Seeds, glorious seeds. Nothing quite like it…

Everyone gone out? Good. Time fo make a pot of tea or coffee, or mabe pour yourself a glass of wine. It’s time to start browsing the seed catalogues.

Pen and paper at the ready. Favourite seed companies pages bookmarked? It’s time to gather up the post-it-notes with a name scrawled on them, to flick through the back of notebooks and diaries for details and ideas you had last summer, time to reflect on what did well, what didn’t work but you want to try again. And time to sort out those opened seed packets and take a rough inventory. In my case that’s a LOT of seed packets stored in boxes and tins in my study.

All those dreams, bundled into packets and boxes. All that potential!

But before you get carried away with the glossy photos and the marketing blurb, have think about what you want to grow, what you want to eat, your limitations and abilities – experienced or newcomer, your local climate, your soil – heavy clay or light sandy loam, the time you will have to garden, and of course your budget.

Thought those through and have some ideas? Great! Now have a think about the actual seeds and the seed companies. Who do you want to do business with? Who could you value and encourage? The big agribusinesses, who buy their seeds in, in bulk from other suppliers. A small family run business, specialising in specific plants or varieties. Or a not-for-profit organisation that is about promoting gardening and growing for the next generation to enjoy, or for a better, cleaner, healthier planet.

Decisions need to be made. We are consumers. Do you want to only buy seeds that are organically grown? Do you want to buy seeds that have been ethically grown, the growers and the workers getting fair wage – I haven’t seen any Fair trade labeled seed packets. Maybe they exist, maybe they don’t?

And then to the seeds themselves. Do you want to buy the newest and latest varieties? Varieties that have been grown to resist common pests and diseases? Or do you like the idea of varieties that have been grown for maybe hundreds of years – heirloom/heritage, or varieties that have been passed down a couple of generations in a particular area – landrace. Do you want to try and save some of your own seeds? Then you will need to consider whether to buy open-pollinated or F1’s.

Seed swap

And of course filthy lucre. Money. Value for money. Do you want to get lots of seeds, you could bulk buy. Or do you want to buy only a handful to try out a new variety. Or maybe you fancy going to a seed swap  event, where local gardeners and growers share their homegrown seeds, a lot of the bigger events will invite some growers and producers to run a stall, where you can buy seeds at the same time as talking to the seedmen.

Everything has a price, and everything comes at a price.

Happy shopping!

I’ll talk about a few growers and sellers in my next post as I start to firm up my dreams, and gather the lists!

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60 comments

  • You’re one of the many gardener bloggers I follow who have posted about garden planning this week! Must be something in the air. I know I’ve been itching for warmer weather so I can get started this year. I’m going to try growing a few things from seed this year for the first time. Wish me luck!

    • Spring is round the corner and us gardener’s have been hibernating 🙂 That’s fantastic that you will be growing things from seed. any idea what? I always say you can’t beat homegrown tomatoes!

      • I’m thinking about starting peppers and maybe some peas indoors first. Not sure if I’m ready to tackle tomatoes from seed yet, but they’re on my list again of things to plant this year. I’m hoping that if I give the peas a head start indoors, they’ll fare better against all of the rabbits!

        • Hi there, sounds like you have some great ideas, I always start peppers indoors as it’s too cold for them otherwise! And oh no rabbits eating your peas! I start mine off in pots at home too (outside) or chit them first so that the mice don’t get to them before they grow, then I need to protect the young plants from slugs and snails, then I nee dto protect them from birds as they grow. Phew that’s a lot of work! But oh, homegrown peas are the BEST !!

  • Apologies if this is a duplicate – I hit the comment button and everything went blank! I love this post, it´s great to get some good, sound advice. I am going to ask my pals to send me some of those winter salad seeds as I think they would do well here at the moment. Also mentioned that you might enjoy to take a look at this blog I also follow
    http://wartimegardening.co.uk/2012/01/08/vegetable-seeds/
    Hope the injury is less painful today, take care 🙂

    • No worries 🙂 try typing one handed! I’ve seen this blog before, it’s lovely, so thanks for the reminder. Arm and owner are a bit cranky today 😦 But I’m sure I’ll brighten up

  • I’m staring at my catalogs, and have hardly cracked the covers…I *hate* being this disorganized, but what are ya’ gonna do? The new beds aren’t ging to get put in this year… *sigh*.

