Time to order seed

selection of uk seed catalogues
I’ve been browsing the seed catalogues and I have to say I’m a sucker for some nice layout and good photography. Some of the seed catalogues are just lists of text, with the odd picture thrown in here and there. That’s no good for me, I want to look at the pretty pictures! With that in mind I have chosen my favourite seed catalogues (above). They are Moles Seeds (nice photos, large format and you get a free year planner). Plants of Distinction (I used it to order my cut flowers this year). Simply Vegetables (an amazing array of unusual varieties, beautifully photographed). Ken Muir (the ultimate fruit buying experience) and Marshalls (recently redesigned and practically perfect in every way). As an ex-magazine editor I can appreciate good layout and Marshalls has it all. Clean, readable, tips as you go, with some sharp photography. I was all ready to empty my bank account when I popped over to Allotments 4 All and read this post about what a rip off seed catalogues are. I must admit I was a bit downhearted after reading this. There’s no Wilkinsons near me and as I work full time I haven’t got time to drive to the nearest one. But it also got me thinking – most of us are not growing vegetables as a necessity anymore, it’s more of a hobby than a real need so why do we need to scout out the cheapest possible deal? Of course, I don’t want to get ripped off just like the next guy but I also don’t want to spend my Saturday tramping around Wiltshire looking for a £2 bag of seed potatoes. Maybe, I’m a child of my time but if I can buy something online for a little extra then I’ll do it.

23 Comments on “Time to order seed

  1. Hi, have a look at http://www.alanromans.co.uk for cheap seeds and potatoes, I have ordered loads form him, potatoes come in smaller quantities you can buy as little as one kilo of pots when most companies try to get you buy 4 or five kilo bags. He has organic principles and tells you if a particular product is not organic. I have been impressed so far another good one for seeds is http://www.realseeds.co.uk they grow and harvest thier own seeds and only do organic – F1 Hybreds are a dirty word for these people

  2. ooh thanks Welsh Girls – I’ve tried Alan Romans before but not for potatoes. And I’ve checked out Real Seeds but not bought anything yet.

    Armchair shoppers unite!

  3. I’m also a big fan of pretty websites and catalogues, and I can’t motivate myself to spend all day shopping around to save 30p. Although when I opened our only surviving Marina Di Chioggia pumpkin last night and was scooping out seven skipfuls of seeds, it struck me that these seed companies are really onto something.

    But then I realised I don’t care, because we’re paying £15 a year for our allotment and if you were allowed to build a house on the same land it would be worth just under a million.

    (This is despite the fact that I always get horribly cross when Tesco adds two pence to the cost of a box of eggs.)

  4. Oh no, I thought I had all the catalogues I needed now I see a few more in your photo! I’m up to my eyes in lists and lists…but am definitely getting my potatoes from Alan Romans, and have you seen the Suttons Seeds one? Lovely layout.

  5. PS Your master plans are very pretty and I am picking your brains a little as this is my first year – but they have no scale? Would you mind awfully?
    (I did email some months ago to ask, but maybe got diverted to spam as I have a yahoo account? Or perhaps you just dislike people picking your brains, in which case I apologise and retire gracefully…)

  6. Hi Dan – thanks for stopping by.

    I think seed companies charge so much because they have to cover their costs and keep their standards high. For example they need to keep their seeds virus free and ‘true’ ie not cross pollinated. To do that they have to keep some plants (like pumpkins) in isolation because if left to their own devices they would cross with others in the curcubit family.

    I’d hazard a guess that unless you kept your pumpkins in a glasshouse of their own the seeds won’t be ‘true’.

  7. Hi Lisa,

    I’m glad you like my garden plans. They’re a little excessive, I know, but I like doing them.

    Sorry I missed your e-mail. In answer to your question I don’t exactly know how big mtp is but it’s a half plot which probably means that it’s about 12 metres long by about 6 metres wide.

    Hope that helps.

  8. It does: thanks very much. Slightly bigger than mine – and you are squeezing loads in! I just downsized my plans this week as I thought they were excessive but you have given me hope to upsize again.

  9. In my experience it is rarely sensible to plant potatoes from anyone other than a registered supplier. Proper seed potatoes are free from pests and diseases, and well worth the extra cost. There are several suppliers that I would recommend, who are probably cheaper than the major seed merchants. Apart from Alan Romans, I would suggest trying any of the following:- Castlemill Seed Potatoes in Perthshire (01764 662930); and Morris Innes in Aberdeenshire (01651 862333).

