It is always a wonderful time when your seed order drops through the letterbox, or even better when the postman knocks because the package is too large to fit the box. Yes it’s the start of a brand new season. I prefer growing as much as possible from seed because you know exactly what you are getting whereas buying plants can be full of disappointment when your chosen variety can’t be found.
One problem most newcomers to gardening find with seed is, when to sow! Look at any packet and sowing dates can often spread over a number of months. Leeks are a classic example and often recommends a sowing time from February to May. A newcomer looking at this could be led into thinking that February is the time to sow but you will still get a more inferior crop, on a sliding scale, by sowing anytime up until May.
For those who don’t understand, these wide ranging sowing dates simply reflect the vast area of Britain and the fact that you will be sowing in the South a lot earlier than in the North. Here in the midlands March-April is an ideal time. Even then you still have to take weather and soil conditions into consideration and sow accordingly.
One other point I would like to mention about seeds, especially with vegetables, is the difference between open pollinated and F1 varieties. Let’s stick with leeks again and if you compare packets of different varieties you will very often see that they vary greatly in both price and contents. For instance, a packet of’Musselburgh’ may contain 500 seeds for £1:99 whereas a packet of ‘Cairngorm’ F1 only contains 30 seeds and costs £3:05.
In as few words as possible, Fi’s are produces by crossing two carefully selected parent varieties under isolated condition so that the progeny is as pure as possible. Open pollinated varieties are just that, seed produced on a field scale. A much cheaper and easier option.
It needs to be understood that F1 varieties were mainly developed for the commercial grower and produce a vigorous plant of very even uniformity in both size and harvest time. This means that the crop can be removed quickly and the next one sown or planted.
This is not always what the amateur requires but in some situations can be useful. With leeks ‘Musselburgh’ has stood the test of time and is still as popular as ever. ‘Cairngorm’ is a lovely variety but at this price it is up to you whether it is worth the cost.
A lot more time could be taken up with seeds but getting too technical may put people off from growing anything again. Enjoy this years season whatever the weather throws at us. It is only through experience that we learn to get the best from our seeds.