January, the calm after the whirlwind storm of Christmas and New Year. A time to sober up and return to routine, clear the decorations from the house, and the toxins from your body. A time to make resolutions for the better person you’ll be, and plans for the year ahead. That’s my favourite bit – plans and schemes and dreams and hopes. For some, it might be for a summer holiday, or a new job or house, but for me, it’ll be dreams of the perfect flower garden and vegetable plot that will be mine this year.
My imagination knows no bounds at this time of year. Through the grey murky drizzle, I can see a kaleidoscope of pretty cottage garden flowers and vibrant green vegetables. Perfect rows of untouched lettuce, alternating in ruby red and lime green, glossy smooth and frilly edged, bamboo frames dripping with pink speckled beans, and bright sunshine yellow squash flowers with bumble bees drunkenly finding their way in. Oh it’s all to come, and the seed catalogues that have been landing on my doormat in recent weeks make me believe that the dream is only a seed packet away.
And so, us gardeners sit in our warm houses with hot mugs of tea, and indulge ourselves in these catalogues of dreams, ordering up such tantalising delights as purple haze carrots and sunburst courgettes.
This year I have tried to be a little more methodical in my seed ordering process, unlike in previous years when I have absentmindedly wondered through the catalogues and websites making rash decisions on what I need without properly checking my supplies, and then ordering a load of other stuff that just takes my fancy because the pictures look good and the descriptions sound great. No, this year, I have been organised for once. I collected together my entire seed collection, from the dog-eared cardboard box on the cobwebby shelf of my allotment shed, the overstuffed biscuit tin in my back garden potting shed, the shelves of my little bookcase in the lean-to (from which they were meant to go back in the biscuit tin, long ago, but never made it), and some home saved ones from the fridge. I then went through them in alphabetical order (yep) and wrote down notes about what I have and what needs ordering new for this year, in an attempt to only order what I need. I did say attempt!
I weeded out those well and truly past their sow by date, and some of those free-with-magazine packets for vegetables I don’t really like and will never grow. There are a few vegetables that I have slightly old seed for, that may or may not be viable, and I wont really know until I try sowing them. So as not to waste compost on these, I’ll sow them on some damp kitchen paper to see if they show signs of life, before deciding whether I need new seed or not. So they kind of have question marks next to them, but otherwise I found I don’t actually need as much as I thought. That’s partly down to me saving a lot of my own seed from plants last year, and partly down to Wilkinsons selling off seeds for 50p a packet back in the autumn, and my taking full advantage of this! Albeit by randomly throwing a load of packets into a basket, that I may well come to regret later on this year.
As for the new orders, I try to spread my custom around a bit. Some organic varieties from the Organic Gardening Catalogue, some heirloom and heritage varieties from the Real Seed Catalogue, a few bargains from Simply Seeds, and some from a new ethically minded company Gro Seeds.
I’m going to endeavour again to grow a few tomatoes on the plot with a blight resistant variety called Defiant. I think I just liked the name to be honest. And the same goes for heirloom beans Lazy Housewife, mini cucumber Muncher and Dragons Tongue rocket. Okay, I’m a sucker for a good name, and those seed companies know it. Some fast growing summer cabbage, red Batavia lettuce, and crookneck squash. Oh squash varieties alone send me into a giddy spin. Some tried and trusted Anya potatoes and the Longor shallots that did so well for me last year.
I can’t make any promises that I won’t get drawn like a uncontrollable magnet to the seed racks in the garden centre when I go to buy seed compost, but I’ll try and resist!