The seed catalogues are coming in thick and fast for 2022, and it’s so tempting to order everything we want.
I am a sucker for seeing a new cultivar or variety and instantly NEEDING it in my allotments.
So what do you eventually end up with? Well, apart from loads of spare seeds that you don’t need or won’t use; you’ll most probably end up with a sense of overwhelming dread and failure when you realise that you’re not a robot and you actually have a job and a family too.
It has taken a few years, and I am still a little guilty of a splurge every now and then but when buying seeds, I always have a plan for them when I buy them now.
You don’t have to buy all your seeds at once.
If you can and you want to then that’s fine but I find that if you leave a few doors open, then you can fill those empty gaps with the ideas you really want to go ahead with.
Think about starting off space.
Sometimes I find some seeds difficult to germinate. That’s because I don’t always have the right growing conditions. I don’t have a greenhouse so starting seeds is somewhat difficult. Especially as I live in a flat – there’s only so many windowsills that I have. Think about how you’re going to start your plants and whether you have the space and the conditions. If you don’t, there’s always something else to grow that you can start off directly in the ground later on. Some seeds aren’t worth starting in cells or trays, such as beetroot, carrots and poppies, so it’s always best just to sow certain things direct later on.
Plan your seed sowing by month.
Check the seed packs or online instructions for the sowing window. Some seeds will have a shorter sowing window. Also check the height and the spread. Not all seeds will flower in the first year too. Allow for growth and time. It’s worth the wait.
Buy plug plant perennials.
For some plants, I like to buy plugs from reliable companies. I have had trouble with the larger umbrella of gardening companies. The plants come late, dead, missing, in poor health, broken. Shop around and ask others for recommendations. Sometimes, plug plants are a blessing in disguise. They need a little TLC but are a great choice if you’re running out of time or are looking for faster results for perennials. Echinacea, lupins and monarda are great from plugs. My favourite place to buy plus is South Eastern Horticultural (not an endorsement or ad).
Can you save seeds from what you grow? Do you have plants that self seed easily? I find saving seeds is the best way to get your collection started early and you’ll have way more than you will need. I often let things self seed on their own. Mint is excellent for this but also very invasive. Nasturtiums are great for self-seeding and for eating and are an all round great plant. I’ve saved Angelica, echinacea, nasturtium, lupin, gladioli, calendula, marigold, onion, lettuce, nicotiana, sunflowers, and many more seeds this year. Whilst I don’t need them all (despite taking over another two allotments recently), they make excellent gifts for friends and family. I bought seed packets from eBay and embellish them a little with some scribbles, and they go down very well in the hampers we give to family and inside Christmas cards we give to friends.
My absolutely biggest gripe with seed packets are the packs that you get that have 1 or 2 seeds in them, such as the giant varieties of tomatoes. There’s no need for it. If you find what you want, look around for other sellers. You might be able to get more seed for a more reasonable amount of money. I have only a few places that are my ‘go-to’ for seeds. It’s good to have a reliable place to shop. Check out reviews and if they don’t seem legit, don’t buy them.
Many places now sell organic seeds. If you’re putting the effort in go either go no-dig, or removing chemical use from your space, then why not go organic? They normally shouldn’t cost any/much more than standard seed. Let’s give ourselves and the wildlife around us, the best we can.
Plan your space.
I’m no artist. That’s why I enjoy expressing myself through the medium of plants. However, such perfection requires just a little planning. Sketch out a birds eye view of your space, roughly to scale. It doesn’t need to be perfect, only you will see it; it’s just so that you can have a visual. Trust me – it makes it so much easier. This plan will change time and time again, so get practicing marking out your spaces on paper. It’s good to have a record of what you want to achieve and a guide to go by. I find that this way, it’s much easier to prepare my plots for the growing season as I then know in what order I’m planting in and in what order I’ll be doing jobs and making space around the allotment.
Don’t be fooled.
Have you ever seen seeds that are just too good to be true on eBay, Facebook marketplace and Wish? You know the ones… the multicoloured roses are a famous one that I have seen time and time again. Don’t buy them. They’re not even a little bit real. They’re a scam. Goodness knows what you’ll be putting into your soil and it’s not worth the risk.
