The vast selection of seeds available to buy can be daunting, however any seeds bought from a reputable dealer are regulated and subject to legal standards of purity and germination, and so you can be confident that most will grow.
When selecting varieties of crops check that they match your requirements and your local conditions. For example in colder areas you will need to select hardier varieties; or if you have particularly hard and stony soil you may need to grow short carrot varieties as the long varieties will split. If you’re new to gardening then try experimenting with different varieties to find what works for you. Growing smaller amounts of 2 different varieties can improve your chances of success.
F1 varieties are hybrid varieties, (bred by crossing parents with desirable features) can be more expensive (and you cannot then save your own seed). They can however produce better results, and may be more suited to specific conditions, and so are well worth considering.
Heritage varieties on the other hand are some of the best non hybrids available. They have stood the test of time, and have been bred over generations to produce the desirable traits. Many of these seeds are only still in existence because amateur gardeners are still using them, so if you want to be part of history these are well worth considering. Another benefit is that you will be able to save your own seeds, and that these saved seeds will produce reliable and consistent results.
Seeds deteriorate with age. Keep all seed packets in an airtight tin or box and in a cool dry and dark place. It is well worth putting some silica gel sachets in the box too, as moisture will make the seeds deteriorate faster.
Some seeds deteriorate faster than others. Parsnips and Scorzonera for example are not worth keeping once open beyond the first year, where pepper or tomato seeds can last up to 4 years.
There are a number of methods of sowing seeds. There are four common methods of sowing seeds that you will come across. If you are planting in any sort of drill, then a good tip is to water the ground before sowing the seeds to aid germination, and whatever method you use you must ensure that the ground is kept moist at least until the plants have established, and should be watered regularly in dry weather.
Sowing in Narrow Drills
This is the commonest method of sowing vegetable seeds. Simply mark a row with a taut piece of string between 2 sticks, then use the corner of a draw hoe to drag out a shallow drill. Then put a small amount of seeds in the bottom of the drill – spaced out as recommended for each type of seed, and then carefully rake the loose soil over the seeds.
This is where plants are grown in a shallow channel to save space. Commonly used for peas, it can also be used for carrots, or even radishes. This is a great way to get more into a smaller space. Rake the soil over the seeds once sown.
Plants are grown in a small block. Mark out a patch of soil, spread the seed evenly and then rake the seeds into the soil. This is ideal for fast growing salad plants.
For large plants like marrows or pumpkins you will place a seed in stations at even distances from each other. Make holes with a dibber or using your finger to the correct depth, and then place your seed in the hole covering it with soil or compost.
If your new to allotment gardening then we would recommend that you follow the guides on this site, or the back of seed packets to space your plants correctly for optimum growing, however most plants are very forgiving, and there really are no hard and fast rules on plant spacing. Different varieties will require different spacing, and with carrots and parsnips for example you can influence the size of the final vegetable by varying the spacing (grow them closer together for using as young small veg – perfect for roasting, or further apart for a bumper winter crop).
Once you have found your feet feel free to experiment a little to find what works for you.