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Covid-19 update

We just wanted to give a quick update during this extremely challenging time. All of our lives are being affected by Covid-19 in unprecedented ways and it is essential that we do everything we can to stay as safe as possible.

For the time being at least we are continuing to send out orders but we have limited working hours as we are only working with one person in the office at any one time – and disinfecting between shifts.

There is also a very high demand for seed at the moment so we are doing our best to keep up with orders and packeting up more seeds. As such we are only accepting a certain amount of orders per day.

Our shop will be open from 9am and we will close it once we have reached our capacity, we have also had to put limits on the amount of any one variety per order (3) and of total order amount (£50), to try to be as fair as possible to all our customers.

If there might be a slight silver lining to this very dark cloud it could be that many gardens this year will receive a lot of love.

Good health to you

Fred and Ronja

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Top 10 seed-sowing secrets for March

It’s looking like the second half of March will bring some dry weather, so we are feeling hopeful that Spring might just arrive this year (we were beginning to wonder…)

March is the busiest month of the year for seed-sowing as you are probably aware, and your propagation space might already be filling up fast!

Seeds to sow in March

Top 10 tips for getting your seeds off to a good start

Here are a few top tips that we have picked up over our years of growing…

  1. Sow lots of seeds into a seed tray and then prick them out into pots or modules once they have germinated to maximize precious space on heat mats or windowsills.
  2. If you use module trays or soil blocks you can multi-sow many crops which also saves space – suitable crops include: onionsbeetrootmizunaturnipsleeks.
  3. If propagating on a windowsill, the light only comes from one direction so the seedlings need to be regularly turned – you can also use a piece of tin foil backed on cardboard as a mirror to put behind the seeds and even out the light.
  4. Indoors there is no wind so plant stems tend to be weak. You can strengthen them by using a desk fan to blow on them for an hour a day, or stroke them whenever you walk past them (sounds strange but really does work!)
  5. If you are sowing seeds directly outside in drills then mix in some radish seeds with slower-germinating seeds so that you can easily see where your rows are and can weed more effectively (the radishes will pop up really quickly).
  6. Another tip for sowing in drills is to sow a few extra seeds at the end of the row so that you can transplant them into any gaps later NB. THIS WILL NOT WORK WITH CARROTS OR PARSNIPS as they cannot have their delicate tap-root disturbed
  7. Use clean pots and trays and fresh seed compost to give your seeds the best start.
  8. Always label your pots and trays. It’s too easy to forget what you’ve sown where!
  9. Keep your seeds moist, but not wet.
  10. Cover your seeds with a clear plastic lid or second hand bubble wrap to hold in the moisture once sown. When the seedlings emerge, take it off to ensure they have enough space to grow up and for better ventilation.

Lettuces pricked out into module traysLettuces ‘pricked out’ into module trays

Growing tips for March

  • Prepare your beds for sowing and growing and keep on top of your weeds from early on; as soon as the weather starts to warm up, they will germinate.
  • Top dress your containers with fresh compost.
  • Make an early outdoors sowing of carrots and other hardy veg such as spinach.
  • There is still time to sow your tomatoesaubergineschillies and peppers on your windowsill or heated propagation area.
  • If you’ve got indoor growing space sow crops to transplant into the garden later, such as kaleceleriaccelerylettucesbasil, and parsley.
Visit our seed shop

P.S. Remember the night/day temperatures can vary wildly at this time of year so be vigilant with opening and closing your polytunnel/greenhouse if you have one, there can be frosty nights followed by baking hot days!

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Spring is just around the corner. Are you ready?

It’s almost March. What an exciting time of the year. Although there has been so much rain in the last months, the weather could turn quickly and you might be watering your carrots in a few weeks time!

There are a lot of seeds you can start off indoors in plugs now. And as soon as the soil warms up, you can start sowing directly outside, too. Broad Beans, Boltardy beetroot and salads are amongst the first vegetables to sow. But don’t jump ahead of yourself. Watch closely – if the weeds in your beds are sprouting, it might be a good time to start sowing some vegetables out there as well.

Seeds to sow in March
Seeds to sow in March

Be prepared

Being prepared for the busy season in the garden is a key to success. Materials needed for sowing your seeds and preparing your beds are:

  1. A fork or spade to dig over your beds or containers and to remove weeds
  2. Homemade compost or well-rotted manure to add slow-release nutrients and improve soil structure to your outside beds
  3. A rake to rake the soil/compost to a fine consistency for seed sowing. For smaller spaces a small hand fork will do
  4. A watering can with a rose or hose pipe with a lance or spray gun to ensure gentle watering
  5. A trowel, hoe, stick or hands to make a ‘drill’ (shallow trench to sow seeds into). Use a bamboo cane or string on a stick if you want to get straight lines
  6. Seed trays and pots, containers or module trays for potting on. Make sure they all have holes in the bottom for drainage
  7. Seed compost

How about some kale…

Kale is known as the ‘super food’ you can grow in your own garden. It helps boost well-being and prevents a range of health problems.⁠ Kale is an easy crop to grow, and is less susceptible to disease than other brassicas.

