I’ve been thinking about joining Garden Organic‘s Heritage Seed Library (@HeritageSeedsUK) since I found out about it a couple of years ago. This year, settled in to the allotment and with no major disturbances on the horizon (such as last year’s house move), I decided to take the plunge.
The HSL is a scheme that’s run, in effect, as a seed-swap club, with members of the HSL sent seed to grow and, ideally, collect and save for onward-swapping. It gives growers the opportunity to try varieties of vegetables – often old favourites or particularly good performers – that for whatever reason aren’t available in commercial seed catalogues. Bean, pea, squash and tomato enthusiasts are particularly well-served – presumably because these are among the easiest seeds to collect and save – but there’s a much wider range available in the catalogue, including a slightly more exotic crops like Achocha, Amaranth, Callaloo, Dudi, and two varieties of something called a Shark Fin Melon.
Here’s how it works: You pay your membership fee (£18, on top of the fee for joining Garden Organic; in my case £33) and they send you a catalogue of currently available seed varieties every December. You then request six seed varieties from the catalogue, along with a dozen second and/or third choices in case they’ve run out of your first choices (they’re assigned on a first-come, first-served basis). They then send the seed out to you within 28 days of receiving your request, and off you go.
I’ve requested a selection of fairly standard vegetable types that I’m confident should perform well on our allotment, with back-up variations on a similar theme:
- Runner Bean – Blackpod
- Climbing French Bean – Major Cook’s Bean
- Dwarf French Bean – Hutterite Soup
- Kale – Georgia Southern Collard
- Leek – Walton Mammoth
- Squash – Zapatillo de Toscana
I’ll be trying to save seed from all of them, even if only for my own use. And if things work out well, I’ll definitely look into volunteering to become a seed guardian for a particular variety or two in future.
In any case, I’m really looking forward to seeing what arrives in the post in due course.