Wednesday 28 December 2011

My first seed order of the year... or is it my last?

Last of the calendar year, but first of the gardening year. Whichever it is, I placed an order for some seeds on 23 December. As you can well imagine, there is no way they are going to arrive until the New Year now, and I wouldn't want to sow them just yet anyway, but ordering seeds is just one of those things I do during the Christmas holiday. I took holiday on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 December, so I have had plenty of time for such things.

I generally like to order seeds from several different suppliers. This is because I can never get everything I want from just one place. I find that almost every catalogue I browse through has something in it that the others don't, and I am always on the lookout for something new to grow. And in any case I like to give my custom to several different companies.

My first order for the 2012 season went to Plants of Distinction. This company offers lots of old favourites, but it also has many rather more unusual products. For instance they have a much wider range of Tomatoes, Chillis and Peppers than most companies, and many of their seeds are for the less well-known varieties. I have been buying from this company for several years now, and I have no hesitation in recommending them.

My plans for 2012 include a "Three Sisters" bed - that's to say, Squash, Corn and Beans, so I have been looking round for suitable candidates. I haven't finally decided but I think the beans will be Cherokee Trail of Tears, simply because I like the heritage aspect of them. Last year I found seeds for them to be in short supply, but I was eventually able to get some from Pennard Plants.

Cherokee Trail of Tears

The Squash will probably be Butterbush, available from Dobies and elsewhere. It's a variety of Butternut bred to be specially compact. My raised beds are too small to accommodate a trailing variety! As for the Corn: well, there are so many varieties available that it's hard to decide. Maybe Sunrise from Marshalls? This one is advertised as 'compact' and 'suitable for smaller gardens' so it meets at least some of the criteria...

Another thing that I am planning to grow next year is Aubergines. I don't normally grow these because we usually find them rather bitter, often with soft spongy flesh and tough skins. However, I remember that years ago when we lived in the Far East we used to enjoy the "Brinjal" type, which is quite different to the big fat glossy Mediterranean type of Aubergine. They are longer and thinner and firmer. I reason that if I am ever going to like Aubergines, it will be if I grow them myself, so when I saw Pingtung Long in the Plants of Distinction catalogue, I added it to my list. Will it be as good-looking as this type I photographed on our holiday in Turkey, I wonder?

How about this for a curiosity? The Climbing Mushy Pea Bean. A climbing bean that allegedly performs like a Marrowfat pea. Couldn't resist that one! (Even though I am determined to have enough Runner Beans next year to be able to freeze some of them - they really are my favourite.)

Several of the big seed suppliers are offering discounts for orders placed before 31st December (e.g. Dobies are offering 15% discount on telephone and internet orders over £35, and Mr.Fothergills are offering 10% off all Web orders.), so I shall certainly be having a look at their websites in the next few days.

The pathetically-small Physalis fruits
There are some things that I will definitely NOT be growing next year, for instance Tomatillos and Physalis. I also don't see myself repeating the Flower Sprout experiment. My Red Cabbage (Marner Langerrot) put in another poor performance this year (that's two in a row), so this time I'll try a different variety. I have also decided not to grow any Oriental Brassicas (Jane doesn't like them), or Spinach (which always bolts before I get a worthwhile crop). The Mooli / Daikon that I grew this year was successful in that it produced some sizeable roots, but they all came on at the same time, and we didn't like them very much anyway, so they are off the list. Sounds like a long tale of woe, doesn't it? However there are literally dozens more things I do want to grow, so I shan't be short of ideas - just space. So the big challenge for me is in exercising restraint and being realistic about what I can fit in.   Dream on!


  1. I like the look of the Aubergine, much nicer than the usual ones.

    Have you ever looked at the site '' -they do a lot of things like land cress and other things that grow in winter.

  2. Hi Toffeeapple; Thanks for the recommendation of Looks promising!

  3. Oh I so love to order seeds. Perfect thing to do on a holiday. And a climbing mushy pean sounds perfect.

  4. Another great place for heritage seeds, including Trail of Tears Beans, is the Real Seed Catalogue - I bought a load of seeds from them last year, including Trail of Tears.

    I probably wouldn't bother with Tomatillo out of doors either but have had great success with them inside the conservatory. I'd definitely recommend growing them that way if you have the time to hand pollinate!

