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Plants vs Seeds

Although I accept that we need seeds to survive after another few months of sap dripping from my hands I wonder if I could actually grow enough to feed me never mind my family from seed. You see despite everything I have put in place I find that almost everything I planted as seed earlier this year is dead.

Earlier this year I planted the seeds for tomatoes, peas, courgettes, peppers, basil, chives, dill, parsley, coriander, sunflower among others. I also had another go at mushrooms in one of the big boxes.

At this point in time the tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, chives, dill, parsley, coriander are just empty space. I have about 10 little growths in the basil pots; consider that I put 3 different basil seed types in there. I have three pea plants, out of the original 10 and my personal success story, the sunflowers which were planted by the baby. Every one of those is alive and is thriving. My mushroom box looks like it is sludge and not a sign of mushrooms.

On the plus side she is one of those I’m also planning for so I hope her skills extend to other seeds. On the negative side I’m doomed if I need to plant seeds to start my crop.

I’m now wondering if I would have done better with GM seeds. OK, they will not seed true but if I can do better at least I can eat until I run out of seeds. Next year I’m going to try some and see if there is a difference.

That kind of confirms my preferences for plants over seeds though. All the plants I purchased are still living. Even my mistreated grape is still growing although I’m a long way from seeing any grapes.

13 comments to Plants vs Seeds

  • Neil Dalton

    I’d like to enquire how large a veg plot needs to be per person for ONE year? I have a small 10ft x 10ft plot in my back garden and it produces quite a lot of our veg throughout the year (about 40% I’d say). I presume there is an accepted size of plot per person? At the moment I’m growing radishes, spring onions, carrots (slow growing), Lettuce, Rocket, Runner Beans and finally 4 toms. Looking forward to a good harvest in July.

  • Skean Dhude


    I have no idea how big you would need. All the books talk about an acre per person but that is everything including chickens etc. I would guess that if you get 40% of your veg from your 10×10 space then you are either doing really well or not eating too much veg. Myself, I can kill a 10×10 plot in a matter of a week.

    I find that with veg it is feast or famine. For 11 months nothing then 1 where you have more than you can eat and you need to store it.

    My question to you is; Is that 40% over a year or just 40% during the harvesting period?

  • Luddite

    Re: GM seeds. You can’t buy GM seeds, they are only available to farmers. Are you referring to F1 hybrids? These are not GM, they are simply a cross made in the normal biological way (pollination).

    If you grow two heirloom varieties in close proximity and collect the seeds, you get your very own F1 hybrids.

    If you grow just one variety of F1 hybrid and collect the seeds, you’ll get plants which are the same as the F1 parents, and plants which are the same as your F1 plants.

    You can’t collect the seed from GM plants, they have a terminator gene spliced into the DNA, and will not germinate.

  • Skean Dhude


    I have contacts with farmers who have GM seeds and they were primarily my source of information on them. Some love them some don’t.

    Personally though, I have always linked the bad things about GM with F1 hybrids. I don’t know why I did that.

    However, you are saying that I was mistaken avoiding the F1 hybrids because they are not GM. On the plus side I’ve not told anyone about avoiding F1s I’ve just mentioned avoiding GM seeds and so I have only really mislead myself. Although now anyone making the same mistake as I did will now know the difference. Thank you for that. That will make life so much easier.

    Perhaps my gardening career isn’t as dead as I thought.

  • Dragonfly

    Have you considered perennial vegetables? You could buy them as young plants and they will come up year after year. You may have to change your eating habits a bit as some of them are quite unusual, but if you have the space it’s worth giving them a go, maybe alongside the annual veggies. Or, what about a Forest Garden? Layers of planting including trees, shrubs, soft fruit and vines designed to replicate a young woodland and needing minimal maintenance compared to growing annual veg from seed.

    We grow open-pollinated varieties (non-F1 Hybrids) and use isolation cages so that they don’t cross pollinate and we can collect the seed for the following year. It is extra hassle, but we grow varieties that we really love, have chosen ones that crop over a longer period to avoid the gluts as far as possible and it keeps costs down when you don’t have to keep buying everything each year.

    Having said that, it took 3 years before we went from being absolutely terrible at this to having enough success that we save money and produce most of the veg we eat. We don’t plant all of our seeds each year in case the crop fails. That way we still have some seeds left for the following year. We plant lots of different things and basically expect some to fail. Luckily we have the space to plant more than we need though.

    Good luck with it. Don’t give up.

  • Skean Dhude

    Well, I don’t know much about perennial veg. You can tell by the articles my limit is growing young plants on and then executing them. I’m happy for suggestions again. Have you suggestions for the seed and plant list?

    I’ll be happy to investigate your suggestions.

