Posts Tagged ‘vegetable seeds’

How to Save Seeds from Beans, Peppers, Onions and More

August 28th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

You’ve sown it, grown it and harvested it. But how can you take your vegetable growing one step further?

Easy: by saving your own seed from this year’s crops to sow next season.

When you come to think about it, saving seed is the ultimate in self-sufficiency; it’ll save you money and closes the loop on your growing but, above all, it’s delightfully satisfying.

Read on or watch the video to find out how to save those seeds.

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What to save

Some vegetables are easier to save seed from than others. Especially suitable candidates include peas and beans, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, which can all be saved at the same time they are harvested or very soon afterwards.

Some biennial crops, such as onions, shallots, leeks, carrots, beetroot and chard are also worth saving, though you’ll need to overwinter a few plants from one season to flower and set seed the next.

What not to save

Avoid saving seeds from the cabbage family. These plants readily cross-pollinate with other members of the same family, so you’re unlikely to get what you hoped for.

The same goes for F1 hybrid which, because they are created from two separate parent varieties, simply won’t come true to type. For this reason, only ever save the seeds of traditional, open-pollinated varieties. F1 hybrids should include ‘F1’ in the variety name on the seed packet.

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Saving bean and pea seeds

Peas and beans are the easiest of the lot. As the end of the season approaches leave some pods to dry out on the plants. You’ll be able to see and feel the beans swelling within their pods. They’re ready to pick and collect when the pods themselves turn leathery or crisp to the touch.

You can get a lot of seeds from just a few plants, which makes saving these seeds very worthwhile indeed. Shell the pods to reveal the beans or peas inside, then discard any very small, misshapen or damaged seeds. Save only the best clean seeds. Spread them out onto newspaper to dry out on a warm windowsill for 7-10 days.

Fava beans, or broad beans, can cross-pollinate with other varieties, so only save seeds from these beans if you are growing just one variety.

Saving lettuce seeds

Lettuces produce literally thousands of seeds on each seed head. You may find you need to stake the plants as they stretch out to flower.

Once the plant displays its fluffy seed heads, pull it out of the ground and hang it upside down indoors to dry. After a few weeks like this the seed heads can be rubbed between the palms of your hands to coax the seeds free.

As with any vegetable, it’s important to choose the very best plants to collect seed from. This way you will actively select for those plants that perform the strongest and are best suited to the conditions in your garden.

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Saving pepper and tomato seeds

The seeds of tomatoes and peppers are ready when the fruits themselves are good for eating.

Wait until sweet peppers and chillies show their mature colour, then simply scrape away the seeds from the pith. Spread the seeds out on paper to dry out for a week or more before storing.

Before drying and storing tomato seeds, the pulp around them must first be removed. This isn’t difficult, but there is a specific process to do this correctly. See more on our blog for tips on how to do this.

Saving onion and leek seeds

Onions, leeks and shallots set seed in their second year. These plants cross-pollinate, so you’ll need to overwinter more than one plant of the same variety to flower the following season. The flowers are beautiful though, and provide welcome food for local bees and other pollinators.

The seed heads are ready once they have dried out and can be flaked off into a bag for cleaning and sorting. But if you need the space, you can hurry things along by cutting the heads a little earlier. First, check the seeds are ready by opening up a seed pod to observe the seeds inside. If the seeds are black, then you’re good to go.

Leave the seed heads to dry out in a warm, well-ventilated place, such as a greenhouse. Once they’ve turned a straw colour, simply rub the seed heads between your fingers to release the seeds.

How to store saved seeds

Dry seeds can be cleaned before storing by carefully blowing away any remaining chaff, or separating out the seeds through a series of screens or sieves.

Seeds should be stored in paper envelopes labelled with the variety and date.

Store them somewhere cool, dry and dark until you’re ready to sow in spring.

If you have any top tips for saving seeds, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

New Vegetable Varieties in our Seed Range

March 6th, 2018 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

We have strengthened our vegetable seed range with the introduction of nine new and two exclusive varieties for the 2018 season, all of which promise excellent yield and flavour.

