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Fennel seedheads in snow

It’s snowing.

There are few types of weather which really make gardening impossible. Even when we woke up to a hard frost the other day I was out turning my compost. But this – when it’s six inches and more falling all the time – this is indoor gardening weather.

So today’s housebound horticulture was my annual seed packet clearout.

This is a slightly tedious but nonetheless very necessary part of the beginning of my seed-sowing year. I collect dozens of seed packets over the average gardening season: some given to me by nice PR people, some I buy either for gardening projects I’m working on, or just for fun; others I acquire at seed swaps or in impulse buys at garden shows.

Most of them are opened, which is reassuring. But I tend to sow them and then stuff them back into my seed boxes in a hurry, so that by the end of the year they’re bulging with last year’s seeds, this year’s seeds and who knows what in between.


The pile of jettisoned out of date packets grows…

So here’s my seed-sowing survival strategy, followed every year to make sure I’m not drowning in unwanted seedlings by June:

  • jettison the old stuff: I really can’t be bothered to sow seeds when only half will germinate anyway, and that’s what happens when you sow old seed. So I chuck out any packets over two years old, plus anything that says ‘carrot’ or ‘parsnip’ on it as these are no good after just one year.
  • weed out the doubles: in 2012 I somehow ended up with three packets of ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ tomatoes. I didn’t even grow any ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ tomatoes. These go on my ‘seed swaps’ pile – unopened seeds I can give away in exchange for something more interesting instead.
  • do a reality check: I team up my now beautifully slimmed-down seed boxes with my veg-planting plan for this year, and make sure I’m only sowing what I have room for. I have thrown too many surplus seedlings on the compost heap to ever want to do it again and have learned a steely discipline on this one.
  • make some hard choices: I want some courgettes to go in the patch by the gate: I have four different courgette varieties in my seed box (round ‘Tondo di Piacenza’, yellow striped ‘Sunstripe’, green striped ‘Safari’ and climbing ‘Black Forest’, since you ask). At least two of them have to go. Apart from not liking yellow courgettes (that was easy) – I have no idea which to choose. Anyone want to make the decision for me?

And finally…

  • make a shopping list: this starts ‘parsnips and carrots’ and goes on to fill in the gaps. All my calabrese was out of date this year, and I could do with some white Swiss chard. And then I get more seeds to stuff my seed boxes with and…

I think I may take up stamp collecting instead.