Jason Horner has recently made the switch from organic market gardener to organic seed producer. He’ll be updating us regularly on the trials, tribulations, delights and rewards of being a seed producer.


It has been four months since my last market day and a lot has happened in the interim. People ask me whether I miss the market and at the moment the answer to that question is no, but it is early days yet, and the weather has been dire for the first three months of this year so realistically, who would? Last year, the combination of a two month break and subsequent first lockdown meant that I didn’t really get going in the market until the end of May anyway.
It was always going to be strange transitioning from growing for market to growing for seed, and it hasn’t really hit home yet. The first major difference is that I have hardly any plants in my propagation tunnel; usually at this time of year it is packed to the rafters. In fact, at present it is practically empty. The cropping tunnels are filling up but still seem strangely sparse as the planting distances for seed crops are much larger than for market crops, more like three foot between rows than one foot. Of course this has meant less planting, hence less plants occupying space in the propagating tunnel.
The first indications of the transition that would be taking place on the farm could be observed early on in the new year, when crops that would otherwise have been pulled out and thrown on the compost heap suddenly took on new leases of life as potential seed crops. Rocket, lambs lettuce, red mustard, some overwintering lettuce and purslane were all cleaned up, weeded and readied to become seed crops. They will be the first crops I harvest this year.
On an indoor seedbed I have three pea varieties, radishes, more red mustard, coriander and leeks coming on, in preparation for transplanting outdoors. I also have some onions and brassicas hardening off and squash, french beans, melons and cucumbers germinating on a hot bed. There are also peppers and tomatoes that are nearly ready to be transplanted. On top of that, there are leeks, onions and beetroot coming on from roots selected before the winter, and garlic, overwintering onions (sown last August) and some runner beans that are growing from last years roots (something I didn’t know you could do).
This sounds like a lot to be going on with but it is nothing compared to the volume of crops that I would have been growing for market. There may come a reckoning if everything ripens at the same time but I am hoping to avoid that by staggering sowings etc. So the intention of this blog will be to keep you the reader up to date with all the above crops over the duration of the season.
There are bound to be some highs and doubtless some lows – there always are. I will try to update you every month, which will hopefully give you an insight into what it is like to be a stand-alone seed grower. I hope you find it useful and enjoy the journey.