    • Seems to me you have a pretty good excuse for “disorganized” times right now, Marie!! But I’ll bet little Miss will be a mighty enthusiastic assistant gardener if she gets to help a tiny bit just putting in a few little seeds, too. One of my very favorite garden times was at a former home of ours when the adorable ca.-8-year-old boy across the street stood over in his driveway calling “Miss Kathryn! Miss Kathryn! Can I come and help you?” when I was planting my tulip bulbs and he and I tucked them all in together. 🙂

    • Oh sigh indeed! I reckon mother nature deals with tardy gardeners really well. We try and push our boundaries and sow too early, and yet the later sowings seem to make a remarkable catch up 🙂

      • A lovely story there Miss Katherine:) It reminds me of my mum, every autumn there would be the leaves to collect, so she would invite lots of little kids – toddlers/pre-schoolers, to help her clear up. Oh they had a lot of fun with it. With their tow trucks, mini wheel barrows etc. And their reward? A glass of orange squash and a biscuit. Their mum’s had a nice break too 🙂

      • I used to sow the squash and cukes indoors, until I realized the garden-planted seeds were setting fruit at exactly the same time…more room in the basement without them!

  • Great, informative post, Karen. I won’t be buying seeds this year and am going to try harvesting my own seeds for next season. Fingers crossed …

  • I love imagining different scenarios of planting this seed or that, and how certain pairings make better use of space than others. The planning is just as much fun as the execution!

  • With my physical limitations as to actual gardening and the space limitations, container gardening of herbs is what I’m sticking to. The huge tomato plant which grew from the potted one I bought produced ONE single tomato while taking up a lot of room in its pot and huge amounts of water. I’m going to keep growing the italian basil, oregano and rosemary (in fact, I want to buy and establish a large bush version for bread, potatoes etc) that I planted last year and add thyme and spearmint to the inventory … and see what the Stokes catalogue inspires me with. 🙂

    • I still garden with lots of containers, I love them, and sometimes it helps as you can pick off pests more easily, like slugs and snails.
      Uh oh 1 tomato! My outdoor tomatoes were rubbish last year, lets hope for a great year this year ! But you can’t beat fresh herbs – they are so pungent!

  • I’ve been drooling over seed catalogs for about a month now. I have built up quite a collection of seeds, but it seems, there is always room for more…

  • I’m so hoping to be better prepared for seed starting and protection this year (my first full season to try a TX garden in my own house), so this is very encouraging! 🙂 I have lots of packets of seeds already, plus a couple of bulk sellers I’m looking at for native wildflowers and prairie grasses. Exciting.

    • Sounds like you have some great plans there. Can I ask what is a TX garden? And oh, the pleasure of planting/sowing a wildflower garden. That would be divine. I’ll look forward to the paintings and writing 🙂

      • Oh, excuse me: TX is the abbreviation for Texas. Having gardened in the Pacific Northwest all of my life, I’m finding, now that we bought a house in our 2-1/2-years’ location of north Texas (NTX), I’ll have a whole different set of rules and challenges to master. Or at least attempt! 🙂

  • I need to get out into my garden and start working on it. I’d really like to make it more of an eating garden and this article is exactly the stick of dynamite I need up my behind to get cracking!

    • Thanks Noodle! I bet growing some fresh herbs would be great with your cooking. There are some lovely Thai/Vietnamese Basils, Chives and Mints. They are quite distinctive, and add that extra flavour to certain dishes. But you can’t beat classics like Thyme, and Rosemary 🙂

  • Gardening is fairly new to me, and goodness knows I still have a lot to learn. I have a very small garden and it doesn’t get as much sun as it should so many things I’ve tried don’t work too well. One thing I can grow lots of is lettuce! It will be fun to see how your garden grows.

    • Oh I’m stil learning large style! Our garden is tiny too, and shade can be a hassle, but as you say there is always something that will grow. Spinach likes shade too 🙂

  • Even though I haven’t had much success gardening here so far I am always excited about next season’s potential. This summer will be the first time I’ll be planting seeds I saved from my own plants, too!

