Thursday, 2 January 2014

Revolution in the seed box and space on the bookshelves.

Small seed producers under threat?

Happy New Year and a floriferous 2014 to you all.

The lashing rains and winds have kept me indoors, going slightly stir-crazy, with only the odd nip into the greenhouse to pluck out mouldy seedlings or a quick snip around the flower borders to clear the brown limp leafy matter providing hidy holes for slugs.

But my indoor time has not been without its harvests. As I write my hallway is stacked with Victorian English authors, waiting to go to the charity shop.  This is due to the Yuletide arrival of my shiny new Kindle and the free availability of venerable books, no longer in copyright.  It is also due to the need for shelf space to house the reading library gifted to my kids this Christmas if there is to be any chance of  books being put back on shelves once they've been looked at.

Thus enthused by the desire for clear outs and fresh starts, I've cast my pruning eye upon the contents of my wardrobe, my library of ancient university folders and anything else that has lurked in a cupboard, untouched, for years gone by.

Nor has my seed box been exempt. I've made my annual lists of what I've got and ever-growing wish lists of what I'd like to grow in the forthcoming year.  I've even been online and let my enthusiasm run away with me in the face of tempting seed catalogues.  And I've also evicted things I know I won't plant this year - such as brussel sprouts and  cabbages - brassicas involve too much of my most hated gardening job i.e. netting things. Without such protection it isn't worth bothering with them at the pigeon feasting ground which is the allotment.  Also, brassicas are cheap to buy, take up lots of space and need time to mature into a worthwhile crop.  So…. into the compost bin they went.

Further victims were seeds which I partly sowed last year and which had patchy or non-existent germination rates (probably due to age, or to the cold start to 2013).  Also, where I have lots of seeds for a particular variety, I've put a batch aside to donate to the school gardens.

Everything has been filed, by sowing month, and is looking ready for action. My no-longer compost stained fingers are already itching for activity, twitching towards my packets and waiting longingly for longer days. I am going to be very strict with myself this year and resist the urge to sow until March as last year's incredibly late spring really put paid to any miserable attempts to get ahead. Until light levels increase with the turn of the seasons, we are all fighting against the conditions anyway. I refuse to have a greenhouse full of weedy scraggly things which refuse to prosper until spring arrives: better instead to wait until things can be sowed, raring to go.

Alarm bells for seed savers

My clutter-busting activities also unearthed a letter from Garden Organic, outlining a new EU plant material directive.  As an avid seed saver myself and a member of the Heritage Seed Library (HSL), this legislation seems rather threatening. Along with other seed libraries and small seed producing companies, HSL's work is at risk from a proposed new law to enforce the licensing of all seed production regardless of the quantities sold (or freely exchanged) and the their commercial viability.  It would force seed libraries, small breeders, specialist nurseries and amateur enthusiasts out of the market if the legislation is passed in its current form.  Garden Organic are therefore petitioning for amendments to the proposal for exemptions to be granted for small scale operations and amateur growers, amongst other things.

Support the campaign to amend the legislation

If you would like to find out more about the seed directive and the impacts small seed producers feel it will have, you can follow these links.  They also contain information about lobbying your MEP to register your concerns about the legislation.

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