Shoots of Anticipation

1 Mar

Salad drawer

Salad drawer

It’s the first day of March, the official month when Spring starts to break through the grey and green shoots push their way up through the ground looking for light and opportunities to spread their seeds.

Growers are ablaze with excited chatter about which seeds to try out this growing season. A friend of mine who has been growing in London for years recommended The Real Seed Catalogue, based in Wales. They only sell open-pollinated seeds (non-hybrid) in a range of rare heirlooms and modern strains bred for flavor, not for the needs of supermarkets.

You automatically become a member of their seed club through requesting seeds. This is due to EU legislation, which in practical terms means that in the EU there is now an official list of vegetable varieties, so varieties not on the list cannot be sold to the public. Through the membership you are no longer seen as a member of the public, and get the change to grow amazing seeds with many a story to their name, and play a part in protecting seed diversity.

Seeds come with much anticipation, nurturing that potential through the right conditions for germination to the first seed leaves and then the emergence of true leaves, you know the plant is really determined to grow. This is the first bit of magic which largely happens under the soil’s surface. Now new life is here, we need to make the most of it by working within natural cycles to make the most out of its potential.

I’ve been a bit keen this year and ordered my seeds at the start of February. I’m growing in containers as I live in a converted school, so the playground is my edible challenge. We’ve upcycled an old drawer and a hardboard container from a skip by drilling some holes in the bottom for drainage, linning it with plastic and given it a lick of paint, perfect for an urban kitchen garden. They are all right by a sunny south-facing wall, so the tomatoes should be in their element.

The drawer is perfect for cut and come again salad leaves so I’ve gone for some Shungiku, a favorite of the Japanese and very peppery. I’m hoping some of my companion plants from last year reseed or I may buy some small plants to replace them in early May.

I’m trying out some more vine tomatoes as they flourished last year, although they were a bit tightly packed and did require lots of watering. This season the variety is an early cropping vine, Stupice, from 1954 Eastern Europe, a little larger than the average cherry tomato and known for its heavy cropping and rich flavour. They will be undersown with some mixed Nasturtiums to add some diversity, food for pollinating insects and ingredients for salads or butters.

Smells of summer

Smells of summer

I’m also really excited to be trying out some mouse melons, which are a tiny type of lemony cucumber. A natural climber known for its heavy cropping and stunning little fruits. Perfect for summer salads and pickling!

Containers are made for climbers so continuing with that theme I couldn’t resist trying some green pole beans, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, originally from the native North American Cherokee people. As they were driven from their land in 1838 by the US government in a forced march to make room for European settlers, they carried the bean with them and it has been passed on ever since. One of the most famous seeds of solidarity.

Which interesting varieties are you trying out this year and where do they originate from?


4 Responses to “Shoots of Anticipation”

  1. Chilli Ninja March 3, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Hey there! Awesome article, it mirrors my enthusiasm for this time of year which I find magical with so many possibilities. That is very cool that you live in a converted school and you are growing in things like old drawers. My wife and I do the same using things that can be repurposed to grow things, and it also adds character to your garden 🙂 I grow chillies obviously here in Ireland, but we also have a great wee selection of essentials out the back as well. Have you ever tried growing chillies? What would be your advice on the best results in growing tomatoes as we have very mixed results.
    Chilli Ninja.

    • bexlondontown March 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      Hi, Thanks so much for your keen comment! I was given some chilli seeds last summer and now have two plants which I have had inside over the winter. I’m not sure exactly what variety of chilli they are, maybe Piri Piri. Our tomatoes were fantastic last year! I think some of it is just luck, although using lots of rich organic matter is always a good idea, lots of water and giving the roots enough space. I also think companion planting really works. We planted some marigolds near the tomatoes which did the trick. Once they were in flower we fed them once a week with an organic feed high in nitrogen and potassium, as they are hungry plants!

  2. foodstinct March 4, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Wow, this is so timely. I am literally sterilising my pots and picking through seed packets this morning. About five minutes before your site’s notify email arrived I had realised I didn’t have any tomato seeds…. and now, I’m stumped for choice. Chocolate cherry, white cherry, emerald cherry. Amazing! Thanks for the tip and I look forward to seeing how yours grow. Jared. P.S. I love the theme of your blog, it’s awesome.

    • bexlondontown March 4, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      Yes, I was outside at Hawkwood Nursery where I’m studying Organic Horticulture last Thursday and there was such excitement about wonderful seed varieties and the cultural histories that go with them. Good luck with the tomatoes, they are such a pleasure when they are super healthy. Thanks Jared, happy growing!

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