January – off the plot and into the catalogue

The new year has sprung, and the plot lies neglected. It will be staying that way for a while yet, but there is still plenty to consider even on these cold dark days….

I’m coming into my 5th season as an allotment holder so there is a box full of seed packets, most of which have played some role in last summer’s yield so are open and hoping to get finished off this year. A few remain unopened, either freebies which weren’t of much interest to me or less common ones which I really truly wanted to grow but never quite got the chance to try something different. This box of goodies has been retrieved from a cold corner of the garage and this week I have been reviewing its contents to see what is lacking. The box contains:

  • Pepper, hot
  • Sprouting broccoli, purple
  • Cayenne chillie pepper
  • Brussels sprouts, red
  • asparagus peas
  • dwarf french beans
  • beetroot, burpees golden
  • Leeks
  • Rosemary
  • Sprouting broccoli, green
  • Cabbage, savoy
  • Beetroot, chiogga pink
  • basil
  • cabbage, greyhound
  • golden turnips
  • tomatos
  • chinese kale
  • chinese flowering cabbage
  • cauliflower, romanescu
  • climbing french beans, green, (scant)
  • climbing french beans, purple (scant)
  • oregano
  • spring onion
  • red onion
  • shallots
  • white onion x 2
  • lettuce, various green x 3
  • lettuce, red
  • cucumber
  • radish
  • rocket
  • swede
  • artichoke
  • broad bean

A fairly comprehensive collection, one might think at first glance. Nearly all of the favourites are there, and indeed enough seeds to easily fill a half-plot at the allotment should the careful grower sow and feed them with even a modicum of effort.

But look more carefully and you will see that there are some seeds which are about as likely to turn up in a veg patch as opium poppies:

  • asparagus peas – not sure that these are even edible
  • rosemary – considerably easier to take a cutting from one of the many bushes growing in front gardens around the country and just stick that in the ground
  • pepper (hot and also cayenne) – pushing your luck to try to grow these outdoors in the south of england, let alone the north

The rest of them make up the longlist which is kept within reach as the joy of Catalogue Cruising begins.

Even with the internet providing ample opportunity to buy seeds online, the allotment association operates a slightly more old-fashioned approach to buying seeds.  As a fully paid up member of said association I like to play ball, keep all the oldies on the committee happy/busy, and order by writing down codes and prices on a form, which is sent to the association’s Seed Secretary (payment by cheque.  i know, cute ain’t it?).  She then collates everyone’s orders and sends them off to Dobies, so all we plotholders can benefit from the negotiated discount (not sure if this is confidential but don’t want to piss off the committee nor Dobies so it’s staying secret!).

Dobies, the preferred supplier, has been carefully selected after extensive research by our Seed Secretary and I have no doubt that the effort she has put in should be rewarded by our support.  I’ve been known to buy seeds from Wilkos so Dobies is heads and shoulders above some of the alternatives.  Their catalogue is perfect coffee table fodder for any vegan.   Page after page of tender veggies in their prime, some cupped by the hand of the grower to show off length, colour or girth.  To take an example I needed to choose some carrots.

carrots

20 varieties of carrot. Beat that Jamie Oliver.

There are over 20 varieties, split into ‘carrot-fly resistant’, ‘f1 hybrids’, ‘standard’ and ‘unusual-coloured’.  Now at the end of a day there isn’t that much variety in flavour so you have to work out what else is important in a carrot.  This is something that I struggled with in the first years and so I dabbled with purple ones and also globe shaped ones.  Lesson learnt:  globe carrots are like doughnut peaches – you feel you’ve been duped as one bite and it’s gone. If in doubt, choose something that will make it:  germinate, grow, endure.

So after a leisurely hour browsing, it was down to business and the order was placed.  By the end of the month I will be the proud owner of the following seeds;

  • Cabbage, red, Roderick
  • Cabbage, winter, Spring hero (ironic name?)
  • Carrots, Flyaway
  • Carrots, Trevor f1
  • Cauliflower, Clapton f1
  • Courgette, yellow, Aurelia f1
  • Courgette, green, Zucchini f1
  • Cucumber, pickling, Venlo
  • Fennel, Zefa Fino
  • Garlic, Solent Wight
  • Garlic, Sultop
  • Lemongrass
  • Parsnip, Countess
  • Pea, Little Marvel
  • Pumpkin, Orbit
  • Radish, Mantanghong
  • Butternut Squash, Hunter f1
  • Sweetcorn, Sweetie Pie

And with all these added into the existing collection, this year, I should have an allotment to be reckoned with.  Bring it on!

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