After last year’s seed order postal debacle, I decided to plan the garden earlier this year, and get my seeds ordered in good time, just in case. Having said that, The Palace project has held me up a little bit, along with the school holidays and other wonderful reasons. It was on the planner chart to be done by the end of the week ending July 4th, so I’m only a couple of weeks behind. But it will still be a little tight for some of the seeds so I hope the post isn’t delayed again. I guess the difference this time is there isn’t covid running rampant through the sorting office!
Ordering seeds for me isn’t just a case of flicking through seed catalogues and lobbing things into the shopping cart on a whim. I have to be strategic. Over the years I have worked out what works well in the garden, but also what our family will actually eat. It is no good growing a mountain of something they turn their noses up at, no matter how much I enjoyed the process of growing it. The veggie patch needs to be a well oiled food production machine with limited wastage.
For many of the crops it is a matter of going through my seed tin and looking for the empty or aging packets to replace them. Once seeds packets are opened, no matter how well you store them, the viability rates drop over time. I store mine in my cool office shed, (cool in more ways than one!) in a rodent proof tin – not that rodents have ever found their way into my office shed, but should the unthinkable occur, I’ll be ready.
Over the years, I have had enough opportunities to experience the frustration of waiting for old seeds to eventually emerge. Knowing they are old, I sow a few more than I need, then I panic and sow a million more a couple of weeks later just in case, and then the first lot will emerge but with not quite enough to fill the row, and the second lot come through, in full force – i.e. half a million show up and then I have an unwanted succession seedling thing going on that makes the garden look uneven. And waiting for them to be big enough to plant out sets me back in time and I see everyone else’s plants on social media and begin the worry all over again. And because I’m a softy, I end up with half a million extra plants to care for before eventually giving them away.
So now I’m a little more ruthless. When I open a seed pack I write the year on it and tuck it back into the seed tin when I’m finished. Each year anything with an old date on it gets taken out of the tin, even if there are still seeds in there. Sometimes these seeds make it to the seed swap with the exclaimer that they are old so sow loads. But sometimes the burden of guilt with these seeds ending up with a new gardener that may end up giving up gardening for life because of my ‘generosity’ prevents me from taking the bundle of open packets anywhere and so it sits, gathering dust. Maybe I should put them all on a bird table so nothing is wasted and my guilt is assuaged. I’ll add ‘build bird table’ to the to-do list.
This season anything from 2018 and 2019 got taken out of the tin. To stop things getting too boring, I look for different varieties of some of the things so I’m not growing the same old same old, year in year out, without compromising the eating of old favourites. I also have space set aside in the garden for interesting things that end up in the shopping cart on a whim.
But there are a couple of changes to the garden this season and I feel a little nervous about making them. Historically I have tried to squeeze in as many tomato and pepper plants as I could, pushing the boundaries of recommended planting distances as far as I could without overcrowding. But for the last few years I have had so many problems with these plants that I’m beginning to think maybe social distancing is the problem. So, this year I am growing dramatically fewer plants, hoping for a bigger harvest. I am also toying with the idea of building a frame of sorts over the tomatoes to protect them from the Tomato Potato Psyllid as this causes upsetting devastation and I’m tired of dealing with it. Limiting the peppers has also been an interesting choice, because it has made me admit for once and for all, we don’t like things that hot, so with limited spaces, only the mildly spicy got a look in.
Another major change coming my way is, while my nest is full now, by the time the harvest is ready, the occupancy rate will be down by a quarter as one of the teen lads is looking at university opportunities in far flung places. There will be one less mouth to feed. So, my old tried and tested I need x number of these and xx number of those will leave me with too much to feed us, but potentially not enough to solve world hunger. But the upside of this is giving me the option to explore other creative ways to use the space and branch out into as yet unexplored garden possibilities. Time will tell what this looks like, but there are several ideas floating around in my head.
Come again soon – the sun is shining, and the garden won’t prepare itself for spring.
Sarah the Gardener : o)