January Blog: A seed saving year @Leen Organics

Since signing off for last year at the end of October I haven’t done a whole lot outside in the garden. This became very apparent when I went back at it the second week in January. Confronting me were pepper haulm (that we had been picking from up until Christmas) nettles, docks and other perennial weeds I don’t even want to mention. However, it invariably looks worse than it is and a couple of handy days this week saw the compost heap reborn and the tunnels starting to get tidier.

Outside the green manures are doing their thing and may have even been growing as it has been so mild all winter really. There are Leeks still in the ground that need selecting and to be replanted in a tunnel for the coming season. There are some Kohl Rabi that are looking good for not having had too cold a winter and that can stay where they are for flowering. Onions and beetroot have been selected and are ready to be re-planted once tunnel space is available. The garlic that was planted inside in early November is now two inches above ground and moving fast. Although it hasn’t been cold it has been wet and I was surprised to find that the annual rainfall for 2021 was four inches below the average annual which very rarely happens these days, so only 930mm at our nearest weather station last year.

So, what have I been doing the rest of the time? I took a good break over Christmas and New Year and tidied up a few loose ends. I processed some more squash and pumpkin seeds and managed to give the flesh to the local Meals on Wheels, so that felt good. I have been doing small batches because I don’t really have the space or equipment to do it all in one go. It obviously means that it will take longer but I find it therapeutic to do a few hours at a time and then wait a couple of weeks to get another batch drying.

I finished processing the leek seed over the holiday period too; they were very slow to dry and then had to be rubbed out of their flower casings. A very laborious process.

New to me this year was writing some variety descriptions for the Brown Envelope Seeds website for some of the crops I grew for them. It felt like finally signing off on the 2021 season to see the seeds for sale on their website.

The first week of the New Year I attended the Oxford Real Farming Conference online, my first time attending this conference. Although there were not very many horticultural sessions, and indeed only one on seeds per-se, I enjoyed it all and found that I learnt a lot. It’s a good time of year to get fired up, reaffirm why we do this work and to be inspired by all the other great projects that are going on. Sometimes it can feel very much that you are doing this work in isolation, so it is always great to touch base with your “tribe” and the wider farming community.


Now it is the middle of January and the focus is starting to shift to next year’s crops. There is still a good bit of seed to get down to Brown Envelope and I am awaiting a package coming the other way with stock seeds for this year’s crops. I’ve already had some chicory, lettuce and mizuna in the tunnel for a couple of months. I will do a similar range of crops as last year with maybe the addition of carrots for 2023. I took a break from them last year on account of having had a very bad carrot root fly problem the previous two or three seasons.

Lots going on in the seed world at the moment as we are in the middle of #SeedWeek. Coming up we have the Organic Seed Alliance conference online in early February which promises to be very interesting. Finally, I am looking forward to getting our Intermediate course rolling here in the next month or so and from then on it will be full on for the rest of the year.

I would like to wish everyone a good growing season whether vegetables or seed or maybe both. Let’s hope that we can live without too many restrictions and work towards creating a new normal, the old one was well broken!