Seed Arrival

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 tooseeds fothergills 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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Tomatoes

If there’s one plant that I have enjoyed growing over the years then it has to be glasshouse tomatoes. During my apprenticeship days we grew ‘Ailsa Craig’ as the main crop and despite it being prone to a few problems must be one of the best varieties ever. Grown correctly it had (and still has) a fine taste but over the years the strain has degenerated and it has been superseded by others, particularly the F1 hybrids.

Of the F1’s ‘Shirley’ has been the winner with me and many other growers as it is very much like Ailsa Craig both in looks and taste. As Shirley is my wife’s name, I still grow it but as my main crop now, I have gone back to an old straight variety that for me anyway, beats the lot, ‘Tigerella’. A lovely shaped tomato with orangey stripes over the skin, it doesn’t just taste fine but also looks good on a plate.

I can’t imagine the number of varieties that I have grown but many are now difficult, but not impossible, to find, names like ‘Radio’ and ‘Harbinger’ spring to mind from the past. More recently, with all the choice we now have available, memorable names include ‘Malinowy  Henryka’ a lovely orange coloured, large fruited Eastern European variety and ‘Bloody Butcher’ which as the name implies is blood red and a lovely  heritage type.

As can be seen I am a intermediate type tomato fan, what some might call ordinary tomatoes, although I am happy to add a few others to the cropping plan each year. ‘Sungold’ is a super variety but equally so are some of the plum types that you can pick and eat like sweets straight from the plant. ‘Principe Borghese’ being a lovely one that springs to mind.

So, when it comes to tomatoes, we have never had it so good as far as varieties are concerned. What I will say though is  “don’t always think that you need to go for a F1 hybrid variety to get the best quality fruits”. A lot of the success with tomatoes is in the growing and finding varieties to suit your requirements and situation. I always remember that with dear old ‘Ailsa Craig’ the best fruits were produced at the end of the season when we got a bit of wilt in the glasshouse and so reduced watering. Now that’s what you called – flavour!

 

 

Tigerella 009
TIgerella Tomato