Why not grow a poppy patch? Here’s how… pt.1: getting things together

Grandma doesn’t know this, but her poppies will send you to heaven. Those pretty flowers in her yard are papaver somniferum, and don’t need to be sliced and the wonderful goo collected to be effective; in fact, it is much more efficient and… erhm… less conspicuous to simply let the pods ripen after flowering, freeze them fresh or dry and grind them into a powder for tea…

…yum yum!

If you’ve never considered growing poppies, there’s really not much to it; just a few tips to learn and easy soil prep. If, like me, you live in Canada, you’re lucky. We have the best climate in North America for our little horticultural adventure and the bonus, besides money saved on pharmaceuticals, is a truly aesthetic and meditative experience in cultivation, raising and harvesting… and it’s not just about the inner beauty of these flowers. They are really quite beautiful on the outside too. Growers, completely unaware of their inner potential, preferentially propagate poppies. When at its peak, a poppy patch is a whimsical and fantastical thing that invokes dreamy imagery with its blend of different colours and flower styles, dragon heads and pods. A patch or two can make your back yard look like a dreamer’s heaven…

…it’s therapeutic really; and dare I say… somewhat anti-depressive.

~Our first job is to find seeds. We have a couple of choices; We can go to Wal-Mart and check out the spice aisle, or buy them on-line. If you choose the spice aisle, bear in mind that you’re kind of rolling the dice in terms of quality. It doesn’t matter if the seeds are white, blue or black; they can grow quite potent flowers or quite wimpy, if pretty, eunuchs. I don’t bother with this. Your best bet is to spend the cash (it really isn’t that expensive) and get good product on-line. I suggest Canada. You won’t be disappointed. Look around the web. I won’t make recommendations, but I’ll give you a hint: buy your seeds from a farm that specializes in papaver somniferum, and nothing else (there are many different strains and types of somniferum, by the way). Seeds are perfectly legal, too… for now.

I prefer two strains- “hens & chicks” and “afghan specials”. H&cs are interesting because of an anomaly peculiar to the strain; each pod is surrounded by many very small misshapen “podlets”. If not for the difficulty slicing the “hen” pod because of the surrounding, interfering “chicks”, and that these flowers take longer than usual to grow, this strain would probably be prefered by growers who collect latex because of its unusual potency. But because we’re making tea powder, h&cs are the way to go. The flowers range from deep red to light purple with dark centres and are many-petalled.

Afghan specials are my other prefered strain. they produce a thick, barreled, morphine-rich pod that makes a beautiful cup of tea. These are truly special and valuable, so because different poppy strains cross-pollinate readily, you may wish to grow these by themselves, far away from other strains, and seed-save from the best pods unless you don’t mind buying seed every year (or buying a big lot of rather expensive seed, and planting a fraction of it each year). The flowers are bright pink with a white center, or more rarely, all white…

…as an aside, we never know when the long arm of the state with its liberty-choking hand will make these precious seeds illegal and unavailable- y’know, for our own collective good (the collective being the “almighty standard”). So one might consider seed-saving and keeping these poppy strains as pure as possible… just a thought.

There are other types of opium poppies, like giganthemum with, as its name suggests, enormous pods; persians with many flowers per plant; high yielding india whites; and many others, like peony poppies (papaver paeoniflorum) that look like peonies, and are popular with innocent flower gardeners. If you’re a jumpy type and retain visions of prison bars dancing in your head now that you own this forbidden knowledge, you may wish to consider peony poppies. They tend to have less alkaloids, but you can adapt by growing more of them. One particularly interesting strain is the tasmanian, which has an unusually high thebaine content for use in drugs like oxycodone and buprenorphine. Because tazzies are under ownership by corporation, they’re somewhat hidden in the market, but if I can find them, you can too. Thebaine is a more stimulating opiate while morphine and codeine are both downer and relaxing, so I don’t have an interest in tazzies. Others may though. At any rate, these are all somniferum.

With seeds procured, we head to our future poppy patch. I suggest a plot at least 18-24′ by 12′ with a path through the middle, lengthwise. 24 ft might seem like quite a length, but poppies yield less per plant than more common psychoactives. The patch must be in full sun from sunrise to sundown, or as sunny as possible. Don’t ignore this. The soil is best if rich, but if yours isn’t don’t despair; poor soil can be picked up simply by adding fertilizers, though in my experience old manure works best.

Cultivate as early as possible in the spring. As soon as the soil has thawed, we start tilling when the soil is dry enough to be broken. This can be fairly early in some areas. Poppy seeds are very hardy and prefer to be planted in cold soil. Some growers broadcast seeds in late fall to over-winter and let them come up in the spring as they wish. This is generally successful, but early spring planting, more so.

Poppies love loose, loamy soil; but will do nicely if the soil isn’t great, yet fertilized adequately. As well, if our soil is very loose and airy, we’ll have almost guaranteed success and seemingly more pods than we know what to do with. If soil is poor, rectify this a bit. It’s not difficult to bring up to par a little flower patch with some fertilizer (though, again, if you can instead find old manure you will be stunned by what you’ve accomplished come harvest). Poppies will let you know if soil is too crappy by a disappointing harvest. Avoid this; a soil/compost/sand ratio of 1:1:1 is a sure way to ensure excellent results. If you’re sure your plot is rich enough, or if you’ve just churned a chunk of lawn into a plot, you might be okay. If not, and you’re not into manure compost, get some chemical fertilizer with a higher middle number in the N-P-K ratio (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium). This is important because while nitrogen is good for lush green growth and potassium for roots (and flowers, aiding phosphorus), phosphorus is necessary for flower growth; so you’ll need a flower fertilizer, specifically…

…so phosphorus is key; too much nitrogen will promote green growth, at the expense of flowering… Not good, not good! Think PODS…

…if this excursion turns into a hobby, you’ll be getting into more technical aspects like soil PH and testing, composting, breeding and seed-saving and other geek stuff, most of which can be found on the net. You’ll find that your goal will be to produce bigger and juicier pods…

…i guarantee it…    :)

~Next: planting and cultivation


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. depression
    May 06, 2013 @ 15:18:58

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your
    blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you


  2. Opie
    May 07, 2013 @ 17:32:52

    hey there. it’s been a while since i’ve updated, but feel free to share…

    …just be careful, okay? i’m not trying to be patronising (honest!), but i don’t want anyone to get in over their heads with this… Mother O’s love is selfish if one gives her too much control!



  3. Mary
    May 18, 2013 @ 03:46:45

    I don’t even know the way I ended up here, however I assumed this put up used to be good. I don’t realize who you’re but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already. Cheers!


  4. Paleo in a box
    Jun 08, 2013 @ 00:18:19

    Paleo diet for easy cooking recipes As such because the paleo food plan brought to the fore.
    As a result of the paleo diet recipes free sample visit
    paleo cookbooksThe Paleo diet has been around forever, and mainly just helps to
    return to the basics of eating.


I want some of what's in your head...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: