The view out of the window at this time of year can be a little bit grey, even for the most optimistic gardener. But with the start of ‘calendar spring’ only a matter of five weeks away, on the first of March, it’s time to think about what you want to grow this season – especially the things that you want to grow from seed.
I collect and save lots of seeds from my own garden when the seedheads split, like the aquilegia shown here, as well as those of poppy, allium, love-in-a-mist and Verbena bonariensis – to name but a few. The seed is popped in paper bags and envelopes, with the name written on so I remember what they are, and then stored in a cool, dark place over winter ready to sow in spring.
But it’s not just flower seeds that I collect. I save my own runner bean, rocket and tomatoes in most years. And while not everything in the veg plot will produce worthwhile seed – beware courgettes and squashes in particular – there are plenty that are worth keeping from one year to the next. For a guide of what you should and should save, get a copy of Sue Stickland’s book, Back Garden Seed Saving. It’s worth every penny.
This is also the time of year to buy new seed, either to refresh your stock of the things you regularly grow each year or to try something different. I love this process, poring over the listings and feeling excited at the thought of watching how they germinate and grow. Some of my favourite companies are Nicky’s Seed, Real Seeds, Pennard Plants and Chiltern Seeds, but a web search will reveal so many more.
As far as the new veg goes this season, I’ve ordered four different varieties of aubergine, three types of oriental salad leaf and something called herb saltwort (Salsola komarovii), an alternative to marsh samphire. This isn’t all the new stuff I’ll grow alongside my old favourites, but they’re the crops I’m looking forward to most. And as for flowers, I’m going to grow the yellow cosmos ‘Xanthos’ from Suttons, Thompson and Morgan’s poppy ‘Seriously Scarlet’ and the Allegheny vine, Adlumia fungosa, from Chiltern Seeds.
So if you’re suffering from the January blues, then take heart. The days are lengthening and you’ll soon be able to get growing. I can hardly wait!