Know Your Seed

Every time I open a packet of seeds, I’m in awe of the transformation about to unfurl. I’ve always felt compelled to grow my garden from seed. I enjoy the mothering - nurturing that helpless little seedling into adulthood. Of course it is more time consuming than buying ready grown plug plants, but who said there needs to be shortcuts in everything we do. The act of home gardening should be unrushed and a valuable lesson in patience.

Runner Bean  Scarlet Emperor  - saved seed

Runner Bean Scarlet Emperor - saved seed


Unlike us with our standard fit sperm/egg origins, seeds come in an endless array of weird and wonderful forms. Miniature paintbrushes that turn into Cornflowers, baby seahorses that become Calendula and heritage Climbing Beans - pretty enough for a necklace. All seem too precious to plant at times. And it is this beauty and wonder – the source of life – that we must protect.

Cornflower seeds

Cornflower seeds


As many of you will be sourcing seeds this month, I want to flag up that this is the last day of SEED WEEK (18th-22nd March).  A chance to celebrate our small-scale UK seed producers, it is co-ordinated by the Gaia Foundation who report that even if you’re buying organic supermarket produce in this country, it is unlikely that the original seed itself was organic. There isn’t the availability of UK, organically grown seed to support this.

 Luckily, by growing your own produce there are some great UK companies you can support that are producing seed with environmentally conscious, sustainable methods. Check out *Real Seeds, Vital Seeds, the Seed Cooperative and Irish Seed Savers. Their seed is not selected for yield, uniformity or disease resistance like many modern, commercial varieties. Instead flavour, interest and heritage are put first with a mission to protect genetic diversity for a more resilient future.


Diversity in our seeds is key when we hear from Wayne Frankham, (Seed Coordinator for Ireland and The Irish Seed Savers Association) that 60% of the world seed market is now controlled by only 4 seed companies - essentially setting the agenda for the produce we eat worldwide. By opting to buy open-pollinated seed from our own shores you are supporting a seed system that is adaptable to change, whether that be stresses of climate change or unknown pests and diseases.

 As Neil Munro from the Gaia Foundation says,  “Supporting them (*recommended seed companies) is a vote for small-scale farming and a vote for environmentally conscious gardening.”

So check out those companies and here are some options for seed sowing, indoor and out this week.

 Indoors (windowsill or heated greenhouse):

Edible flowers - Borage, Nasturtiums, Violas and Calendula.

Annual cut flowers - Cosmos, Cornflowers, Ami Majus.

Chard, Lettuce, Kale.

 Outside (direct sow):

 Spinach, Potatoes, Radish, Rocket, Oriental Greens, Cimi di Rappa, Coriander, Dill, Chervil, Parsnip, Early Carrots like Nantes and Amsterdam Forcing, Celeriac.