Another month, another stack of seed trays to prick out.
The greenhouse shelves are already full of overcrowded seedlings to pot on, and the cold frame is full to bursting as everything needs hardening off at once – that week to 10 days of delay while you get them gradually used to outdoor conditions.
It’s all a bit of a faff, really. Of course I could sow seeds direct, especially now the weather has properly warmed up: it’s quicker, and easier, and uses fewer resources like potting compost and plastic pots, too. But once I’ve sown the seed I still have to water every day, and fend off the slugs, and thin out the seedlings to regulation 5cm spacings…
Don’t get me wrong: all this is part and parcel of the daily routine of being a gardener, and I love it really. But recently I’ve been concentrating my efforts, and my precious hour of post-work gardening time, only on those seeds which really, really need my attention. The rest I leave to nature. Continue reading…
I know: it’s been a long time. What can I say: writing and gardening got in the way. I won a Proper Award from the Garden Media Guild, for a year-long series I did in 2018 for the RHS magazine The Garden all about gardening without plastic: a cause that is now so close to my heart that I set up a whole website dedicated to it (with an equally neglected but soon-to-be-revived blog) at http://www.gardeningwithoutplastic.com.
I have raised a lot of vegetables, written another series for BBC Gardeners’ World magazine about growing food for your family (another cause that’s close to my heart) and seen my eldest daughter off to university in Newcastle.
I have gained a cat and lost 12 sheep: last year I sold my beloved flock of rare breed Dorset Down ewes, mainly because I really couldn’t justify producing that much meat when there are now only two of us to eat it and we’re mostly vegetarian anyway. They went to a very nice man in Dorset where they now live in splendid luxury in a little paddock where they are fussed over by all who pass.
But now it is the start of a new decade and I am feeling the itch to record what I am up to in the garden again. There is much to talk about: a rewilding project, rebuilding the chicken run in preparation for restocking after a couple of years’ break, experiments with exotic vegetables from far-off climes…
But first things first: before you bring in the new, it’s out with the old, and I’m having a big clear-out. As a garden writer I accumulate a lot of packets of seeds. Though I try to sow as many as I can myself, inevitably there are some left over.
I’ve done one of these seed giveaways before but not for a while now. So the stash has grown to epic proportions. Time for a bit of a declutter, I think.
Here are the rules:
Make a donation of at least £5 to my JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/seedgiveaway2020 in aid of Plantlife, a charity which works quietly but tirelessly saving rarities like wild orchids, persuading councils to stop flaying the wildflowers from our road verges in the name of neatness, and generally campaigning for us all to be a little kinder to the natural world around us.
Choose up to five packets of seed from the list below
Let me know which ones you’ve picked, plus your postal address, via email at sally(dot)nex(at)btinternet(dot)com
Once you have received your seeds, get planting!
List of available seeds (I will update this as we go along):
Asparagus ‘Mary Washington’
Basil (green) (3 packs)
Basil ‘Red Leaved’
Beetroot ‘Rainbow Beet’
Broad bean ‘Crimson Flowered’
Broccoli ‘Early Purple Sprouting’
Brussels Sprout ‘Brodie F1’
Brussels Sprout ‘Evesham Special’
Carrot ‘Autumn King’
Carrot ‘Chantenay’ (2 packs)
Cauliflower ‘All the Year Round’ (4 packs)
Celery ‘Giant Red’
Celery ‘Solid Pink’ (Heritage Seed Library)
Courgette ‘All Green Bush’
Cress (2 packs)
Fennel ‘Di Firenze’
Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’
Leek ‘Autumn Giant 2’
Leek ‘Lyon 2’
Marrow ‘Long White Trailing’ (Heritage Seed Library)
Mustard (for windowsills)
Onion ‘Ailsa Craig’
Onion ‘Bedfordshire Champion’
Onion ‘Red Baron’ (2 packs)
Oregano (2 packs)
Parsnip ‘White Gem’ (4 packs)
Pepper ‘Asti Red’Pepper ‘Friggitello’
Pepper ‘Corno di Toro Rosso’
Pepper ‘Skinny’ (Heritage Seed Library – dwarf bird chilli, tiny but very hot!)
Radish ‘Blue Moon and Red Moon’
Radish ‘Cherry Belle’
Radish ‘French Breakfast’ (2 packs)
Runner bean ‘Scarlet Emperor’
Sorrel Red Veined
Spring cabbage ‘April’ (2 packs)
Spring cabbage ‘Greyhound’
Spring onion ‘White Lisbon’
Summer cabbage ‘Golden Acre’
Tomato ‘Gardeners Delight’ (4 packs)
Tomato ‘Moneymaker’ (2 packs)
Tomato ‘Red Cherry’ (2 packs)
Tomato ‘Red Pear’
Tomato ‘Super Mama’
Winter cabbage ‘January King’
All seeds are in date and in a sealed packet ready to go. This giveaway will run until the end of January (or longer if it’s still going strong beyond that point). Enjoy!