  5. I ordered some of my seeds day before yesterday.

  6. What an exciting time for you...planning the year ahead.
    I placed some seeds in a pot about five days ago and noticed yesterday that they've started to sprout already! I'll post about them soon but I'm not in your league Mark.
    You'll be horrified to hear...I grabbed the packet of beans (no idea of the name but I'll check before posting) and poked them into the compost!
    Seems to work for me though... ;D

  7. Would love to see your aubergines/brinjals grow. There are so many varieties but I also like only the longer, slimmer varieties. I've had my fill of brinjals this year. While my brinjals were prolific, they seemed very vulnerable to pests.
    I'm also looking forward to growing lots of new stuff and already have my seeds. But as usual I have more seeds and less space so I have to curb my desires.

  8. I usually wait until Feb or March to think about seeds. Its great to hear what others are planning to grow. Wonder how the aubergine will do in the UK climate?

  9. This year will be the first time I will be ordering seeds. How exciting is that? I will also be ordering some herb plants and Alpine Strawberries from Richters in Ontario. I counted and if I recall correctly, they have 42 types of mint available. Awesome plant list. Enjoy your ordering Mark.

  10. I have to say i miss the English seed brochures - I particularly loved the one for Chiltern seeds - fabulously descriptive. I grew mainly ornamentals when I lived in London - particularly Australian plants to remind me of home and I used to source most of my seeds through them.

  11. A good selection Mark and I'll be very interested to see how the mushy peas get on as they're my favourite and it would be great to grow some. I stick to Dobies as we get a 52% discount by ordering in bulk as a Hort Soc which works out as a bargain against the £5 annual membership. Good luck with your new varieties!

  12. We've sorted out what we want but not sent in orders yet. We also buy from Plants of Distinction for more unusual things but most of our stuff comes from Kings as we get a large discount by being members of the NSALG. The trouble with using too many suppliers is the cost of postage although before the Christmas period some have been offering to pay P&P. We never seem to be ready by then though!

    You're not going to grow your beans up your corn are you? when we did a sort of 3 sisters we grew the beans in the same bed but up canes as we felt the corn would be swamped by the beans.

  13. Sue, I remember you warning me about this before, so I'm planning to grow the beans up a couple of wigwams, with the corn planted around the outside and a squash plant in the middle of each.

  14. Even with an allotment, there's always more that I want to grow than what I have room for. It took me three years to get an aubergine plant to fruit, I hope you have better luck.

  15. I am not terribly adventurous with growing different things as I know they won't get eaten, my style of eating is pretty traditional. I have never had much luck with aubergines even in the greenhouse so I am not bothering this year. I do find it hard to make decisions when faced with a seed catalogue, but I am trying golden beetroot and pink broad beans this year - aren't I a devil. My seed order arrived just before Christmas - so I just have to go through everything in my seed box and do a bit of sorting out so I can fit everything in.

  16. Haven't even sat down and had a look at my catalogues yet. Christmas has been busier that anticipated. Still it's something to keep me occupied in January. I was going to try some physalis, why aren't you going to bother with them again?

  17. Wellywoman: I'm not going to bother with Physalis again because the yield was very small. Not worth the space. With Tomatillos it was the opposite - a huge crop, but (after Salsa) didn't know what to do with them. I shall devote the space to more tomatoes.

  18. Seed buying becomes something of an addiction doesn't it. I've got a three sisters bed going at the moment and have found it very low maintenance which is great. Though I will do it a little differently next year - plant the pumpkins first rather than last as I initially read - and will consider planting in a grid rather than a circle to get more in. Having said that the yield is looking potentially very good with all plants sporting two or three cobs each (some did get smashed to smithereens in a Christmas does hail storm though).

    I also grew Lebanese eggplants last year - but couldn't find the seeds this year so have gone with ordinary ones - and they were fantastic. Not tough or bitter and all plants had loads of fruit. So much so I was giving them away left and right.

    Good luck with your decision-making.

  19. Hi Mark,
    Just love the photos on your website! I have also gone for the Trail of Tears beans from the Real Seed company plus am going to be extra adventurous and have bought some Oca from them to try for the first time as they look intriguing...
    Best wishes for the New Year!


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.