How to choose your Vegetable Seeds for Spring sowing.
One of the most exciting and satisfying Gardening Job in January is to trawl the seed catalogues and order you new Vegetable Seeds for the coming Gardening Season.
You really do need a plan. Think of your Kitchen Garden or Allotment and decide how much room you are going to devote to each crop: potato, brassica, salad, root vegetable, tomato, novelty plants ( blue beans, purple carrots etc) runner bean, pea, marrow and cucumber, celery, leeks, sweet corn, annual herbs (basil, parsley, cress, and so on) You will know what you want to grow. A list, with an allocation for space, is vital!
Start with the big items. Potato; this crop is probably going to take up more space than anything else, and in truth it is the most basic of all Garden crops.
You do not need many seed potatoes to fill a large chunk of ground. Do you only go for ‘earlies’ or are you a main crop fan? Do you grow a selection of varieties or do you stick to just one or two favorites? These are very important considerations before steaming on with a great big order for loads of tubers that might never get planted because of lack of room. If I happened to be a bit tight on space I would be inclined to go for some interesting early varieties, and I would restrict this to small amounts of many sorts. These days you can purchase what are known as ‘Taster Packs’ which contain a small number of seed tubers, this gives you the chance to try out several different varieties to see which do well in your soil and conditions, and which you prefer to eat!
International Kidney Also known as the Jersey Royal Sweet flavour, eat when young.
Lady Christl A delightful salad variety, waxy with an earthy flavour.
Swift A great all-rounder.
Winston Very high yielding ‘spud’ white skinned, good for winning prizes at the local flower show.
Casablanca Another really good all rounder.
If you are keen on growing ‘Main Crop’ potatoes, then I would like to recommend the following varieties.
Desiree A very popular red skin potato. Heavy cropper. Excellent all round culinary variety.
Harmony This variety produces large tubers and is ideal for use as ‘bakers’
King Edward Excellent all round culinary variety with a superb flavour.
Markies This variety is an improvement on Maris Piper which is probably the best potato for making chips. Blight resistant.
Pentland Dell Large tubers with very good resistance to blight and slugs.
Setanta A red skinned variety that is very disease resistant. A good all round culinary variety.
The next crop that is a big taker of space is the Brassicas – cabbage,cauliflower, sprouts etc. Brussel Sprouts in particular – love ‘em or hate em – need to be planted at wide spacing , the good thing is that they do not need to be planted out until late summer, and can follow on from Early Potatoes after they have been harvested . Cabbages and Cauliflowers and Sprouting Broccoli all need lots of room
The choice of Brassica varieties seems endless, but I would like to recommend the following as tried and tested.
Broccoli Tenderstem Green Inspiration F1
Extremely tender green sprouts with a delicious ‘asparagus’ flavour. High yielding.
Calabrese Aquiles F1
A great improvement on the more traditional Broccoli Heads . This plant can be over-wintered for an early crop in the Spring.
Brussel Sprout Montgomery F1 Traditional flavour, huge yield . Will crop just in time for Christmas and then carry on until Spring.
Cabbage Derby Day An early maturing variety. Ball shaped and with a very nice flavour.
Cabbage Exel F1 This is the sweetest of all ‘Spring Greens’
Cabbage Sherwood F1 A good Summer cabbage. Large round heads with a good flavour.
Cabbage January King A very well tested winter variety. Completely hardy and a good winter flavour.
Red Cabbage Kalibos A delightfully sweet flavoured red cabbage. Perfect for pickling.
Cauliflower Mayflower F1 Early maturing with large curds. Excellent flavour.
Cauliflower Snow Crown F1 One of the best summer varieties. Good sized curds and a gentle flavour.
Cauliflower Clapton F1 A very reliable Autumn maturing variety. Excellent disease resistance. Good flavour.
The next space gobblers are the ‘root vegetables’ carrots, onions, shallots, beetroot, celery, and leeks.
We will start with carrots. My favourites are as follows.
Carrot Chantenay A stumpy, French variety with a mild, distinctive flavour.