Seedlings coming along nicely! Here’s the tray of mixed salad seedlings I put in at the beginning of February. Alongside them are beetroot, turnips, kohl rabi and early peas (Meteor).
Generally speaking it’s a bit early to be sowing just yet – even in a greenhouse (there’s been the occasional frost on the ground in the mornings this week: I’d almost forgotten what it looked like).
But this year I’ve been trying a new regime and it’s worked a treat.
I set the propagator – my beloved Vitopod – to 12 degrees, optimum for germinating hardy seeds. Then the moment they emerged, I shifted them out of the propagator onto the shelving in the open greenhouse. This is kept a tad above freezing, so regularly (especially lately) falls to about 2-3 degrees.
That means the seedlings grow ‘hard’ – developing protection against the harsher, colder conditions so they become sturdier, shorter and stronger. They’re perhaps a tiny tad more spindly than seedlings started later in spring, but nothing like they have been in previous years when I’ve probably cossetted them a bit too much.
Back in the propagator and the heat has been turned up to 18 degrees: it’s now the turn of tomatoes, half-hardy annuals and a whole slew of exotica including mashua, yacon and oca. Plus Chinese gooseberries and gherkins. I do love this time of year!
One side-effect of last week’s ever-so-virtuous clearing out of seed packets is that I now have a socking big pile of seeds I know I don’t have room for yet I know I will sow regardless unless I give them away to someone else.
Cue this year’s CG Big Seed Giveaway!
Please save me (and my garden) from myself by taking some seeds off my hands. They’re all in date (by which I mean packeted or collected in 2011 or later), quite a lot of them are very covetable and I will blame you for the piles of unwanted seedlings on my compost heap and the subsequent hand-wringing and lamentation that will follow if you don’t make me send them to you instead.
So here you go: choose what you want out of this lot (rules follow a bit further down the page):
Honey Bee Flower Mix
UK Native Wildflower Mix (2 packs)
Miriam Rothschild’s Wildflower Meadow Mix
Nasturtium ‘Orange Troika’
Sweet pea ‘Ballerina Blue’
Hollyhock ‘Halo Mixed’
Sunflower (unnamed variety)
Helianthus maximiliani (perennial sunflower)
Coreopsis ‘Incredible Dwarf Mixed’
Poppy ‘St George’
Poppy ‘Pink Fizz’
Pansy ‘Morning Dew’
Gaillardia ‘Arizona Apricot’
Antirrhinum ‘ReminiScent’ F1
Pansy ‘Cool Summer Breeze’
Californian poppy ‘Peach Sorbet’
Cornflower ‘Classic Fantastic’
Hesperis matronalis (sweet rocket)
Tomato ‘Rainbow Blend’
Tomato ‘Moneymaker’ (2 1 pack)
Tomato ‘Santeramo’ F1
Tomato ‘Gardeners’ Delight’
Tomato ‘Sweet Aperitif’
Chilli ‘Hot Cayenne’ (2 1 pack)
Pepper ‘Sweet Californian Wonder’
Squash ‘Sweet Dumpling’
Squash ‘Potimarron’ (2 1 pack)
Courgette ‘Sunstripe’ F1
Martock beans (5 4 3 2 1 pack)
French climbing bean ‘George’s’
Salad leaves ‘Rocky Top Lettuce’
Lettuce ‘Great Lakes’
Bulb fennel ‘Di Firenze’
Cabbage (mini savoy) ‘Caserta’ F1
Brokali ‘Apollo’ F1
Cabbage (mini) ‘Mon Petit’ F1
…and a bit of both:
Double pack of Sweet Pea ‘Royal Family Mix’ and Tomato ‘Maskotka’
How to claim your free seeds:
comment below giving the names of the seeds you want
then send an email to sally dot nex at btinternet dot com confirming your request and giving me an address to send your seeds to
I’ll update this post regularly giving details of what’s gone and what’s left
the giveaway will last for a week, until 1 February: follow me on Twitter (@sallynex) for updates
if you enjoy growing your seeds, please blog about them later in the year if you can!
no more than 10 packets of seed and no more than one packet of the same variety per person.
first to place their order in the comments below gets the seed
sorry but the offer is only open to UK respondents