Starting seed trials at Grown Green

Kate Collyns - 03 June 2013

As organic growers, we're usually excited and keen to try new things; and trialling seed varieties seems an especially useful and productive thing to do at the moment, given the hoo-ha recently over the EU's proposals to ban all non-registered seed varieties. Plus although I've only been growing here at Grown Green @ Hartley Farm for a couple of years (before that I was an apprentice at Purton House Organics), I've found myself sticking to some tried and tested varieties. Well, you would, wouldn't you? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

However, some of these old faithfuls are F1 seeds and pretty pricey, and others (especially the lovely cheap seed) might not be maintained very well in the future by the seed companies who can make more money elsewhere. So it's definitely a good thing to try out some new seed, and open pollinated seed that I can potentially save myself too.

I'm trialling tomatoes in the polytunnels, and carrots outside in the field. My site is pretty small, just a 2-acre-ish market garden between Bath and Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, so trials sizes won't be huge, but hopefully still useful. I drilled all the carrots outside on 29 April: 3 rows of a mixture of White Satin F1, Purple Haze and Yellowstone; 1 row of Napoli F1; 2 rows of Rainbow Bunching; 3 rows of St Valery (trial); 3 rows Amsterdam 2 Maxi (trial); and 3 rows Amsterdam Forcing. Nothing seemed to happen for ages, but over the last week or so, they are all now starting to come up (no obvious difference in germination so far).

I'd already got a load of tomatoes sown and on the go when I got the trials seed, so I've done a second batch of later tomatoes (hopefully they'll extend the season too). I sowed 25 seeds of Chocolate Cherry; 20 seeds Jen’s Tangerine; 20 seeds Galina Cherry; 25 seeds Stupice Vine Cherry (all trials); alongside more of my regular Gardener’s Delight, Tigerella, Black Cherry and Golden Queen. See my germination notes here.

I'm hoping to plant out these trial batch of tomatoes in the polytunnel next week, alongside their early neighbours. Just need some more sun now and they'll really take off...

Kate set up Grown Green @ Hartley Farm in 2010, a two-acre market garden in Wiltshire between Bath and Bradford on Avon, selling to farm shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants. There are three polytunnels, herb beds and a small field for other vegetables and flowers.

The seed variety field lab is looking into Open Pollinated (OP) seed varieties available to non-organic growers and trialling them in organic systems with a view to either creating a demand for them organically or saving them on farm for use in subsequent years. The field lab is part of the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme which is aiming to improve productivity, quality and environmental performance in organic and low-input agriculture.

galina and jens tangerine.jpg

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Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation Open Pollinated Seeds

Moles Seeds The Real Seed Catalogue