  • Skean Dhude

    Oh and a forest garden is one thing I thing we should do to hide our crops. Only thing I’m short of is a forest but I’m working on it. Article to follow when I get round to it or someone else writes one.

  • Dragonfly has useful lists of different types of perennial veg as well as a good supplier list. I always grow from seed (can’t afford the plants!) so not sure whether any of them will supply plants as well. Have you thought about joining a gardening/horicultural/allotment society or going on a Grow Your Own course? Try growing mushrooms in innoculated logs rather than the box kits. The logs take ages but work in the end, but I’ve never got the boxes to work either. Where did you plant the seeds? Greenhouse or in the house? Could be a temperature thing if they didn’t germinate?

    A forest garden won’t hide all your crops although you could have clearings in the middle I guess. The forest garden is the crop as everything in it is either edible or will produce some kind of useful product be it medicinal, fibre, a dye plant, or nitrogen fixing to feed plants around it. Some things in a forest garden will want to be in the sun so they won’t be hidden. We have designed ours with an outer ring of densely planted evergreens around the perimeter of our land, but they are far enough away from the actual forest garden so as not to shade the plants that want some sun.

    Creating a Forest Garden: Working with nature to grow edible crops I really recommend this book, we used it as a bible when planning our forest garden. We started from sheep pasture so a long way to go but getting there! If you only have a back garden or small space it’s still relevant as you can scale it down and there are other books that look at back garden forest gardens.

  • Skean Dhude

    Interesting site. I’ll have a look at that and revisit the food lists.

    I don’t have the time to go to clubs like that. I don’t have enough interest to make it a hobby and not enough time to spend doing something I don’t like.

    I have considered mushroom logs but they are expensive and I don’t have the spare cash at the moment. Maybe next year.

    I was looking at the same thing for my forest garden. I was even thinking of buying some land just over the way where there isn’t enough room to justify a farmer tearing down the trees but enough for my forest garden. I’ve read a different book on forest gardens and will add that one to the list.

    Back garden forests? Interesting.

    Forest gardens will be revisited soon.

  • Dragonfly

    Hi Skean,
    If you don’t like regular gardening a forest garden is definitely the way to go as they need much less maintenance than raising stuff from seed each year – once you’ve got them planted that is! Does the land have trees round the outside as a screen or all across it? If it is already part of a forest/woodland it will need extensive thinning, root clearance and replanting before it would be suitable. Great if you have a woodburner though I guess? A forest garden mimics a young woodland so an established forest/woodland would usually be too densely planted and not have enough light getting through the trees. Normally you sheet mulch an area of grass/soil to clear out the perennial weeds then plant. I’d be interested to know if it was more work doing it that way compared to clearing established woodland as forested land is obviously a lot cheaper to buy. Let us know how it goes if you go ahead with it.

    Things to put in a back garden Forest Garden:
    – Apples on M26/MM106 rootstock
    – Plums/damsons on Pixy rootstock
    – Pears on Quince C rootstock
    – Siberian Pea Tree
    – Small leaved lime – kept coppiced. Lime is fantastic as has loads of uses, young leaves are also great for salad if you can’t be bothered with lettuce etc.
    – Blackberries
    – Blackcurrants
    – Blueberries
    – Gooseberries
    – Raspberry
    – Redcurrant
    – Bog Myrtle
    – N.Z. Flax
    – Broom
    – Nepalese Raspberry
    – Alpine strawberries
    – Chicory
    – Fennel
    – Artichokes
    – Mitsuba
    – Perennial Brassicas
    – tons of different herbs!
    – Sea beet

    etc, etc, I’ve tried to stick to the most well known ones. It’s the design that turns them into a forest garden. There are loads of more obscure things that would be suitable for small spaces. I know some people don’t like the idea of planting things they don’t regularly eat, but I like planting some things that most people won’t readily identify as a food crop and therefore won’t try to take from you! Even if you don’t particularly like them, in the good years you don’t have to eat the stuff, but it’s there if you do need it and when you’re hungry I guess you get less fussy fast.

  • Skean Dhude

    The one I was looking at had trees around the edges for about 20ft or so with a big clearing in the middle. It depends on what is available when I get my money though.

    I’ve not heard of half of those plants. I’d better start reading up.

    I’m with you on the growing. Best done while you have the luxury of going to the shops and I’m less fussy than most already.

  • Marianne Green

    With regard to how much space do you need to feed a family – see this site
    It’s been one of my favourites for a long time . They feed 4 people on 1/10 acre with surplus to sell.

    Excellent posts Dragonfly. Perennial veg and forest gardening is the way to go!

  • Skean Dhude


    Welcome. That looks an interesting site. I’ll have a look around there and add it to the sidebar.

    1/10th of an acre that isn’t much. It will be interesting seeing how they do that.

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