Wednesday 18 October 2017

Before You Buy Seeds

This Article was updated on the 30th December 2020 as one of the best sources of cheap seeds "Wyevale end of season Seed Sale) is no more. To Read the Update Click Here

So it's the end of the year and if you are lucky you have finally made it to the top of the waiting list and you have your very own (normally with one previous neglectful owner) overgrown allotment that you are now working on to try and deal with the weeds and get ready for the growing season next year.

At some stage soon as it's the winter months and that when allotmenteers do this kind of thing, you will be thinking about what you are going to grow and the seedaholic in you will twitch and start to emerge and you will want to start buying packs of seeds.

First thing to do is have a family meeting and decide what it is you actually like and want to eat, what do you eat the most off. Ask your self are there things you would like to eat more off but are expensive like asparagus for example.

Now having had the family meeting and before you rush out to your local DIY store or Garden Centre and spend a fortune on seeds, here is a little information about seed suppliers and buying.

There are well known and long established seed companies out there like Marshalls, Suttons, Mr Fothergill's etc. So it's worth visiting their web sites and requesting either a paper seed catalogue which is equivalent to an allotment owners porn, of download the catalogues as Adobe or surf them on the interweb thingy.

Subscribe to their news letters and you will be bombarded with offers to save and spend your money, some are good some are not so good, it depends on what you want.

Be aware of who is part of whom

Unwins is part of Marshall's, apparently, Fothergill's comprises five main brands: Mr Fothergill's, DT Brown, Woolman's, The Sweet Pea Company and Johnsons. You will find that the same seed is being packaged in different quantities and for different prices between these companies. Suttons & Dobies are part of the same group

I know an allotment owner who always bought his seed from DT Brown, thinking they were a 'bit special'. Now he knows he may as well buy from his local DIY Shop.

If you have the fugal allotment mindset you may want to leave your seed acquisition until Wilko, Lidl and dare I say it the pound shops have their gardening stuff & seeds in stock. Lidl sell 3 small packs for a £1 and 4 Large packs for £2 normally and the pound shop selling 4 packs for a £1. but their range is obviously limited but ideal for a new plot holder starting out.

Below is an example of the cost of Leeks from the In My Seed Box review for 2018

Musselburgh (Seed Tape) - 180 Seeds - £1.99 - Thompson & Morgan
Musselburgh                      - 300 Seeds -     60p - Wilko  
Musselburgh                      - 500 Seeds - £1.89 - Mr Fothergill's 

You expect to get less seeds when buying seed tapes, and The T&M and Mr Fothergill's came via the Wyevale 50p seed sale. I have paid full RRP when wanting a particular seed that was only available from a specialist supplier and new to the UK but mainly I buy in the 50p seed sale.

I've done some searching on the internet and here are prices from suppliers listed on the left hand panel of my Diary / Blog

Musselburgh - 1700  Seeds - £1.99 - Premier Seeds Direct * Free Delivery
Musselburgh - 1400  Seeds - £7.56 - Suttons
Musselburgh -   800  Seeds -    99p - Premier Seeds Direct * Free Delivery
Musselburgh -   750  Seeds - £1.00 -
Musselburgh -   700  Seeds - £1.99 - Marshalls
Musselburgh -   500  Seeds - £1.39 - DT Brown 
Musselburgh -   500  Seeds - £2.10 - Johnsons
Musselburgh -   500  Seeds - £1.89 - Mr Fothergill's
Musselburgh -   425  Seeds - £1.15 - Kings Seeds
Musselburgh -   400  Seeds -    99p - Seed Parade
Musselburgh -   350  Seeds - £1.99 - Suttons
Musselburgh -   350  Seeds - £1.99 - Thompson & Morgan
Musselburgh -   350  Seeds - £1.99 - Unwins
Musselburgh -   300  Seeds - £1.30 - Nicky's Nursery 
Musselburgh -   300  Seeds - £1.29 - Dobies  
Musselburgh -   300  Seeds -    60p - Wilko 
Musselburgh -   250  Seeds - £1.60 - Simpsons Seeds & Plants
Musselburgh -   200  Seeds - £1.85 - Plantword Seeds
Musselburgh -   150  Seeds -    85p - Nicky's Nursery
Musselburgh -     50  Seeds -    50p - More Veg

Some of these you can buy from DIY stores and Garden Centres and unless they have a free delivery offer on you will need to add P&P.

Early August Wyevale will have a half price seed sale and at the August bank holiday Wyevale sell off all their remaining stock at 50p per pack which basically means with the average price of a pack of seeds between 4 -6 packs for the price one. They don't leave them on the racks they spread them out on tables or in trugs and sometimes yes you have to get on the floor

This year I was the first one at the tables and was joint by another couple who have an allotment, after about 10 minutes. I went to the Dorking branch because historically they have had twice as many tables as you see at Morden, but Wyevale appear to be buying less stock and have less left over at the end of the season in the last couple of years. The Morden branch only had a small table and a planting trug of seed packs and I didn't get around to visiting the Croydon Branch this year, I have far too many seeds as it is. 

Despite telling myself not to go overboard I ended up with £170 worth of seed for £25 and most of the sow by dates are 2019 and 2020 and there is even one pack with a sow by date of 2021, I rejected the 2018 packs out of hand, I still have plenty of 2016 & 2017 packs in my seed boxes that need to be used up first.

Other sources of seeds are off the front cover of magazines, I had a good few seeds from my six months subscription to Grow Your Own Magazine, but got to the point where the magazines were stacking up and most of what's in them is in the books I have. I now only buy the mag is it has seeds on it that I want, like parsnip when is best bought fresh each year.

You will find that once you get an allotment family and friends will buy you books for birthdays and Christmas and you will soon be over run with them.  

Normally on Sundays at the end of the January there are Potato Day & Seed Fair around the UK check out for events near your area.

Then there is Brightons Seedy Sunday which is the UKs largest Seed Swap which will be held on Sunday Feb 4th 2018 between 10:30 AM - 4 PM  at the Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College where you can swap seeds, buy seeds, listen to expert speakers, visit more than 50 stalls and enjoy Infinity Cafe's wonderful food

Check out your local Allotment Trading Huts For a small membership fee many large allotment sites have trading huts which enable you to purchase all your gardening needs at reasonable prices and are more convenient than going to your local garden centre as long as your happy to shop on a Sunday morning.

Most of these trading huts are not only open to the plot holders but some are also open to gardeners in the surrounding area. Most are no profit making and are staffed by volunteers any profits go back into the association or get donated to charity. So if you have taken on an Allotment or are growing vegetables from home check out your surrounding Allotments and find out where they are located.

Just read that Wilkos' are selling off their packs of seeds at 10p a pack and when you get to the till they go through at 1p per pack

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