You know the drill
Where to buy vegetable seeds
Alas, allowing for a few notable exceptions (some oriental leaves, onions, aubergines, for example), it’s still too early to sow seed of most vegetables, even for growing under cover. But at least it’s not too early to order them – see below for some inspiration – nor is it too early to start preparing. So dig out that dusty propagator, give seed trays a good scrub and check old seed packets for sow-by dates. Shake out those tattered lengths of garden fleece (indispensable for protecting young seedlings from harsh frosts) and decide now whether you’ll need fresh supplies.
For hard-wearing, modular propagation trays that will last for many years, try Fruithill Farm (fruithillfarm.com), which stocks pretty much everything else you need equipment-wise, including heating mats, soil warming cables, fleece and plant labels. They’re also agents for the organically certified, peat-free Klasmann Deilmann range of seed and potting composts. If you’re happy to use a peat-based product, source a good quality one such as Westland’s multipurpose compost with added John Innes. Then sit back and hold on tight – the busiest part of the gardening year is just around the corner . . .
Brown Envelope Seeds, a small, independent Cork-based business which specialises in producing organic, open-pollinated seeds of vegetables particularly suited to the Irish climate and suitable for seed-saving.
New for 2014 An exciting selection of vegetables originally sourced from the American plant breeder, biologist and author Carol Deppe (The Resilient Gardener), including the winter squash “Candystick Dessert Delicata” and the sweet corn “Cascade Ruby Gold”. Both are exceptionally well suited to Irish growing conditions outdoors, even in an average summer.
Selling fast Tomato “Wild Argentinian”, a very vigorous variety that produces masses of tiny currant- type tomatoes with a tart flavour. It’s popular with chefs, who use the miniature fruits as a decorative garnish.
Irish Seed Savers Association, the Clare-based charitable organisation that maintains a seed-bank of over 600 heritage varieties, about half of them Irish and many of them rare or endangered. (irishseedsavers.ie)
New for 2014 A low-growing, highly productive pea known as “Fill the Bucket”. It came to the ISSA via John O’ Neill in Tipperary, whose neighbours, the Cristies, had grown and saved seed of this variety for over half a century.
Selling fast “Rocoto Red”, a fierce Andean chilli pepper; its regional names include “levanta muertos” (“raising the dead”) and “gringo huanachi” (“gringo killer”)It scores eight to nine out of 10 on the Scoville Scale of spicy hotness. You’ve been warned . . .
Green Vegetable Seeds, the new Sligo-based seed company recently established by well-known organic gardener and author Klaus Laitenberger (Vegetables for the Irish Garden), which specialises in varieties best suited to Irish growing conditions. (greenvegetableseeds.com)
New for 2014 Tomato “Sweet Aperitif”, a cherry tomato that recently toppled the ever-popular “Sungold” from the number one spot in two separate tomato-taste tests.
Selling fast South American root and tuberous vegetables now classed as superfoods, including yakon, oca, mashua and maca. The latter, according to Laitenberger, is “like a natural viagra”. Again, you’ve been warned . . .
Seedaholic, the Westport-based seed company that offers an impressive range of vegetable seeds at affordable prices. (seedaholic.com)
New for 2014 Two new varieties of wild rocket; one, a bolt-resistant, delicately flavoured variety called “Dragon’s Tongue”, which can be sown from spring through to autumn. The other, “Giove”, is prized for its flavour.
Selling fast Seed of salsify, scorzonera and Hamburg parsley – all are unusual root vegetables.
Mr Middleton, popular Dublin garden shop and Ireland’s oldest mail-order garden retailer. (mrmiddleton.com)
New for 2014 Thomson & Morgan’s “Beetroot Coloured Collection”, one packet containing seed of five colourful varieties including golden ‘Boldor’, candy-striped ‘Chioggia’ and white “Albina Vereduna’. Also, two new Irish-bred maincrop potatoes, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Richhill’, both with superior resistance to blight scab, blackleg and other diseases.
Selling fast A new, very prolific, round-fruiting courgette known as “Eclipse”.
Other good seed suppliers include quickcrop.ie, giyinternational.org, deelish.ie, and theorganiccentre.ie
IN THE GARDEN In FEBRUARY
It’s time to plant rhubarb; look for the tasty variety ‘Livingstone’, which crops in spring and then again in autumn (mrmiddleton.com)