Brain and I are a bit tired at the moment, so I don’t really feel like writing up my Home Front garden plan, but there is one. Well, there’s a list of crops we want to eat (and hence grow) next year, which is the start of a plan. It’s enough to get me to an active stage of planning – stocking up on seeds ahead of any big Brexit-related rush.
Normally I try very hard not to buy a lot of seeds. I have been a bit of a seed addict over the years, and I always have a seed box full of the things (often weird and wonderful varieties). The problem with that is that some of them never get in the ground. By the the time the growing season comes round, I’ve changed my mind about what to grow, or it won’t all fit. So I try and be restrained when I’m buying seeds. Seed companies don’t help, of course, when they have minimum order values, or they nudge you to buy just one or two more packets so that you get free postage….
Wyevale sent me a “£5 off this weekend” voucher a couple of weeks ago, which I used to good effect and bought some things which are in short supply in my stash – autumn-sowing broad beans, leeks, beetroot and some borlotti beans. I also want to grow caraway at some point (although whether it finds a space in the 2019 garden is doubtful), so that rounded out my purchases. I think I ended up paying 50p.
I wanted to return to growing my favourite courgette/summer squash next year – ‘Rugosa friulana’ – which is only available from Seeds of Italy. So I put in an order with them, and included sweetcorn and peas, and also a packet of fenugreek, which I want to grow because we’re doing more Indian cooking, and fresh leaves are hard to come by. I’ve ordered my seed garlic at the same time, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
A few days ago, a member of my gardening offers and competitions FB group announced that Wyevale have got to the ‘bargain bucket’ stage of their gardening year, in which all of the remaining seed packets are taken off the racks and put into tubs for people to rifle through, reduced to 50p per packet. It seemed like a good opportunity to stock up, so I went and had a look. I was careful to look at the ‘sow by’ dates on the packets, and rejected one or two which would be best sown this year. The peas have the shortest date on them – they will be best sown next year, although pea seeds last for years. All of the others are sow by 2020 or even 2021. Which explains the inclusion of lentils, which won’t make it into the 2019 garden, but which I may grow in 2020!
I sill need to buy autumn onion sets for this year, and I’ll want seed potatoes early next year, and I also want some more Helda bean seeds, which are proving a little elusive at the moment. But beyond that, I think my seed box is in a well-stuffed state.
[Doing a stock check of your seeds before heading out could well save you some money by avoiding duplication. If you have old seeds, you might want to read about seed viability and germination testing – just because the ‘sow by’ date has passed, doesn’t necessarily mean your seeds are dead.]
My list of British seed growers isn’t growing very fast. There’s Real Seeds, of course, and the Heritage Seed Library, both of which regularly feed my seed box. Victoriana Nursery Gardens produce a lot of their own seed:
Not all, no.
98% of Toms and Chillies and a ‘good proportion’ of other stuff
— Victoriana Nursery (@Victoriana_NG) August 30, 2018
And so do Sea Spring Seeds. I asked Joy Michaud about their seeds, and she replied “We do produce a high proportion of the chilli seed we sell. This is the seed of all the varieties we have bred ourselves and of varieties where there is no wholesale source available such as those we have acquired from allotment holders and from fruit found in ethnic shops, etc.”
So there is a good range of seeds grown in the UK, and the good news about buying from these companies (even if the varieties you choose aren’t homegrown) is that you’ll also be supporting ethical, British-owned small businesses, rather than the big agrochemical corporations. A report from the Greens in the European Parliament concluded that the European Seed market (which includes agricultural seeds, as well as horticultural) is dominated by 5 companies. It has a table that shows that in 2012, nearly half of the world seed market was filled by large agrochemical companies – Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer. (Since then, Bayer has bought Monsanto, and is retiring that hugely controversial brand name.)
My original point was that seed supplies may be interrupted when we leave the EU, and so it’s worth stockpiling and ordering in advance to make sure you’ve got what you want for your 2019 garden, and are insulated from supply issues and price rises. But it’s also a good opportunity to look into ethical seed supplies.
[If you’re worried about Brexit (or other upheavals) and thinking about growing some of your own food this year, check out my new zine – Keep Calm and Grow Food – which is available via Etsy.]