Seeds are expensive so getting the most from a packet of seeds saves money and means you can share surplus plants too.







Although I save seed of about half of all the vegetables I grow, there are many, especially hybrid seeds which I buy.  I am enraged at the cost of seed in the UK.  Compare a packet of seed from any of the main suppliers here with what you can buy from say the Italian seeds people Franchi and you might share my view.  However, sowing just the right amount of seed means one can get best value from a packet and properly stored, most seed will remain viable for years.


By far the most expensive seeds are those of F1 hybrid varieties.  Only sow enough seed to give you the quantity of plants you can comfortably eat as they come to maturity.  Crops like broccoli, calabrese and cauliflowers are in the habit of maturing all at the same time.  A two or three week cropping period per variety is worth aiming for.  Recently I bought a packet of broccoli seed called Olympia which contained just 24 seeds.  I sowed 2 seeds each into four small pots and they all germinated, so I transplanted the duplicates into four more pots.  I only wanted four plants so the others went to a couple of gardeners in the village.  That packet of seeds will give me broccoli plants for three or four years!

I am sure seed companies just love us to sow too thickly and too many and to buy fresh seeds every year.  But a packet of 300 lettuce seed will give you, as near as damnit, 300 lettuce to eat.  Sowing just a pinch of seed at monthly intervals through the season, means that packet should keep you in lettuce for several years.  I plan to have lettuce to eat all year round, plus a few spare for neighbours which means I allow to cut four plants a week.  Any transplants will mature a few days later than those left in the ground.  Small seeds like carrot should be sown as thinly as possible – try for 1cm apart.  Ditto radish, which can be thinned and eaten as you go.  Beetroot is another vegetable that should be sown very thinly and in short rows.  A 2-metre row will yield at least 40 beetroot and the seedlings can be transplanted when they have four true leaves.  Parsnip are slow to germinate and require warm ground, so starting them under a cloche is a good idea.  I put three seed at 6 inch (15cm) spacing and thin out the two weakest seedlings.  Parsnips can grow very large so just how many does the average family need through the winter?  I always grow too many!  But many are given away.  Parsnip seed have a reputation for not storing well but if kept in an airtight container in the fridge they should keep for five years.

Runner Beans, dwarf and climbing French beans are easy to grow and prolific . But how many to sow?  Too often, come August, every garden has a bean glut!  A family of four can feast on a 2-metret row of runner or French beans and still have plenty for the freezer and to give away.  Peas are another crop I can never have too much of.  The surplus end up in the freezer for consumption as a winter treat.  To be sure of a good harvest to feed four allow a 2 metre row.


The best way to keep seed so they remain viable for several years is to store them in envelopes in an airtight box or jars in the fridge.

Enjoy your gardening and see how much money you can save on seeds by a judicious use of this precious resource.


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