    I have no connection with these customers other than as a satisfied customer.

    Hope that this helps,


  10. The more veg you grow the less you’ll have to weed – that’s my motto!

  11. Thanks for the tips John. I will check out those seed catalogues for my next potato haul.

  12. I’m new to gardening. I found this website by chance. I saw comments about seed potatoes. I want to know what they are ? I have a lovely bag of potatoes here that didnt get eaten and they are just beginning to sprout. I have “planted” these before by accident ( like they got thrown out onto the soil ) and they grew and had potatoes on them. So, why cant I just go and buy some ordinary eating potatoes and plant them ? maybe try and find some that are sprouting , but whats the difference ? thanks all , enjoy this year , its gonna come early my guess.

  13. I was driving near Dundry Nurseries near Cheltenham the other day and they sell around 150 varieties of seed potatoes and have a potato weekend soon 20th-21st Jan. If you do a search in Google there might be a potato day event somewhere near you where you can choose from many varieties.
    The other day I bought a particular variety of seed potatoes online from Alan Romans that were quite cheap but then of couse had to add £6.60 postage charge. When I thought it through it would have cost me much more than that in petrol to buy them from somewhere over the counter! You do have to watch that penny pinching doesn’t become irrational!

  14. Thanks Gloria – I’ll watch out for the potato days – they’re a new thing for me.

  15. Ken – I think most people would suggest you use seed potatoes (ie specially bought potatoes from seed merchants) because they are certified virus free. If you plant your own they may not be virus free and your crop could fail.

    However, I’m reading ‘The Kitchen Garden at Heligan’ right now (a great read) and it seems that they use their own potatoes as seed. They put the seed potatoes aside as soon as they are harvested.

    It doesn’t say how they store them or if they test them for viruses etc (or indeed how you would do that). If anyone knows anything about selecting seed potatoes, or storing them then let me know.

  16. Thanks mtp , that explains it , together with what i found on the internet. It seems , seed potatoes are usually grown at high altitude or at least high latitudes ( eg Scotland ) where desease is less likely to get a hold on the potatoe and pests like greenfly should not have any eggs survive through the colder winter. In fact any potato thats sprouting (chitting) is called a seed potato but the name’s sort of been “grabbed” so as to mean a potatoe that is from a known source so as to be sold as desease free for growing from. See, I learn something everyday. Trouble is I forget something too !

  17. I think that Anthony is being a little unfair, especially in the case of smaller or more specialist suppliers. They haven’t only got the significantly higher printing costs of a colour catalogue to consider, there is also the cost of finding a professional photographer – a blurry snapshot on the family’s digital camera just won’t cut the mustard! I am happy to settle for an accurate written description of something that isn’t generally available from the larger companies, if it allows me to grow something a little different to everyone else. Bear in mind, even the likes of T&M and Suttons don’t include photographs of everything in their catalogues.

    Coming back to potatoes, it is worth bearing in mind that the flavour of any variety can vary enormously, depending upon your soil type and micro-climate. Some of the varieties most highly rated for flavour are extremely bland when grown in my garden. If you have the space, it is probably worth growing a few plants of several varieties, until you find the ones that work best for you.

  18. MTP
    – There are a couple of articles that have appeared in past editions of Kitchen Garden magazine that have helpful information on seed potatoes. Both are by Alan Romans, the first in the February 2004 edition, pages 32 & 33, and covers a lot of what you might need or wish to know about the why and wherefore of seed potatoes. The second was in the November 2005 edition, pages 28 – 30. This is slightly less specific about seed potatoes, but still useful. There are probably other articles in earlier editions, but these two should give you the basics.
    If you want to read the articles but don’t have access to the magazines, let me know, and I can send you photocopies. You may also be able to access them from Kitchen Garden’s website (www.kitchengarden.co.uk) or back numbers may still be available. Hope this helps.

  19. For anyone winging about the cost of seeds – Lidl have an impressive selection of veg and flowers seeds for 29p a packet.

  20. Can I add another vote for Real Seeds


    They don’t do pretty photographs in their catalogue, but they do include all manner of anecdotes about cooking, hands on aspects of cultivation (e.g be careful when harvesting as these roll away if you drop then when crossing the plot), and the source of their seeds which make it very clear that they are genuine enthusiasts.

  21. Hiya, any idea where I could find a garden supply catalog that delivers to Ireland (rep.)? Something that has seeds, tools, and other fun gardening stuff. Thanks Gill.

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