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Vegetable seeds

Some of you will already have ordered your seeds for the coming year. Some of you will be browsing the catalogues and will be trying to reduce your initial selection, after all, you only have so much room to grow all that lovely veg! And the rest of us will be hoping that very soon we will have a garden or an allotment again in order to grow our own….boo hoo!

It is not necessarily such a good thing to have so much choice when it comes to selecting which varieties of vegetables to grow. The list seems to get longer and longer every year. Strange and obscure varieties from all over the place are now available to us, far more than probably ever before with the resurgence in growing your own. Having grown vegetables for many years now l have come to the conclusion that it is a pretty safe bet to choose the old trusted varieties wherever possible. After all, they have stood the test of time, usually have great flavour, and you know that what you are growing and will eventually eat will be the same as those folk who probably tended your plot all those years ago too. I get a great kick from that.Some modern varieties will offer greater disease resistance and possibly a heavier yield so the choice is yours. Its always good to try something new, or old come to that!

So what are these old varieties and where can they be found?

Most seed firms will offer some of these old varieties today and by scouring the internet you will also find specialist nurseries and seed companies offering ‘heirloom varieties’. Garden Organic, Chiltern Seeds, Suttons, amongst others. One of the best resources comes from Garden Organic and their HSL (Heritage Seed Library). Once you are a member they give you a choice of up to six different heritage seed varieties to grow that are not available to buy in the shops.

Back in the days of the Dig for Victory campaign seeds were generally bought loose in paper bags from your local supplier and the choice was take it or leave it! Very often it was first come first served especially when it came to seed potatoes. There were some good seed companies around who initially offered catalogues but as the war went on some decided the paper should be put to better use and hence catalogues became scarce. Seeds themselves became scarce due to the enormous demand the Dig for Victory campaign made on the seed companies which urged people to order early in order not to be disappointed. Not only do we have so much choice today we also have many other outlets in which to purchase our orders, including the wonders of the internet. I wonder what they would think of that?

The W.I. had access to a good seed supply that was given to them from the Canadian W.I. as a gesture of goodwill. Varieties included (Zucchini) courgettes and Mange-tout. I wonder what they thought of those?

Seed companies back in the 1940’s included Bees, Webbs, Lowis, Suttons, Carters, Dobbie & Co, Thompson & Morgan and Cuthberts who sold through Woolworths, of which both companies have since gone. I remember buying my seeds from Woolworths as they were usually much cheaper than the rest.

I have a good collection of books and catalogues from the 1940’s and these have adverts in from some of these old seed companies. Varieties included:

Potatoes; Arran Pilot, Duke of York, Epicure, Arran Banner, Gladstone, Majestic and King Edward.

Carrots: Early Horn, Early Market and James Intermediate.

Parsnip: Student and Tender and True.

Onions: Bedfordshire Champion, Ailsa Craig, Rousham Park Hero, Up to Date, Giant Zittau and White Lisbon.

Leeks: Lyon, Musselburgh, Prizetaker, and Walton Mammoth.

Runner Beans: Best of All, Princeps, Prizewinner and Scarlet Emperor.

Dwarf Beans: Canadian Wonder and Masterpiece.

Broad Beans: Broad Windsor and Seville Longpod.

Cabbages: Primo, Winnigstadt, January King, Offenham and Flower of Spring.

Brussels Sprouts: Harrisons xxx and Wroxton.

Cauliflower: Early London, Snowball, Allthe Year Round and Autumn Giant.

Broccoli: Veitch’s Self Protecting, Snow’s Winter White, Late Queen and Leamington.

Spinach: Long-Standing Summer, Round-Leafed Victoria and Prickly.

Celery: Covent Garden Red and Sandringham White.

Lettuce: All the Year Round, Feltham King, Lobjoit’s Green Cos, Arctic King, Stanstead Park and Hardy Winter White Cos.

Radish: French Breakfast, Scarlet Globe and parkler.

Tomato: Open Air and Sunrise.

Ridge Cucumbers: Stockwood Ridge and King of the Ridge.

Vegetable Marrows (Courgettes): Green Bush and White Bush.

This is not a comprehensive list and l will add more as and when l come across them. Maybe you can help me?

Of course, for those fortunate enough, you could have always saved some seed from last year. More on that next time.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in January, The garden

 

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The Spring Hustle

An extract from Mr Middleton’s book ‘Digging for Victory’:

April. There are so many jobs to be done just now that it is difficult to know which to tackle first. We lost a good deal of time earlier on, when we ought to have been digging and preparing, owing to severe weather, and now some of us are like the cow’s tail, all behind. But that need not worry us; as l have often said before, we should never garden by dates; and if the spring happens to be late, then we must be late too. The danger with so many people is that in trying to make up for lost time, they do things in such a hurry that they only half do them. That is a great mistake; try to do everything properly and thoroughly, and if you can’t get the potatoes planted on Easter Monday as usual, or the other seeds sown, never mind; get them in as soon as you can, and you’ll be surprised how they catch up for lost time, and by the middle of the summer everything will be about normal again. I have often planted potatoes at the end of this month, or even early in May, and the crops have been just as good. I haven’t finished digging yet, but l am not worrying about it, and the crops, or most of them, will perhaps be all the better for a late start.