Carrot Speedo (RRP £2.29 for 350 seeds) is a fast growing and early maincrop ‘Nantes’ variety which matures 90 days after sowing. It has a uniform, cylindrical shape and smooth skinned roots. This high quality carrot has good external and internal colour and a well-rounded tip at maturity.

In support of Fleuroselect’s Year of the Pepper campaign we have introduced the exclusive Pepper (Hot) Curry Pepper (RRP £2.45 for 10 seeds). It produces 15cm long fruits on compact plants. It is full of hot flavour, can be used both fresh or dried and is at its best when still green or light green.

Another new pepper added to the range is Pepper (Hot) Havana Gold (RRP £2.69 for 10 seeds). It is a vigorous plant, great for large crops of attractive fruits. Havana Gold has the amazing habanero flavour but with half the heat. Perfect fresh or dried and suitable for freezing.

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Besides peppers we have also introduced a selection of other varieties including Pea (Mangetout) Sweet Sensation (RRP £2.69 for 150 seeds), well-known for good resistance to mildew. It is an early crop variety producing sweet and crunchy pods.

Broccoli (Autumn) Covina (RRP £2.45 for 50 seeds), quality harvests over a long season. It produces solid, domed heads with medium sized beads.

Carrot Purple Sun F1 (RRP £2.99 for 350 seeds), a maincrop sweet nantes type, with rich purple flesh throughout.

Leek Navajo (RRP £3.49 for 50 seeds), distinguishes itself with extreme hardiness for crops throughout winter, producing long, easy to clean shanks.

Lettuce Thimble (RRP £2.05 for 200 seeds), resistant to bolting and tipburn diseases, producing dense heads of crisp leaves. This mini-romaine type can be cooked, grilled or used fresh in salads.

Tomato Sweetbaby (RRP £2.29 for 10 seeds) is an indeterminate outdoors or greenhouse growing variety that produces delicious and sweet, small cherry-sized toms.

Fascinating Facts And Figures About Spinach

July 1st, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Spinach seedlings

Generations of children will remember  the cartoon character Popeye the sailor man and his large, muscular arms which he fortified by eating tins of spinach. This gave rise to the belief that spinach was a ‘superfood’ because the very high levels of iron it contained helped make the body stronger. While spinach does have a good level of iron, its reputation is based on a mistake made accidentally by a German chemist in 1870. Erich von Wolff analysed spinach, but put his decimal point in the wrong place. He noted spinach contained 35mg of iron per 100gm serving, whereas it was later found to contain just 3.5mg per 100gm serving. More recently, some opinion believes von Wolff did not make such a mistake, but it all still makes for an entertaining story.

We still believe spinach helps to increase our vitality and boost the quality of our blood thanks to its good level of iron. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, K and folic acid, plus a good source of manganese, magnesium and vitamin B2. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health, and few vegetables are richer in this than spinach is.

We cannot be sure of it’s origins, but it is highly likely it is a native of Persia – modern day Iran and its neighbours. From there it spread to India and China, where it became known as ‘Persian vegetable’ or ‘Persian green’, by which name it is still known today. It also spread westward to Europe, developing a reputation for promoting good health as it did so.

When spinach reached Provence, it became a very popular, widely used vegetable. In the 17th century the English philosopher John Locke reported having eaten spinach and herb soup in his travels in south west France.

Dishes including spinach and a creamy sauce are often referred to as ‘Florentine’. Catherine of Medici, who married King Henri II of France, is said to have introduced spinach to the French court and named dishes containing spinach ‘à la Florentine’ in honour of her Italian heritage.

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), an annual grown for its edible leaves, is a member of the Amaranthaceae family. The English word ‘spinach’ dates from the 14th century. It does best in fertile soil which is both free-draining and moisture-retentive. Light, dry soils are best avoided, as these are likely to result in premature flowering and running to seed (bolting). Spinach needs plenty of nitrogen, responding well to top-dressings of a general purpose fertiliser or sulphate of ammonia. It tolerates light shade and because of its often-rapid growth it is suitable for catch-cropping and intercropping.