Teeny tiny seeds can be hard to sow direct, especially if they’re darker in colour. I find that seed tapes are an absolute win for any allotment. They come spaced in the ‘tape’ so you just cut off the length that you need, bury and water. They are wrapped in this biodegradable white paper (toilet paper) and they normally come with a good few metres of seed. I have found with seed tapes, that there is hardly any thinning and thee results to be outstandingly good. You can’t get them in everything, but I use the lettuce ones. They’re so easy to sow that I recommend saving some to sow a few weeks apart so you can stagger your crop. I buy mine from Premier Seeds Direct and will write a blog on them in the future (not an endorsement or ad). They’re a ‘must have’ in my allotment and I always recommend them.
Check your environment.
I mentioned earlier about not having a greenhouse (I have one but I need to put it up), and living in a flat without a garden or balcony, so I am very limited in space for potting on etc. I don’t trust plastic greenhouses as they fly off in storms that we always forget we are going to have. My wooden greenhouse will brings in hoards off slugs. I borrow some greenhouse space from my allotment neighbour but she is famous for watering my plants from the top when I’m not there so that makes me hella nervous. I have to start a lot in the ground and choose carefully about what I am going to put in that year. I have started to rely on perennials and herbs at one of my allotments as it’s slug city. The other is squirrel city. My whole Farmer Gracy order was stolen by some kind of rodent recently. They dug up every single bulb and left me the husks scattered on the ground. Can you make safe adjustments in your space to save certain plants? What is your soil type? Is it clay and does it need breaking up in texture? Is it sandy? Think about the plants you’re putting into your soil. Thirsty plants will hate sandy soil. Sandy soil heats up faster but also loses its heat faster. More clay-type soil will take longer for the earth to heat but also retain it for longer. If you don’t know, it’s all trial and error really. You’ll soon learn if a plant isn’t happy.
Kit to sow your seeds.
The last few years have shown that we can sow seeds regardless of circumstances. We have become used to saving egg boxes, plastic trays and yoghurt pots, but it’s always good to stock up on some seed trays that you can use year after year. Indoor propagators are a life-saver for me. Even if you don’t always use the lids, they’re handy to have. I found that the sets you get from Aldi are sturdy and easy to clean, however they’re only available when they on offer with their gardening shop. Wilko have an excellent and affordable selection every year. They’re study, easy to clean and will last you year after year. I bought some at the beginning with my first plot and I am still using them to this day. You’ll need compost, some horticultural grit and maybe some vermiculite. Look into what your seeds need and again, shop around.
Don’t be tempted to plant shop garlic into your soil. You’re more likely to get a poor crop or introduce disease into your soil. You don’t know what that garlic has had on it, how it’s been grown or what diseases they carry. Once you buy seed garlic, you can easily grow enough for the year and also save one for seed for the next year. Not only will you never need to buy shop garlic again, you won’t ever need to buy seed garlic again. There are so many delicious varieties to choose from, and the smell and taste is out of this world. Don’t skimp.
Sometimes, seeds just won’t germinate for love nor money. The reason why I like getting more seeds for my buck is because I don’t use the whole packet at once. If the seed doesn’t quite work, I’ll keep trying in batches. You also might decide that you don’t actually need as much as a whole pack. It’s also good to have some as a back up or to swap with someone for something else that you do need.
Organise your seeds.
As I said above, arrange your seeds by month. I find if I prepare my year in order of sowing, it reduces the stress. If I add to the list, then I just add the seeds to the month I want to plant it in. I use a photo storage box and it fits most seed packets in perfectly. Some months have more than one box but they’re all in one place and tidy. It’s also brilliant for me to take from site to site.
Plan your time, your resources and your achievable goals. By all means, take inspiration from others, but don’t run yourself into the ground to have something like theirs. If you like an idea, write it down, pocket it. We all take inspiration from each other and learn so much but remember, you’re doing this for yourself. Not anyone else. Do what brings YOU and YOU ONLY, joy. Grow what you like to eat, or smell, or just look at. Do what makes you happy. You’re perfect as you are.