You've Got Mail (Order) - the Kitchen Garden28 August 2015 Mickey Robertson, Glenmore House
The hint of spring in the air these late winter weeks has had me reaching with great excitement for my favourite seed catalogues.
I feel mildly panicked, as although I placed the bulk of my annual order weeks ago, there are a few gaps in my collection that I still need to fill (and time is marching on, eeek!).
Some of our favourite catalogues.
It is to Digger’s that I usually turn first, as over the years I’ve become familiar with many of the varieties they have on offer and so are now well tried and tested here; like the Aubergines ‘Listada di Gandia’ and ‘Rosa Bianca’, whose pretty purple streaked and blotched skins look so pretty peeking from behind their leaves during the late summer months. I’ve been narrowing down my tomato choice for years and once again have Black and Purple Russians high on my list, as well as the fabulous Hungarian Heart, which was a great success last year. I’ve ordered corn (Golden Bantam), whose burgundy silks look so enchanting mid-summer as they await pollination from the dancing flowers overhead; and a Cucumber called Japanese Climbing which I find grows well with me here and contains smaller seeds than many of the Lebanese varieties. Pumpkins are a must and I got a bit carried away as usual….Triamble, Musquee de Provence, Ironbark, Galeux d’Eysines to name just a few, but pumpkins make such a wonderful still life through the chilly months (aside from being indispensable in the kitchen!) and I so enjoy the large leaves in our pumpkin patch as they flutter in summer’s late afternoon breeze.
A hope full sign of things to come! Photo - Luisa Brimble
I tend to favour climbing beans over bush varieties – first because they give me an excuse to build any number of supporting structures which add height and interest to the garden, second because once sown and trained in the first instance, all picking can be done from waist-height up (which I find preferable!); it means I can enjoy the vision of wig wams and tunnels literally dripping with flowers and their resulting pods, and it also means the beans are well off the soil, and so have better air circulation and therefore fewer problems. A standout favourite last year was Speckled Cranberry, while I always sow Purple King and Rattlesnake – all of which can be found at Diggers.
Mickey's (very productive) veggie patch.
Next I turn to my other favourite catalogues, which I tend to pick special treats from. Lambley have introduced such a wide variety of vegetable seeds, I’m almost tempted to order a packet of each but really I mustn’t! Their catalogue arrived after I’d made my main order, so I think I may have a little switch and experiment next year! Lambley also offer a wide array of old-fashioned flower seed, which I find particularly thriling as a row of cutting flowers in the Kitchen Garden is a delight to behold. They make excellent companion plants, bringing in the bees and ladybirds, and ensure your kitchen windowsill will look pretty with pitchers and jars of simple flowers for months on end. I had great success last year with their Zinnia mix, but this year they’re offering the seed in individual colours – heaven! And they have a wide choice of Sunflowers, which are so easy to grow, add great height, strength and a surprise element to the Kitchen Garden (although annoyingly, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos seem to like them as much as I do). And wallflowers, which were one of my Dad’s favourites – I haven’t tried to grow them for years so I’m going to order a couple of packets to see if I can reintroduce that sweet scent to the garden here this season.
Youreap what you sow. Mickey in her element. Photo - Luisa Brimble
Then, of course, there’s Green Harvest, who have one of the most exciting catalogues of all. They offer all kinds of unusual varieties you may not have contemplated experimenting with, as well as things you may not have been able to source elsewhere (like Comfrey). But you will be tempted with something, I assure you! They have an excellent array of green manure crops, both warm and cool season and one of my all time favourites called ‘Clucker Tucker’ which makes an excellent forage crop for our chooks when they return home after a month cultivating the Kitchen Garden beds at the end of our seasonal rotation.
Enjoying the fruits of Mickey's labour, the guests at the recent 'Kinfolk Gathering' at Glenmore House. Photo - Jonathan Werrett
I hope you’ve ordered your potatoes by now which will be ‘chitting’ and ready to plant as soon as the last frosts have gone, and don’t forget to order seed for the next winter season (peas and broad beans), in case seed is scarce by the time you think of it at the end of summer (just be sure to store it in a cool, dry, dark place).
And try to collect some of your own seed too. It’s one of the most valuable elements of the process of Kitchen Gardening. But in the meantime, get your skates on and your orders in, as ‘tis the time to be sowing!