A limited seed order for 2013

I have spent the last few weeks pondering which vegetables to plant this year whilst not wasting any time, effort or money on crops that we won’t see through to harvest if we manage to sell our house in the coming months.

Rather than spend the next few weeks repeatedly changing my mind, I decided to just go ahead and order a small selection of vegetable seeds for this year but I tried to focus on those which are ideally early planting and thus early harvesting. I will just have to accept that in the event we are lucky enough to sell fairly quickly that means some crops may be left for the new owners.

However all is not lost as I have a cunning plan to use various containers for some of the slower growing or longer term crops so that we can (in theory at least) take those with us.

Most of these will be started off under cover anyway – assuming I ever buy the replacement glass needed for the cold frame – but some may be planted out directly under cloches in the raised veg beds.


This year I have again gone for first early potatoes (Swift this time) which if the website is to be believed could be ready for harvest “in as little as 7 weeks from planting” – I have my doubts about this but I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.

The Thompson and Morgan potato growing guide has some great information, particularly the planting and spacing guide but also about the various problems when growing potatoes.


A variety called “Early Onward” which is (allegedly) a “heavy cropper, maturing some 10 days earlier than Onward“. I think that these are destined for one of the veg beds that are now covered with cloches but there’s still no guarantee that the weather will warm up quickly enough to suit my impatience!

The guide to pea growing on the Thompson and Morgan website is a handy reference but doesn’t specifically mention this variety so I’ll just make it up as I go along!


This will be my first attempt at beetroot but it was a special request so it’s worth a try. This is a variety called Boltardy which “is the perfect variety for early sowing“. This will most likely be planted up in a number of medium sized pots/troughs so that I can handle succession sowing to get a decent crop over a longer period while still keeping it slightly portable.


A rather interesting looking variety called Purple Haze which can apparently be sown “under frames or cloches in February as soil starts to warm” and unsurprisingly this is a nice shade of purple! Apparently the taste is excellent but I may need to eat them with my eyes closed – after all I’ve always known carrots to be an orange colour!


Finally I decided to take the plunge and try some rhubarb so I ordered a double pack with 1 crown of Stockbridge Arrow and 1 crown of  Champagne. This is definitely one for a large (3ft?) tub which has nothing growing in it right now and I’m hoping that my calculations are good enough so I can fit both crowns in there with no adverse effects 

There is a handy rhubarb growing guide on the Thompson and Morgan website which I found very useful and I’ll be going back over that when the delivery arrives

Left overs

There are also still some seeds left from last year – particularly the Nantes carrots and Apollo leeks – so assuming I can find any spare space they may get planted at some point. Unfortunately they aren’t as exciting as the new stuff I’ve just ordered so they’ll probably get forgotten but I’d hate to waste the space!

I can now spend the next week or two watching for the delivery man with my parcels… and waiting for warmer weather of course!

New mini greenhouse

Mini greenhouse from the local pound shopSometimes you find a bargain and sometimes the bargain finds you. I quickly popped in to the local pound shop on Saturday to see if they had anything that might help if I decide to grow runner beans. (they didn’t really).

While in there I spotted this handy three shelf mini greenhouse with zip fronted plastic cover. It was only £10 so I thought I’d give it a try, especially as I know that there is only limited window sill space in my garage.

At that price you probably can’t go wrong and it’s much sturdier than I expected for the money. Even the plastic and zip front looks like it will last a least 2 or 3 years…

I think I can probably live with the prospect that they are on sale elsewhere at a lower price but I doubt that is possible!

Earlier I happened to stumble across what seems to be almost exactly the same product at the Thompson & Morgan website. I was very happy to note that it was priced a little higher than the £10 I paid for mine. Having said that I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this Mini Greenhouse from Thompson & Morgan was a better quality product which would explain the higher price.

UPDATE: The range at Thompson & Morgan seems to have changed since this was first posted so I’ve updated the links above as necessary.

High street vs Online

I saw a few great books in a bookshop recently and almost bought this one in particular but a small voice told me to hold off and check on the web. I didn’t need the book immediately and you always seem to get a better price on the web.

Practical Self Sufficiency by Dick and James Strawbridge

Sure enough as soon as I got home, I checked on Amazon and found that the same book was available for only £12.70 (plus p+p) instead of the £20 that the high street bookshop wanted from me!

You do the maths but it’s clear why the high street chains are suffering especially given the great service I’ve always found from Amazon. Needless to say I will be buying this book online later this year and certainly making use of the associated Practical Self Sufficiency website.

Chickens are something for the future… I think!

There are very rough plans for chickens in the future but probably not at the present house. Many people know someone who has kept chickens in a suburban garden and I’m no different but it’s obviously a very different story when they are your chickens in your garden!

After the initial nosing around the web, I think that this seems a fairly practical option for starting out with and it looks nice too which is a bonus I reckon

Midi Dell chicken house and run (by Smiths Sectional Buildings)

There is a raised living area to give shelter underneath the house and to deter vermin problems. Some carrying handles run throughout the building to enable easy mobility and they also double up as daytime perches for the chickens. There is a solid wooden floor in the house area with loose perches that lift out for easy cleaning the ark. The nest boxes protrude from the rear of the ark and the back board hinges down for external egg collection. There is access to the chicken run from a large wire door and access to the ark through a lift off side panel.

What more could they want apart from regular food, proper care and attention plus a guarantee that there will be no foxes sniffing around?

The current plan is probably to move house at some point in the next few years to get somewhere with a larger garden. As a result we could have any chicken house/run in a specific spot most of the time but allow the birds out when possible and still move the run occasionally to give them a change of scene. 

In general this makes sense to me at the moment but of course I’ve never raised chickens before (or any kind of productive livestock) so I could be completely wrong. There’s only one way to find out though – give it a go!