Sowing the seeds of the coming year

One of my favourite garden tasks in late winter and early spring is starting to sow all the seeds I've bought  in or saved from the nursery gardens. I spend time from late summer to the end of autumn collecting seeds from the nursery gardens. These are stored in paper bags, hanging from the ceiling, so they keep dry until I am ready to spend a day sorting them out in December. In 2020 David built me a pulley system to hang them all on, basically a washing line for seed bags!

Collecting seeds from the nursery gardens, these are angelica seeds

Collecting Nasturtium seeds

Nasturtium seeds ready to go in their bag

Saved seeds hung up in the office to dry

Sorting out all these seeds takes a day, so I get the heater on, some music or a podcast on my phone and work through them one bag at a time. Some seeds are really easy to sort from their seed cases, some almost do it themselves and some are much more difficult and involved. Some like poppy seed fall easily into the bottom of the bag and there is almost no work involved with them. Others like members of the daisy family need a bit more work to separate the seeds from the other parts of the flowers. Once I have removed the seeds from the seed cases they get put into a glassine bag with the plant name and date on the front. These then go in a box until I am ready to sow them in February and March. This year I have saved sixty different varieties of seed from the garden and five different varieties for selling to customers.

Honest seeds waiting to be sorted

Primula seeds

Seeds sorted and ready for storing

In 2020 during lockdown we sold our cowslip seeds on line, there was huge demand for them which was much appreciated. This year we have another 4 varieties of seeds available.

This years seed available for customers 

One job I do enjoy on a bad weather day or winters evening (with glass of wine in hand!) is ordering my seeds for the coming year. In 2020 I decided to research new seed suppliers, organic if possible to fit in with our organic and environmental policies in the nursery (see here). I prefer using smaller independent seed suppliers as their ethics and seed quality tends to be better and their seed catalogues make great reading. This has led to ordering all sorts of interesting and unusual varieties, because sticking to my buying list is impossible when it comes to buying seeds. I always look forward to trying all these lovely seeds in the nursery garden each year. These are the seed suppliers I use:

My seed buying is split up into various groups:

The annuals I grow every year, veg and flowers.

Perennials that are easier to bulk up from seed every year for selling and planting.

New plants to grow for the gardens and nursery, perennials, trees, shrubs, etc. I can't resist a new plant to grow!

In the first year we owned the nursery I had over
 400 packets of seeds to sow! The ones I inherited with
 the nursery, my own and packets I bought.

As I am a member of the Hardy Plant Society I have the opportunity to get seeds from their seed list. I received an envelope of seed packets in the post last week from them. I joked that I must be getting old now I have joined some garden societies. David nodded sagely: his view is that all gardeners are silver-haired (I am not, by the way) and retired. The society produce a seed list and members can choose twenty packets for the cost of P&P. I chose a good selection of perennials, quite I few I had planned to get for the garden eventually and some new varieties to try. 

Once we get into late February and March I will be sowing all my packets of seeds in trays and pots in the polytunnel. Perennials get sown in 1 litre pots and the annuals in plug trays. Some annuals will be sown direct into the ground in situ in May, once the soil warms up. 

Seeds coming on in the cold greenhouse

Mice are a nightmare to anyone sowing seeds or growing bulbs in winter. I know they are hungry but my seeds are not bought as mouse food! I have in the past covered the pots in the greenhouse with wire mesh too small for them to get through.

A note about storing seeds until you are ready to sow them. Ideally use a dry, airtight container (plastic  boxes are good) and then pop them in the fridge. This keeps them viable, stops them rotting (if too humid), an ideal temperature of 5 degrees Celsius is good, and many seeds will keep like this for years.

Sowing perennials

Seed sowing, an exciting time of year

Sowing seeds in the polytunnel

Seeds sown in the polytunnel

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