Winter is truly here, and except for desultory digging, bonfires and clearance there is little to do. In truth I cannot yet summon up much enthusiasm for these tasks, and have retreated to the seed catalogues to plan for next year.
Elsoms seeds are one of the few British vegetable breeders. They have made access to their small packet range easier – last year I gave up in despair…
Like most commercially orientated suppliers their packets are rather large and expensive by amateur standards. On the other hand the cost per seed is reasonable and you get access to better seed quality and cultivars than is often the case with catalogues aimed at home gardeners.
Onion ‘Hylander’ has resistance to onion downy mildew. In my low-lying plot with rather a lot of infected onions left in the soil from year to year by less scrupulous allotment holders, so this is of considerable interest. I grew the similarly resistant ‘Santero’ that performed fairly well until felled by white rot root disease.
White sprouting broccoli is getting the same treatment from breeders as purple broccoli has received in recent years with better cultivars being offered – Burbank F1 is sold by Elsoms and seems a potentially very good addition to the spring crops.
Cabbage ‘Renton’ is an excellent late autumn/early winter cabbage, ideally suited to precede my favourite winter savoys and January King cabbages. Despite doing very well in RHS trials and getting an Award of Garden Merit in 2008, it is not widely offered. A £5.75 for 100 seeds it is not cheap, but cabbage seed of professional quality should last at least five years stored cool and dry, so the packet should last most people several years.
Another similar cabbage for late winter and even early spring ‘Stanton’ missed out on an AGM in 2008 due to lack of availability in catalogues – it is offered here and because it stands until early spring is a potential follow-on to the late sprout crop and for cutting before the early sprouting brocc and spring greens are ready.
Broad bean ‘Witkiem Monica’ is a new bean to me. It is claimed to be an early 'Witkiem manita' type but with heavier yield and less lofty plants – these are always very valuable for June crops just after the over-wintered crop.
Carrot ‘Florida’ also appeals. I like these big autumn king types with rich colour and flavour in large roots – they make brilliant winter soups and stews, but are not offered by supermarkets.