Allotment tales

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Garden centres are ablaze with racks of colourful seed packets just now. Although I have already chosen this year’s seeds I am not immune to temptation and buying a few extra packets on the basis of virtues extolled on the pack.

One variety of runner beans claims to be the tastiest stringless bean. Another has the fleshiest pods and yet another harvests over a long period. Which to choose? From experience, I know that some varieties perform better for me than others.

One advantage of gardening on an allotment surrounded by other plotholders is that there is no shortage of advice from neighbours. New plotholders can avoid disappointment by tapping into the expertise which is all about them. This is invaluable when it comes to choosing varieties of seeds when local knowledge is what’s needed.

The Fife Diet, an organisation which persuades Fifers to choose locally sourced food, is stocking a truck with a mobile seed bank packed with heritage and non-hybrid seeds. Shortly, their Seed Truck will be setting off to community events sharing out and swapping seeds.

Like me, they are not particularly interested in the persuasive slogans on seed packets, but keen to collect seeds proven to grow well in Scotland, withstanding the vagaries of our weather. They need to be seeds from non-hybrid fruit and vegetables. These seeds can be saved again and again and will grow true to their parent plant. If you have a particular favourite Fergus Walker is keen to hear from you, by postcard or via the website, with details of why you recommend it. I’ve told him how well Red Alert outdoor tomatoes perform for me.

There is nothing new about this. Kelsae onions and Musselburgh leeks are examples of vegetables which were developed over many years of careful selection. Size is not everything. The Fife Diet team are also interested in seeds from crops with really high yields, ones which store well, or survive through the winter.

Last year, I saved seed from some tasty red salad mustard. I am about to swap some with Steve, a local gardening friend, who has saved seed from his successful early broad beans for several years. He doesn’t know the name of the beans but they do well for him here in Musselburgh every year and I hope they will do the same for me.