i-D Gardener in Residence Scarlett Cannon sows seeds using the rule of thumb!
One of the most enjoyable winter gardening jobs is choosing seeds for the year ahead. Once caught, the food-growing bug takes over and it’s easy to get carried away at the dreamy prospect of producing all your vegetables, all at once, and purchase far too many seeds in the first year or two. If gardening teaches us anything it is patience and planning.
Even if you’ve only got a container garden, or just a window box, you can grow food. But you must plan ahead, realistically accounting for the full-grown size of the plant and the planting space available. There is little point in buying seeds that you simply won’t have the space to grow. If, like me, you have a tendency towards over-excitement, it’s worth making a drawn or written planting plan before you start.
Although my ideal is organically raised seed I am not a stickler and use a wide variety of sources. Specialist seed companies will generally have a better selection with more interesting varieties, available any time of year online or from garden centres. Prices vary and some are much better value than others. Pound shops can be a useful source of cheap seeds for beginners as they carry pretty good basic varieties, and multipacks with several different vegetables in one packet for £1! In 2008 a friend sent me a parcel from Franchi Seeds of Italy, a family company with an excellent philosophy, who immediately became my all-time favourite. They offer a wide choice, with interesting and exciting varieties, and they give you lots of seed with a high germination rate which they put into lush, glamorous packets that look good enough to eat!
I save my own seed too, and sell some of it, in handmade seed packets using an eclectic mix of vintage labels, antique botanical illustrations and photographs, online via my blog shop.
Seed swapping is a great way to build up your own selection of seed without spending a fortune. If you have other gardening friends then keep it simple and swap with them, or search online for organised seed swaps. Seedy Sunday is a good starting point to find an event in your area.
Seeds need to be sown in the correct way at the correct time. Watch my film for Top Tips.
In February we ‘chit’ (or sprout) seed potatoes before planting from March onwards as it takes 4-6 weeks to produce strong shoots. Always buy certified seed potatoes and stand them in an egg box or similar, in a cool, light place, with the ‘rose end’ facing upwards. The ‘rose end’ is the end with the most ‘eyes’, where the shoot will sprout from. Garden terminology isn’t always easy!
Good luck and happy sowing!
Text: Scarlett Cannon