The sprawling perennial Tetragonia tetragonioides is known as New Zealand spinach, where it was found growing wild by Captain James Cook in 1770. It is also found in Tasmania and coastal areas of Australia.  Grown for its young shoots and leaves, it is drought-resistant and heat-tolerant . New Zealand spinach is an acceptable substitute for true spinach in hot dry conditions, where bolting is likely.

To browse all the spinach we have on offer at Mr Fothergill’s just follow these links to the spinach seeds section of our website

 

Royal Horticultural Society

 

This article was first published on the RHS website June 2016. 

Read more on the RHS website about growing spinach successfully.

Red Bodyguard – Taste the Tomato, Read the Book

February 11th, 2016 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Ron Levin, author of The Red Bodyguard

A book written about the beneficial properties of the tomato has given its name to a new British-bred variety launched exclusively for the 2016 season by Suffolk seedsman Mr Fothergill’s. “The Red Bodyguard: The Amazing Health-promoting Properties of the Tomato” by Ron Levin is published in its third edition by IRIS (International)  Ltd.

Ron’s daughter-in-law Sarah Levin contacted Mr Fothergill’s to see if a new tomato might be named in honour of her father-on-law’s 90th birthday. Staff at the company read Ron’s book and liked the idea. Tomato Red Bodyguard F1 is the result of various crosses made by renowned breeder Simon Crawford using seed harvested from Mr Fothergill’s trial ground. The result is an indeterminate, early cropping, high yielding, new strain, with some resistance to late blight, which produces medium-sized, juicy, delicious and aromatic fruits.

“We have developed strong links with Simon through the years, and are delighted to have launched his excellent Red Bodyguard F1 for 2016, especially as this has been nominated internationally as the Year of the Tomato, which we shall be emphasising through our retail stockists”, says Mr Fothergill’s technical manager Alison Mulvaney.

Ron Levin, a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, was intrigued by the World Health Organisation’s promotion of eating portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and wondered whether some were better than others for human health. He read hundreds of studies on tomatoes, and the more he read the more he was convinced of the remarkable properties of the tomato. “The ripe red tomato is surely a health gift from Nature”, says Ron. It was this huge amount of research which spurred him to write “The Red Bodyguard” in the hope of making as many people as possible aware of it.

A packet of 10 seeds of tomato Red Bodyguard F1 costs £1.95. It is available from garden centres and other retail outlets throughout the UK, and from Mr Fothergill’s mail order catalogue.

What to do in the garden in April

March 31st, 2015 | Garden Diaries, The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

As we wave goodbye to March and welcome in April we can finally start to see the growing year unfold rapidly ahead of us after patiently waiting for the busiest time of the year in the garden.  So without further ado, here is what you must do!

 

Jobs in the flower garden in April

Zinnias from Mr Fothergill'sIf you have not already done so, make sowings of seed of annual bedding and container plants.  We covered the subject last month, but there is still time for flowers such as French and African marigolds, dahlias, zinnias and petunias.  Sow these now and you will have a riot of colour in your borders and patio pots from June right through to the autumn.

Petunias from Mr Fothergill'sAs the soil warms up (well, we hope it will!) and begins to dry out a little, direct sowings of seed of hardy annuals can be made in their flowering positions.  This is just about the easiest way to have some splashes of colour this summer, as most will start to bloom just a few weeks after sowing.  Virginian and night scented stock are about the fastest of all hardy annuals to burst into flower, so are great subjects to sow with children, who will not want to wait long to see the results of their work.
There are plenty of easy-to-grow hardy annuals in our range, including cornflower, godetia, nasturtium, linaria, candytuft and nigella (love-in-a-mist).  If you are unsure of which to grow, sow our Mixed Annuals or Mixed Californian Wildflowers.  Remember sweet peas are also hardy annuals, so they too can be sown direct this month, requiring only the same support as you would use for runner beans.  When they start blooming, keep cutting the flowers to encourage more to be produced.

mixed annuals

Towards the end of the month summer-flowering bulbs, tubers and corms can also be planted in borders where you want them to flower.  Dahlias and gladioli are some of our favourites, but cannas also look stunning and bring a really tropical touch to any garden.

