Seed Varieties Deciphered

Gardening Tip – For the week   22nd Nov. – 28th  Nov.

December is a busy month for everyone – especially for the postal services, multiplying the likelihood of your parcel getting delayed or lost, by at least 4 times the norm. The other option of waiting till the nation wakes up again in January means that you are likely to miss out on the less common varieties of mail order seeds. I rang a catalogue company for some ‘special buy seeds’ at the beginning of this year and most of the items I required were already sold out. That leaves us, with the last week in November as the best time to concentrate on buying our mail order seeds for the coming year. I will jot down a few examples of what to look out for in the seed buying world.

Buying Mail Order Aubergine Seeds

Basic Info: If you do not have a greenhouse, look forward to a nice plant and flowers but don’t expect edible fruit. Even with a greenhouse, if you live in Northern England it must either be heated or bank on the unlikely event of us having to have loads of sunshine to ensure a worthy crop. Common Varieties: which have deep purple skinned are available for as little as  4p per seed (Sutttons, Kings), 1.3p per seed (D.T.Brown). Unusual Varieties: A pure white variety Clara with white flesh offered by Kings 20p per seed.

Buying Mail Order Beetroot Seeds

Basic Info: There are two main varieties- round and cylindrical. If you prefer leaving the pieces sliced in a salad then I would grow the latter but for grating purposes it makes little difference.

A daunting task when growing beetroot is to thin the seedlings as each seed capsule is a cluster of seeds. Monogerm varieties are now readily available which produce only one plant per seed eliminating the need to thin, I find that you should sow these a bit closer, as their germination rate is not so reliable. Common Varieties: are available from most catalogues for even less then a penny per seed, and even monogerm varieties are not much dearer. Unusual Varieties: Yellow varieties are also available, they are just as sweet and save you cleaning the stove from that red sauce that always boils over! But then you won’t feel like you are cooking beetroot!

Buying Mail Order Broad Bean Seeds

Basic Info: Check whether it is a variety recommended for autumn or spring sowing although you don’t really have to do as it says on the packet because this robust crop will always give a good yield as long as you keep the black aphids at bay when the plant matures. Common Varieties: are available for as little as 3p per seed , in a more exposed area get a dwarf variety like The Sutton (50 for £1.65 –Kings, 45 for £2.99 Suttons). Unusual Varieties: You might want to try a pink broad bean – Karmazyn –(45 for £1.55 – Kings, 40 for £2.99 Sutttons)

Buying Mail Order Carrot Seeds

Basic Info: Not so easy to grow good specimens, and cheap to buy in the supermarket but we like growing them and seeds are really cheap (Kings are giving away Autumn King seeds which have a RHS badge of merit   for just £1.20 for 2000 seeds)  – so go ahead and try it.

Decide if you want (and have deep friable soil) to grow the long varieties otherwise grow the shorter ones. The dreaded carrot fly does not damage every crop as the text books try to frighten you, but if you have had a bad experience, then try a resistant variety like Flyaway (widely available) or Maestro (Suttons), or Resistafly (Thompson &Morgan). Unusual Varieties: Something different that you are unlikely to find in the shops – purple carrots Purple Sun(300 seeds – T & M, £2.49, Kings £1.99).

Buying Mail Order Cucumber Seeds

Basic Info: Growing cucumbers outdoors is possible in Britain and even though they are generally spiny they have a deeper cucumber taste, the straight cucumbers usually have to be grown in a greenhouse. A good starter is to grow smaller varieties – ‘lunch box’ cucumbers these cost much more in the shops and the individual plant yields more cucumbers than the regular ones so you are always a winner! When buying seed be careful that it is not a gherkin variety which can not be eaten raw and your crop will end up in a pickle!   Common Varieties: are available from most catalogues, but cucumber seed seems to be the area where catalogues make their money as some varieties are wickedly expensive! The dearest I found was Swing F1 at T & M for £1. per seed!

Unusual Varieties: Crystal apple is a apple size yellow variety and I often grow it outdoors, but it must be picked before it gets to large and woody. A recent newcomer is Cucamelon which is meant to have a hint of melon taste in the small  plum sized fruit – but I find them a bit bitter. Both are widely available.

I could go on and on, but  I do not want to bore my readers and I leave you to experiment yourself – but the sound advise is – don’t rely on just one catalogue, and keep records, otherwise you will never know the next year where you went wrong and more optimistically  what you did right!

Have a good gardening week , whatever the weather!


Boris Legarni .