Carrot Early Scarlet Horn A very popular early variety with great flavour if eaten raw fresh out of the garden.
Carrot Primecut 59 F1 Grow this one just to pull it when it is still very young. The delicate little pointy roots are delicious.
Carrot Autumn King 2 This has to be the mainstay carrot. Strong grower. Very reliable. This variety can be left in the ground right through the winter until require.
Onto leeks. My favourite winter Veg.
Leek Musselburgh Bomb proof variety. Superb flavour and totally reliable.
Onions are next. Lets not cry!
Spring Onion White Lisbon This is one of the first vegetables I ever grew, and it is still as good as ever.
Onion Bedforshire Champion Best grown from sets, not seed. Totally reliable main crop onion. Good culinary variety with excellent keeping qualities .
Onion Rijnsburger 5 Best grown from sets, not seed. This Dutch variety produces small, firm round bulbs. It has an excellent flavour and is one of the best keeping varieties.
Onion Red Baron If you want to try a Red onion then this is far and away the best variety. Shiny purple skin, firm bulbs and a sweet flavour.
Onto Parsnips. An indispensable winter vegetable. What would roast beef be without roast parsnip !
Parsnip Palace F1 A smooth even rooted variety. Can be left in the ground until required.
Radish – Does anyone still eat Radish ? In case you still enjoy this funny little vegetable the best variety is French Breakfast It is easy to grow and has a mild flavour.
Shallots. One of the most important ingredients in the kitchen, and a fascinating plant to grow. You are best advised to grow them from ’sets’ rather than seed. Seed growing can be a lengthy process and a bit fiddly.
Shallot Golden Gourmet A very reliable shallot. Round firm bulbs with a very good flavour. Good for pickling.
Shallot Jermor This shallot is a true French ’longue’ variety, but it will grow quite well in our own very unpredictable climate. This variety has a superb flavour.
Beetroot. Colour in the kitchen Garden. Purifies the blood – so they say….?
Beetroot Solist This variety can be pulled when still very young and used as ’baby beets’ or left to mature.
Beetroot Boulthardy A very popular variety that has been tried and tested for years. It can be sown earlier than most varieties.
Finally in your seed list- but still very important- are the Peas and Beans. If you liken the kitchen garden to a ’landscape’ area, then the Peas and Beans give height to the layouts profile.
Broad Bean Bunyards Exhibition. This variety has been around for a long time, and rightly so. It will provide you with a heavy yield of well flavoured beans.
Broad Bean Piccola This is a green seeded variety and has a superb flavour. Delicious with a white mild onion sauce.
Runner Bean Kelvedon Wonder. I make no apologies for recommending this old variety. The best time to pick your runner beans is before all the shops are full of cheap beans. Kelvedon Wonder will always beat any other variety in earliness.
Runner Bean White Lady. This white flowered variety produces a delicious bean and has a very high yield.
Climbing French Bean Cobra This variety will look good in the herbaceous border with its abundant violet flowers. The beans are prolific and tender.
French Bean Dwarf Safari. A bean from Kenya. Heavy yield of tender beans.
There are still quite a few varieties of Vegetable that I know you will want to grow, but can I suggest that you grow these from plants, not seeds. I say this because the Cost of the seed and the costs of growing these varieties will be higher than buying the plants. This list is as follows:
Cucurbits Marrow, Cucumber, Melon, Courgette, Gourds.
We will return shortly to choosing Vegetable Plants, and I will go through the varieties that I think will give you the best return for your labours.
All the above suggestions are not, by any means, exhaustive. There are many, many other interesting varieties of Vegetable that you should certainly try and grow from seed, and I strongly encourage you to ‘Have a Go!’
The kitchen garden is the most absorbing of all Horticultural pursuits. Not only are you attempting to produce plants to satisfy the most basic of human needs – food, you are also pitting your skills against endless problems that ‘Old Ma Nature’ will surely put in your way. You are also trying to achieve as much ascetic value as you can.
There is probably nothing more satisfying than viewing you ’Patch’ on a Summer evening and thinking to yourself ’ That looks bloody Great!