As spring-flowering bulbs’ flowers fade, remove the dead heads, but let the foliage die back and turn yellow to allow energy to pass back into the bulbs underground.

Roses will benefit from feeding with a good quality general fertiliser or one formulated specially for them to give them a boost ahead of flowering.  The same goes for perennials in your borders.  The winter rains will have depleted nutrients in the soil, particularly on light, free-draining land.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as Ribes (flowering currant) and Forsythia when they have finished  flowering.  If you have Cornus (dogwood) it usually needs cutting back, as the colourful winter stems are produced only on young growth.  Cornus alba and sericea can both be cut back hard to within a few inches of the ground, while Cornus sanguinea is not as vigorous as those, so only needs to be cut back by a half to two thirds of its present growth.

Now is a good time to divide and replant hostas.  Lift plants carefully with a spade and divide up the clump with an old serrated knife, making sure each section has both fibrous and fleshy roots.  Replant, taking care not to do so too deeply.  The crown of the plant should be just at ground level.  Water the new plants in well and remember to watch out for slugs, which are particularly fond of hostas.

 

Jobs in the vegetable garden in April

April is the best month to plant maincrop potatoes.  Where space permits, they should be planted 16-18in apart with about 24in between rows.  Earth up the foliage as it develops to prevent damage from late frosts, which will cut back their development.  Many of our customers now grow potatoes in pots, and good crops can be achieved with this method.  Use a 12-15 litre pot for each tuber.  Add compost to a quarter the depth of the pot, plant one tuber, cover it to  about half way with more compost.  Keep the port watered and keep adding more compost as the foliage shows through until the compost is almost to the top of the pot.  The potatoes you produce in pots will usually be of the highest quality and blemish-free.

Savoy cabbage from Mr FothergillsThis is perhaps the busiest month of the year for sowing vegetable seed direct in the garden or on the allotment.  There is a huge range which can be sown during April, but do be guided by the prevailing weather and soil conditions.  If your soil remains cold and very wet, delay sowing until conditions become more favourable  Seed sown in cold, wet soil will often rot before it has a chance to germinate, while a delayed sowing will produce young plants which soon make up for lost time.  If you really cannot wait to sow, try broad beans as they can withstand poor conditions better than most other vegetable seeds.

Herb seed such as coriander, chervil, parsley and dill can also be sown direct in the garden.  If you grow coriander specially for adding to Asian dishes, do try Cilantro, which produces masses of large leaves and is slow to run to seed, which can sometimes be a problem with coriander.  While most of us grow the curly-leaved parsley, the Italian flat-leaf type, such as our organically-grown Giant of Italy, has a stronger flavour and is great added to soups and to many other dishes.  Basil is hugely popular in the UK, but it is tender, so best to sow indoors in pots at present before transplanting outdoors in a few weeks time.

CorianderAutumn- and winter-cropping brassicas such as savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts and curly kale can be sown either in a seed bed in the garden or in trays of compost in the greenhouse or cold frame.  This should produce plenty of young plants for setting out in summer.

Later in the month you may wish to make an indoor sowing of French and runner beans, although it is far too early to sow these direct because they too are frost-tender.  Sow the seed individually in small pots of compost and leave them in an unheated greenhouse.  When frosts are forecast, cover the seedlings with horticultural fleece or a layer or two of newspaper.  Harden the young plants off gradually before planting out to their cropping positions at the end of May.

Monte cristo beanIf you have never grown climbing (as opposed to runner) beans before, please take a look at Climbing Bean Monte Cristo.  As easy to grow as ‘runners’, it is a very heavy cropper, producing stringless, pencil-podded beans, which are fleshy and full of flavour.  The plants have the advantage of resistance to most common diseases, so remain healthy.  Well worth growing, in our opinion!

There is still time to plant onion sets, but it is best done sooner rather than later.  Most varieties can be planted about 4in apart, allowing about 9-12in between rows.  Just leave the very tip of each set visible above the soil and keep a look-out for birds pulling them out before have a chance to grow.

 

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