Seeds can be sown under cover from now or directly in the soil from April.

Kale for your garden
Buy great kale varieties for your garden

Growing tips for March

  • Make final preparations for the growing season ahead. Get your tools ready, stock up on seed compost, germination test your seeds (click here to find out how) and make sure you’ve got all the seeds you need for the season
  • Find alternatives to pots made from plastic. You can get various types of plastic free growing containers these days. Also there is an endless amount of used pots, containers, tools, gardening materials in the world, that aren’t in use and there is often no need to buy things new. Get creative!
  • Prepare your beds
  • Keep on top of your weeds from early on
  • Sow the first seeds outside and inside (Click to find out what seeds you can sow in March)
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Top tips for tasty tomatoes…

If you love tomatoes as much as we do, then you’ll want to get your plants off to a really strong start.

Here is a method we use which is very space-efficient at the early stages where controlling environmental conditions are most critical:⁠ ⁠

  1. Fill a 10cm pot with fine seed compost to 2cm from the top and gently firm down to remove air pockets
  2. Sprinkle tomato seeds on the surface, we use one pot for each variety. You can put many seeds (30) in one pot
  3. Cover with 5mm of compost and water with a sprayer to avoid too much disturbance
  4. Leave in a warm (~22C) place. We use a heated propagator but a window sill is fine too, the most important thing is that the temperature is constant
  5. Make sure the compost does not dry out by regularly spraying the surface
  6. Once the seeds have germinated and have opened their seed leaves aka ‘cotelydons’ (as in the photo), the seedlings can be pricked out into module trays or individual pots.

We have a video of how to do this on our YouTube channel watch by clicking the link below.

Watch tomato pricking-out video

Great tomato varieties for you to grow this year

We’ve got an eclectic mix of tomato varieties in our catalogue this year, including quite a few new ones for you to try such as:

  • Paul Robeson – A Russian heirloom beefsteak variety with cult status in the USA. Super tasty and productive.
  • Santiam Sunrise – Our best-tasting tomato (in our opinion!). A yellow cherry variety, with an extremely fruity and zingy flavour
  • Purple Ukraine – A classic purple plum variety, very early cropping
  • Costoluto Fiorentino – An Italian heirloom, bright red with deeply furrowed skin. A real looker! Delicious sliced and chucked on a plate with fresh Genovese basil and mozzarella and drizzled with lashings olive oil
  • And loads more! Click the button below to check them out on website…
Our great tomato varieties :)
Buy tomato seeds

Growing tips for February

  • Planning your garden will make you feel organized, ensure you get a harvest all year round
  • It’s the time of year when you’ll be going through your stored seeds from previous years wondering if they’re still good. Try germination testing them (see our how-to guide here) before replacing and ordering more
  • Get your tools and growing materials ready now. Stock up on seed compost (we recommend peat-free growing media), and pots, containers, tools etc.
  • Clean and repair everything so you can get going as soon as the weather permits.
  • Beat the winter blues by getting excited about the growing season ahead and stocking up on seeds!
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February focus: Lettuce and peas

After mid February light levels increase and various vegetable crops can be sown if you live in a milder part of the UK.

However, even in the South of the UK temperatures can still drop below 0°C, so it is best to sow chard, lettuce, carrots, radish, peas, spinach, cabbages, etc. under cover. Be patient!

Warm spells can be followed by freezing weather or flood…

It can be a good time to get sowing your tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines. They will need some extra heat and light though to do well. In our next bulletin we will discuss how to really effectively start your tomatoes.

You can find a full list of what seeds can be sown in February here:

Seeds to sow in February

Lettuce seeds germinating in a seed tray before pricking out

Starting lettuce seeds

Lettuce seeds can germinate quite erratically.Some say they need light to germinate, some say they do not. It seems to vary between varieties but we have found the most effective way to start lettuce is as follows:⁠

  1. Put 3cm of fine seed compost into a seed tray and gently firm down to remove air pockets
  2. Make sure the compost is damp and then press a pencil into the compost to make a 5mm deep groove (1 per variety)⁠
  3. Sprinkle your seeds into the groove and use the pencil again to press the seeds gently into the compost. Make sure you label each variety clearly!⁠
  4. Cover with a piece of re-used polythene or glass to keep the moisture in and leave on a sunny window sill⁠
  5. Check regularly to make sure the compost does not dry out. Use a water sprayer to keep moist
  6. Once the seeds have germinated they can be ‘pricked’ out into pots, module trays or soil blocks, being extremely careful to always handle the seedling by the leaves and not the stem
Buy lettuce seeds

Top Tips for Peas

Who doesn’t like a crunchy and sweet sugar-snap pea or mangetout straight from the garden?

