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Your ethical Christmas present dilemmas solved! Great gifts available now from Vital Seeds…

Christmas is fast approaching, so its time to start thinking about what gifts to get for your friends and family.

And what a minefield present-buying can be. You want to show your love for your friends and family but also do not want to consume pointless rubbish and create lots of unnecessary packaging waste…

Well…

Fear not – we’ve got this covered! 🙂

Seed Collections

These are a hugely popular and a lovely thing to receive. They each contain 10 packets of seeds and are packed in crisp and tactile glassine paper envelopes which exude a sense of quality and care.

Also included is an information sheet describing the varieties inside. (The one exception to this is ‘The Full Monty’ which is very large and would need about 10 sheets of paper to cover all the varieties!)

Gift vouchers

We also are offering gift vouchers again this Christmas which proved a huge success last year.

They are perfect if you’d like to buy seeds for your loved ones, but just aren’t sure exactly what they would like. We will send you the voucher as a PDF which you can then either print out or keep as a digital file. The voucher will expire after 1 year.

‘Rooted in Resistance’ 2020 wall calendar

We are now stocking a very beautiful 2020 wall calendar designed by the talented Bristol-based artist and campaigner, Rosanna Morris (who also designed our logo!).

Check it out, its real nice…

Each month features an original hand-cut lino of land-based social movement. Proceeds go towards supporting the Landworkers’ Alliance, an inspiring union of farmers and landworkers championing ecological and socially sane land use.

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Summer news, July growing tips, and the ‘Second Spring’ Sowing

It has been a while since we wrote a newsletter, we have been very busy! 

I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a strange old year weather wise which has had its effects on all of us folk who grow veg. The record-breaking February heat wave was followed by a cold dry patch and then a cold wet stint too. Finally, now we have passed mid-summer it is starting to actually feel like summer, but let’s not hold our breath!

We are settling into our new site now and most of our crops are looking great.  We have now started to harvest our first seed-crop of the year which is Cavolo Nero kale, and we are very excited about it. We have been busy building a large polytunnel for heat-loving crops, and some smaller isolation tunnels to stop some of our outdoor crops from cross-pollinating with our neighbours’. We have been really lucky to have found so many second hand materials to set up our site, including three polytunnels (only one up so far, more to come), and lots of other bits and pieces.
Kale seed drying in the polytunnel

SECOND SPRING SOWING TIME IS HERE! WE’VE PUT TOGETHER A SPECIAL SEED COLLECTION FOR YOU…

I know summer has only just begun but now is the time to start thinking about winter. If you want to carry on eating delicious fresh veg in the colder months then now is the time to start thinking about it.  There are many crops that can be sown between now and winter, in fact, we at Vital Seeds refer to this second half of the summer as the ‘Second Spring’ as there’s so much stuff to get sown. Often winter crops can fit in the garden nicely after early crops have finished.

Seeds that can be sown during the next few months include: oriental salads, kale, rocket, winter lettuce, beetroot, fennel, claytonia ‘Winter purslane’, corn Salad / Lambs lettuce, turnips, spring onions, spring greens, kohlrabi, chard, chicories.

We have put together a limited amount of ‘Second Spring’ seed collections, which contain 10 varieties of veg to stock you up for this period. You can pick one up by clicking on the picture of Ronja below! As with our other collections, ‘Second Spring’ has a 10% bulk discount.

Gardening tips for July

Sowing: beetroot, carrot, lettuce, spinach, spring greens, dwarf French beans, oriental salads, kale, kohlrabi, fennel , radishes
Harvest: courgettes, peas, French beans, lettuce, beetroots, broad beans, radishes