Some sound advice from Mr Middleton. I think we can all relate to this overwhelming feeling we can get at this time of the year when we look around our plot and see what still needs to be done with so little time. To stop myself scattering seeds to all four corners of the plot in wild abandonment, l arrange my seed packets into salad, brassicas, herbs etc, and then look to see what can be sown direct into the soil or raised in a heated propagator. Just about everything can be sown outside now. But remember, little and often, otherwise we end up with that glut of vegetables that no else wants because they too have a massive glut of the same thing!

I managed to really get on yesterday in my plot and sowed more salad crops, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli early and late varieties, spinach, chard, brussel sprouts, and some annual herbs. I only grow what we like to eat and as we don’t really eat a lot of cabbage l don’t bother to grow it. It takes up a lot of room that can be used for other crops.

The early spuds are all showing now. Just hope the dreaded blight doesn’t take them this year.

pumpkins, squash and courgettes

In the greenhouse my pumpkins, squash and courgettes have germinated and are looking good. I love roasted squash so grow quite a few to see us through the winter.

seed bed

I prepared my seed bed by adding some compost, forking it over and tapping it down with the back of a rake to firm it. I sowed lots of brassicas in here and when they are old enough to be transplanted l will sow a green manure.

sweet peas

The sweet peas l sowed back in October last year have been hardened off and yesterday l put them in the garden. I love sweet peas and they look great growing up a wig wam.

rhubarb

The rhubarb is growing really well and this lot is going to be made into a Rhubarb Upside Down Cake. Pics to follow.

NEWS FLASH……..Just heard my first cuckoo!! Have you heard yours yet?

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2010 in April, The garden

 

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Trials and Troubles

I was reading through Mr Middleton’s book ‘Digging for Victory’ the other evening and came across this article. I feel l should share it with you as l feel we can all associate with some of what he says when we are gardening!

The crocuses will soon be out, the birds are singing, and this is the time when the gardening fever spreads. Already l notice seed packets are blowing about the allotments instead of into the salvage bin, and take it all round, the garden is full of interest just now. It’s nice to think that each little seed we sow is going to grow into a fine carrot or onion as the case may be. But is it? There are a good many snags and obstacles to be got over before we reach that happy state, and it’s just as well to be prepared for them and act accordingly. It doesn’t seem to matter what we try to grow, there is always an enemy of some kind waiting to pounce on it and spoil the good work; what with the invading army of birds, cats, moles, insects, and diseases of various kinds, it’s a wonder we are able to grow anything at all. But there is one thing we should all remember: nearly all these gardening troubles can be prevented, but many of them are extremely difficult to deal with once they are allowed to get going…..Never was the old saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’, more true than it is in the garden. So we must be forewarned this year, and take timely measures to keep the crops clean. We can’t afford to share them with insects in wartime.

He goes on to talk about slugs, wireworms, onion fly, carrot fly (l used a mixture of sand and soot when l sowed my carrot seeds when l had my first allotment at the age of 11years and it worked a treat against the fly), flea beetle, black fly, club root and birds. He goes on to say:

I don’t like hurting birds. I’m afraid l’m not so squeamish about other people’s cats and dogs; they can be, and often are, a perfect nuisance on allotments in industrial areas. Cats are difficult, but a lot can be done with a well-aimed lump of dirt. Dogs are inexcusable, and their owners might at least keep them off allotments, even if they themselves are not interested in growing food. Children, too, are sometimes very troublesome, but it’s no use blaming them, but those responsible for them might surely exercise a little more control over them where allotments are concerned, for these allotments are a vital source of food supply. Our allotments have recently been visited by a herd of cows. I don’t quite know what we can do about them, l know what l felt like doing, but perhaps the less said about that the better, except that l should like to appeal to everybody who owns animals of any kind to do their best to keep them under control, and respect the efforts of those who are trying to increase the food supply.

Well, maybe the cows are a bit extreme but dogs and cats are always a threat, even my own! Worst of all are my hens that manage to find a way into my veg plot and wreak havoc. I am slowly building up defences and they are slowly getting the message. My experience is just keep an eye out when you are gardening and try and nip any problems in the bud before they get out of control and always opt for the organic method first.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in March, The garden

 

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Here Comes The Rain Again…

I was just looking in the DOFV book to see what l might have been able to do this week; Mr Middleton advises;

Break down and lime soil,
Plant Onion sets,
Sow Parsnips, Broad Beans, Carrots etc,
Sow Early Peas, Sprouts and Summer Cabbage,

But as the rain hammers off the window, blown in by a near Hurricane force wind, l don’t think l will be doing any of that! I have sown more seeds in the unheated greenhouse and the early spuds are actually beginning to chit….just! The onion sets are ready to plant out as are the shallots and a few left over garlic cloves.
My hens hate this weather but are still providing us with 3 to 4 eggs a day so we won’t starve! The forecasters are telling us we are in for hell of a storm over the weekend up here in Brittany. At least we haven’t got 18 inches of snow like Scotland. I think a cup of tea is in order.
What will you be planting over the weekend if the weather is kind?

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2010 in February, The garden

 

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