In our case they often don’t even make it to the kitchen as they get munched on straight away directly off the plant…⁠

So how to start them off for successful harvests?⁠

  1. For an early start, sow your pea seeds indoors in pots, modules, toilet roll cardboard tubes, or guttering. Get creative!⁠
  2. Direct sow your pea seeds once the soil has started to warm up from late March. Sow in drills 3cm deep and 30cm apart.
  3. Support your tall pea varieties with wires, pea netting between sticks or pea-sticks⁠
  4. Protect your seedlings from pigeons and other birds, they can demolish plants quicker than you think. We recommend mesh or netting over your plants.

Ambassador garden peas

Buy pea seeds

Growing tips for February

  • Planning your garden will make you feel organized, ensure you get a harvest all year round
  • It’s the time of year when you’ll be going through your stored seeds from previous years wondering if they’re still good. Try germination testing them (see our how-to guide here) before replacing and ordering more
  • Get your tools and growing materials ready now. Stock up on seed compost (we recommend peat-free growing media), and pots, containers, tools etc.
  • Clean and repair everything so you can get going as soon as the weather permits.
  • Beat the winter blues by getting excited about the growing season ahead and stocking up on seeds!
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How to test your old seeds before buying new ones…

Its the time of year when you are thinking about buying new seeds…. but you still have some left over from last year, or even the year before, and wouldn’t it be good to know if they are still any good?

Here is an easy way you can test the viability of your seeds at home with very basic materials.

Materials required: seeds, tissue paper, water, small plastic bag⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣

  1. Moisten tissue paper (do not drench!)⁣⁣⁣
  2. Place 25 seeds in a zigzag across the top of the paper, leaving 1cm space from the top and two from the sides⁣⁣⁣
  3. Fold up the tissue paper over the seeds, bringing the bottom edge to the top
  4. Roll into a sausage
  5. Place into a small plastic bag (you can do a few at the same time) and leave upright in a warm place
  6. Unroll and count the sprouted seeds after a week or so – depending on the crop
  7. Multiply by 4 and you have a percentage of germination

Radish seeds being tested

Any seeds that have sprouted can be grown on in compost and planted out if it is the correct time of year to sow them. And remember – even if your seeds don’t germinate quite as well as you would like, you can sow more of them to get the amount of plants you need.

We also have a video of this process on our YouTube channel, along with other useful videos.

Watch germination testing video

P.S. visit the January page on our website to find out what seeds you can sow now

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The early bird doesn’t always catch the worm: January growing tips and more…

Happy New Year to you!

We hope that 2020 is a great one for you, and that you reap bountiful harvests from your garden 🙂

As gardeners ourselves we know how tempting it is to get sowing straight away in the new year, but this is not necessarily a good plan.

  • Plants need heat and light to grow well
  • Even if you use an electric propagator or window sill there is just not enough light for some things to grow well at the moment so they can become leggy and weak as they search for more (non-existent) light
  • Slow-growing plants like peppers and aubergines will benefit from being started early but only if they have extra heat AND light – you can buy really effective LED grow lights for not much money which is what we do
  • Did you know that tomatoes grow so fast that plants started in March will only start cropping about 7-10 days later than plants sown in January? …but with so much less work

You can find out what seeds can be sown in January here:

Seeds to sow in January

‘Santiam Sunrise’ cherry tomato

2020 Catalogue

*** Our 2020 catalogue is now fully live ***

We have quite a few new varieties this year (click button below) including our all-time tastiest tomato called ‘Santiam Sunrise‘, bred as an open-pollinated alternative to the famous ‘Sungold’ F1 hybrid variety.

We also have some old favourites back on the shelf such as ‘Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat‘ squash – our take on ‘Crown Prince’ F1, and two sugar-snap peas: ‘Golden Sweet‘ and ‘Schweizer Riesen‘ (Swiss Giant).

These varieties are very popular and will likely sell out again this year so make sure you order early to avoid disappointment.

New varieties for 2020

‘Golden Sweet’ sugar-snap pea

Growing tips for January

January is a quiet time in the garden but there’s plenty of bits and pieces that you can do:

  • Turn compost heaps to speed up this amazing process and warm up your body on a cold winter day.
  • Repair any garden infrastructure such as wooden raised beds before the busy spring period.
  • Tool care – oiling wooden handles and metal blades, cleaning off rust, sharpening. This is surely one of the most cathartic winter jobs.
  • Divide comfrey plants if you want to increase the size of your patch. Buy and plant comfrey cuttings if you don’t already have a patch.
  • Crops to harvest: kale, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, root veg, winter salads, winter cabbage, leeks.
  • Plan your growing season and be prepared by stocking up on seeds!
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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…


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


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.


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”.