Crop care
Tomatoes – remember to regularly ‘side-shoot’ tomatoes, this is the process of removing the shoots that grow in between the leaves and the stem of the plant. Removing the side-shoots means that you can keep a single vine per plant which is much easier to manage, and the plant can concentrate on putting their energy into making fruit. Its also good to remove the bottom leaves of the plants up to the first truss (bunch of fruit), this allows better air-flow around the base of the plants and helps sunlight to penetrate to the fruits to help ripen them.
Salad – Spring-sown lettuce will bolt soon, so it’s a good idea to keep sowing more. Also now that mid-summer has passed oriental leaves can be sown such as mizuna and purple frills (if sown in early summer they bolt quickly with the lengthening days).
Onions – keep them well watered at this time of year, to ensure good bulb formation
Peas, beans and courgettes – keep harvesting from these to encourage the plants to produce more, if the seeds are allowed to mature in the fruits then the plants can stop producing, as all they really want to do is make seeds! Of course you might want to save some of your own seed…
Seed saving – If you want to save some seed this year from annual crops (peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes) now is a good time to think about it. For peas and French beans, you can choose a couple of your strongest and most productive plants and leave the pods on them to fully ripen. Lettuce will flower soon, sending up a large flower stalk covered in yellow flowers which will then set seed. Its best to not harvest too many leaves from plants you want to save seed from as it will weaken them. Tomato seed is a bit more complicated, and needs fermenting, we will discuss this in next months newsletter as not many people will have ripe tomatoes yet.
Weeding – At this time of year the weeds can quickly take over if you turn your back! Try to keep the ground weed-free, the best time to catch the weeds is when they have just germinated, then they can be hoed off quickly and easily. If left to get bigger removing them is much more work.  You can also use a mulch at this time of year to keep the weeds down, but it must be a few inches thick to be effective. If it’s put on too thin the weeds will grow through it and you can hoe through a mulch.
Watering – keep plants watered while the weather is hot. The best time to water is in the morning or evening so that water does not evaporate in the heat of the day. To encourage your plants to grow deep roots its better to water less often but for a longer amount of time.
Enjoy your garden! – Remember to enjoy your garden, this is a lovely time of year on the veg patch and although there might be loads of stuff on your list to do, make sure you take time to appreciate what you have already achieved.

Thanks and enjoy the sunshine 🙂

Fred and Ronja


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New Year, New Land, New Horizons!

Germinating lettuce

There is something nice about a new year, the feeling of fresh starts, and new opportunities.

Those of you follow us on social media may already know, but we are particularly excited to announce that we will be moving our growing operation onto a new piece of land in the next few weeks, where hopefully it can stay for the foreseeable future. Our patch is based on an existing certified organic farm in Buckfastleigh, in South Devon, which is right where we wanted to be. We cannot wait to put up some polytunnels and get growing!

Our seed collections we released before Christmas have been a huge success, and we will continue to sell these. If anybody has interesting ideas for seed collection themes then let us know we would love to hear. We are thinking maybe colour themed collections, like golden or purple could be fun.

When should you start sowing seeds? Although it can be tempting to sow seeds as soon as possible, we would not recommend sowing many things before March, unless you have access to heat and light, as there is so little sun energy available at the moment for plant growth. There are some things that you can start to sow in February under cover such as lettuce, oriental salads, and onions, and if you have space indoors then this is also the time to start your tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines.

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No matter how experienced you are, no two years are the same in a garden. There are so many factors which can have profound effects on the growing season. Be it a winter two months longer than expected (ahem, sounds familiar) or a record-smashing hot and dry summer (ahem) or one followed by the other (!), we never know what is in store for us. If we did, wouldn’t life be boring?

We love this time of year, as it is a dreaming period. We are dreaming of all the amazing crops we will grow and the satisfaction which that brings with it. We have images in our minds of abundance and flourishing life, which can feel lacking when we look out of the window at the moment (although if you look closely enough there is still quite a lot going on out there).

Of course, reality rarely matches our dreams. As soon as we start to sow seeds we are reminded of how vulnerable we are, and that things may not be quite as easy as they had seemed in our dreams! Mice eat freshly sown seeds, slugs eat freshly germinated seedlings, polytunnel gets too hot because we forget to open it at the weekend, compost dries out and bugs and rabbits share our harvest. Real life is not simple. But we do not let this ruin our dreams, we just have to not be too attached to every detail of our dreams coming true. Yes, we will create an abundant garden, flourishing with life, and yes, we will bring in great harvests. However, there will be complications too, and we must see the value in the complications, as this is where we can learn the most, and if life is not about learning then what it is about? A wise sage once said: “I have learned so much from my mistakes, I think I will make some more”.