Seeds: The Basic Low Down

Buying seed
It’s a recession all right, but the seed companies are laughing. They’re doing a roaring trade these days, especially in vegetable seed. Shop around online for the widest selection. Check out Suffolk Herbs, Real Seeds and Marshalls .
Heritage varieties
Long-forgotten varieties are now achingly trendy. Just like the food snobs, some growers get a kick from the rare stuff – kale from a windswept Scottish island, chillies from a remote oasis in Morocco.

On a serious note, it’s a fact that we’ve lost more than 90% of our vegetable varieties in the last century. So do try some heritage seeds to help to promote biodiversity and preserve the gene pool. Sign up as a member of Heritage Seed Library. But cover yourself with a few foolproof varieties from the garden centre.

Sowing seed
Seed comes in all shapes and sizes, from minute wild rocket seed to chunky broad beans, and there’s no hard and fast rules. Read the packet if in doubt: root crops such as carrots must be sown direct into the soil, others don’t mind being moved. Keep unused seed in an airtight container in your fridge.

Stagger your sowings
It’s best to sow little and often, especially with crops such as lettuces, carrots or radishes. Otherwise you end up with glut all at once. Sow every two weeks for a constant supply.

Water from below with seed trays, module trays or pots. Let them soak in a tray or the sink until the soil takes on a darker sheen. That way you won’t disturb the delicate roots of young plants.

Keep an eye out
Check every morning. As soon as seed germinates, they need light. Whack them on a windowsill, rotating every day to make sure they do not grow wonky as they strain towards the light.

Harden them up
Plants grown indoors need toughening up before they go outside. Brush seedlings back and forth with your hand or brush to mimic the motion of the wind. Harden them off for a week or so by slowly increasing the time they spend outdoors.