    • Hi andy, and thanks for popping in. And that’s fantastic you saved your own seeds:) What did you save. I tend to focus on tomatoes and beans as they are relatively easy and don’t cross pollinate. But each year I try something new 🙂

  • Sigh…I love it when it’s seed catalogue time. I always get overly ambitious for our little plot and end up ordering things we just can’t grow here (red-seeded snake beans, anyone?). None of our packaging looks anywhere near as pretty as yours does though! 🙂

    • Tell me about it. The first year on my allotment I bought Ocra seeds. Now I know they are ridiculously hard to grow here in the UK. Sigh!! But I have to say I love the sounds of the red-seeded snake bean 🙂

    • Hi and thanks for the positive feedback and comments 🙂 I find gardening a bit addictive, I always spend far too much time thinking about it! All that potential 🙂 Hope you have a great gardening year !

  • This is great and seems so exciting too. Good Luck for all these seeds… Thank you, have a nice week, dear Claire, with my love, nia

  • Hi there Promenade,

    It’s mid Summer here in Melbourne and already I am browsing the seed catalogue for ideas for the future.

    Having circled ten different varieties of tomatoes I have decided I need a significantly bigger greenhouse, or a less enthusiastic approach to my want of toms.

    As a Brit living in Australia it is exciting to be able to grow things not easily possible in the UK or even at my last home in the S.W of France.

    There is something wonderful about having a box full of seeds, the dream of the contents growing, the hope of success or better still, the sweet taste of success.

    Happy seed shopping!

    • Isn’t it a case of “our eyes are bigger than our bellies” Or in the case of tomatoes and greenhouses, not a big enough greenhouse and too many tomato varieties to try!
      Thanks for popping in, I’m looking forward to reading about the changes in seasons, how you grow, what you grow. It’s great to “meet” other gardeners 🙂

  • I too love browsing the catalogs although I find myself doing more and more online browsing in this day and age. Your post gave me a thought for better garden management….. I never seem to remember what seed varieties did well the previous season….seems like I have to relearn the same lessons each year. This year I will take better notes and not trust my memory. Ha!
    In the 80’s and early 90’s I grew mostly OP varieties and ordered almost everything from “Seeds Blum”, a small company in Boise Idaho area. The catalog – this was before the online wave, was fun, with hand-drawn pictures mixed with some garden humor. They suddenly disappeared in the mid to late 90’s….see article below. A mystery still….

    http://www.saveseeds.org/biography/blum/blum_bio.html

    • That’s a great article about a fantastic enterprise. Thank you. Such a shame it all folded. The catalogues sounds lovely, and it’s made me think about trying to do some hand-drawn seed envelopes. I might have ago at making my own, except I would need to practice a LOT as my drawing is ****. What Ms Blum did seems like an early pioneering version of seed savers exchange and the HSL here in the UK. But just on a smaller and more personal scale.
      re the varieties, the more I garden the more I think they are important – for your garden and it’s locale, the weather and of course your taste buds. I’ve read rave reviews of some varieties only to be truly disappointed when I’ve grown them.

  • You’re right – seeds are like dreams and they have a way of leaping ahead of themselves in my mind so that I am tempted to buy more than I can reasonably deal with just because they look so fantastic in my imaginings.

  • Good afternoon .. thank you for liking my blog! I love your blog on seeds! And the packets are so pretty … are they English? Lovely artwork! And seeds .. lovely seeds … I saved some but not many from the veggies .. you are inspiring me to do more of that this year! (and good seeds, too!) 🙂

    • Thank you 🙂 The packets were a mixture of English and Indian seed packets, I lie the hand-drawn types best, which if I ever get my act together would inspire me to make some of my own. and it’s great to meet and get to know another gardener 🙂

  • I have always looked at seed packets with great longing, but didn’t do the garden work… now that I have children who live in the country, I can sometimes bring them seeds, though I don’t know if they are always appropriate or what they would have wanted… still it is a pleasure.

    • As they say it’s the thought that counts. Mind you I think one thing we always need to remember is that we are being sold something with these packets, and sometimes the truth is stretched in the descriptions…

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