuts down the amount of fiddly preparation per volume of final jam enormously. This is a highly diverse mix of forms. Sow as for Seminole.

Cucumber Gympie Goldrush- A local cucumber fairly common in seed saving circles. It produces large blocky fruit on a vigorous vine. They turn gold when over ripe, but are usually harvested immature for use as a salad vegetable. I am more interested in developing a good storage and pickling strain of cucumber in the future, that I can pick over a wide time period (unlike the immature salad types), leave in a pile for a month, then eventually get around to pickling. One more thing to add to my list. Sow as for Seminole, though not quite as deep since the seed is smaller.

Cucamelon- A weird little cucurbit that I think plays the role of salad cucumber best. It is a delicate climbing vine that produces olive sized fruit that are eaten whole. They contain tiny seed so don’t need further preparation. They taste somewhere between salad cucumber and watermelon rind. Sow tiny seed more like lagos spinach, about 50 cm apart, on a delicate trellis (or a pile of twiggy branches).

Staples and Miscellaneous

Lima bean- A mix of common and not so common varieties, supplied individually. This appears to be the best dried staple legume under my conditions, producing abundant, pest resistant and reliable crops of tasty beans that are delicious in winter stews. The large seeded forms grow into larger plants so need bigger trellises. I have the following varieties to spare: Large seeded white with red speckles, large seeded red with white speckles, small seeded tan with brown speckles, small seeded black-red, small seeded white with black speckles (some with cool smoky purple hues). Some of these strains are sourced from a local master gardener originally from her family that goes way back, including forms I have never seen offered elsewhere in Australia. Sow 1-2 seeds, 2 cm deep about 1m apart for small and 2 m apart for large forms. Vines can produce for multiple years, especially large seeded forms.

Canna edulis- This is seed produced from a population of seedlings originally from crossing Queensland arrowroot with a couple of other species (mostly the giant altensteinii and weedy indica). That seedling population was allowed to open pollinate to make an F2 generation of seed which should be even more diverse, so there should be at least a few superior novel clones waiting in each packet. Seed must be pretreated by pouring about 2 cm of freshly boiled water over them. Sow in a pot about 3 cm deep then transplant out once over 10 cm tall.

White maize- Parrot proof- My own strain of flour maize that I developed since I couldn’t find anything like the common forms used for tortillas etc in central America in circulation in Australia. The original seed was from a government staple crop seed bank. I grew out about two dozen forms and watched the local swarms of parrots destroy most, but not all, of them. The next year I only planted the forms that showed some parrot resistance and have been refining the strain along those lines since then. Vigorous plants grow 2-2.5 m tall usually and produce a single cob up to 30 cm long. Still produces a reasonable crop if drought hits, but needs decent soil moisture and weed control to get started. I usually sow in late December/early January to ensure ears ripen in late autumn when humidity and rain are less likely to ruin the crop. Sow 1-2 seed 50 cm apart, about 2 cm deep.

Grain Amaranth- Hartman Giant- My favourite form of amaranth after fairly extensive variety trials over the years. Grows into a tall plant up to 2 m tall under ideal conditions. Needs moisture and decent nutrient levels to get going but can finish strongly in a late season drought. Tiny seeds are simply scattered over the surface of disturbed soil. I often hoe a row, leaving finely broken soil in the bottom, and just sow on top and lightly stir the seed in to make contact. As they establish thin to the strongest seedling every 50 cm apart.

Perennial Cotton White- A long lived shrub of a different species to the common annual cotton. Grows to about 2 m tall and produces fluffy cotton bolls in early spring for many years once established. Produces excellent spun thread with a little practice and the right equipment. White form is more versatile for dying. Sow 1 cm deep. Direct sowing is a bit hit and miss so best started in pots until you have your own seed to experiment with.

Tithonia diversifolia- Mexican sunflower- The premium biomass and fodder plant in our subtropical coastal climate. Grows into a 2-3 m tall shrub with soft leaves that is smothered in deep golden sunflowers in late autumn that bees adore. These are followed by heads that scatter seed like tiny sunflower seeds that chickens go crazy for. Flowering and early seeding plants are extra nutritious goat fodder just when they are nearing kidding time when their nutrient demand peaks. Small seeds best started in pots then transplanted. Supplied seed is a bit chaffy since I am still perfecting cleaning it. Grows from fresh unrooted cuttings planted directly in the ground in autumn in damp soil, with those cuttings growing to 2 m tall in their first year. Soft wood is easy to cut and manage even when fairly old. Slows down in cold/dry weather but endures light frosts well.

Pigeon pea grex- A diverse population from multiple different sources, including an unusual large white seeded form which grows to 4 m tall, now showing signs of extensive hybridisation. Great fodder shrub for goats that also drops multiple crops of seeds for poultry (though not a good nurse shrub for small trees in my experience). Sow 2-3 seed at least 1.5 m apart, about 1 cm deep. Upland rice grex- A mixed population of a few different strains. Upland rice varieties are grown like other grains and don’t respond well to paddy style cultivation. Grows to about 50 cm tall and produces heads that resist local bird pressure unlike any other small grain I have trialled. Threshes easily but removing hulls requires right equipment and skills. Sow 3-5 seed about 40 cm apart, 1 cm deep.

Getting more organised with seed as the quantities continue to increase.
(One of) the adorable reasons I forgot what day of the week it was.

7 thoughts on “2020 Spring Seed List and Growing Guide

  1. Hello,

    Do you have a copy of your cool season list you could post as a comment here? I couldn’t find it anywhere on your blog and would be keen to order some at the same time as I order some of these seeds from you.




  2. I am really enthralled to read about your work. In 2017 I embarked on a project to develop tomato varieties for zero input agriculture in collaboration with Steve Peters and Organic Seed Alliance. My sources of inspiration are similar to yours. Steve peters is deeply involved in identifying varieties of green beans, pimento peppers, broccoli, cucmbers, zucchini ,carrots etc for zero input agriculture in the coastal region of California. Our rains stop in May and don’t return until late October. Our soil here is rich clay-loam. Our farm is located on the coast between San Francisco & santa Cruz.
    We would love to share with you our experiences, tomato seeds and our methodology for New Variety Design and Development.

    my email address is kantirawal@gmail.com. & steve’s contact is stevegrows@gmail.com


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