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Seed catalogues ready for perusal

I had planned to sort out my seed order over the Christmas holiday but it is January 5th and I have only just got round to digging out the seed catalogues. I’m not quite sure what happened to all that time. I did spend 2 days on the sofa with a cold, visited a friend in London and family in Somerset so that accounts for some of the time. Maybe subconciously I realised the task wasn’t going to be a simple one and should be tackled when I felt refreshed after the holiday period was over.

Reading other blogs it’s clear that there is a flurry of seed ordering activity going on and so I panicked a bit yesterday, dug out the seed catalogues and sat down in front of the fire last night with my garden notebook and graph paper.

Initially I made a list, which turned out to be a very long list, of the plants and varieties I would like to grow. My plans are complicated slightly by growing cut flowers as well as vegetables on my allotment. I’m trying to get plants that will provide flowers throughout the summer and in colours that will work well together in arrangements and have good vase life.

It will be my second year on my allotment and this year I am trying to make the space work as efficiently as possible. So this means looking for different varieties to get a succession of crops throughout the summer. Working out how much space I need to provide us with a good supply of a particular crop, trying to get the balance between not planting enough, as I did last year with leeks, and not ending up with so much of something that they end up back on the compost heap (not an efficient use of space).

I read a very useful book from the library entitled The Low Maintenance Gardener by Clare Matthews. She suggests how many of each crop to grow to feed an average family. So using her spacing guidelines, I worked out how much space I would need for each crop. Then came out the graph paper. I find it quite hard to visualise the space at the allotment and how much space everything will take up. I have 10 beds on my plot that are about 1.2 metres wide and just over 6 metres long so I’ve drawn these up on the graph paper. This was as far as I got last night. I now need to work out what will have to go from my wish list. It is a difficult balancing act between growing crops that I know are productive and tasty and that we will eat and wanting to try new things. For instance, I’ve grown sweetcorn the last 2 years and each year they have succumbed to the dull, cool summer weather and not produced a crop. But even if they had, they produce in one go and then the crop is over. I’ve come to the conclusion they are not an efficient use of space when space is at a premium. This year there will be no sweetcorn but there will be some peas and mange tout.

My other seed ordering dilemma is that invariably I end up wanting seeds from 4 or 5 different catalogues but when I look at how much I’m spending on postage and packing it can be nearly a third of my order and then I start thinking about how many packets of seeds I could buy with that money. The last couple of years I have ended up sacrificing variety for cost and buying from only 1 or 2 suppliers.

So tonight, if I get the chance, I will sit down with a cup of tea and possibly some chocolate to soften the blow, as I have to try and narrow down my planting plans. Will there be space for ‘Crystal Apple’ cucumbers and borlotti beans and can I justify 4 varieties of antirrhinums? Wish me luck.