Bucking the economic downturn the gardening industry has grown year on year since 2008, with revenues totalling more than £4.6 billion in 2010. Meanwhile ‘grow your own’ and self-sustainability are quickly becoming gardening buzzwords as the cash-strapped and eco-conscious alike turn to their gardens in search of a cheap – and ethical – source of fresh food. According to the Horticultural Trades Association half of garden owners intended to grow food in their gardens last year, 12 per cent of those first timers. The obvious starting point for most gardeners are seeds, which are both more plentiful and cheaper than investing in seedlings. But for a truly green garden, you need organic seeds and sourcing them isn’t as easy as you’d think. Many seeds on sale don’t match up to the organic standards on soil quality, while others are contaminated with GM materials.
‘The best seed goes into organic packets as you cannot get away with any defects,’ says the Soil Association's Ben Ruskin. ‘The slightly second rate seeds can be treated and then sold as non-organic, although not all seed companies do this. Seeds that have been produced in organic systems, should be more suited to organic production.’ So if you’re planning a patriotic flowerbed to mark the Jubilee or Olympics, or digging your way towards the good life, you need a seed supplier you can trust. We’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up the eco-friendly companies that offer seeds that result in truly green fresh produce.
With a great selection of vegetable seeds on offer, a blog and handy hints for beginners, Real Seeds is a one-stop-shop for allotment owners. All seeds are chosen based on what tastes good so don’t expect to find flavourless hybrids. What’s more, all their seeds are open pollinated so you can collect your own seeds after the harvest is over. The company also won the ‘Best Seed Company’ gong in the 2011 Horticulture Channel Awards, and were rated an ‘Ethical Best Buy’ by Ethical Consumer Magazine.
Find out more: www.realseeds.co.uk
The Organic Gardening Catalogue
Supplying a range of seeds and produce including vegetables, herbs and flowers The Organic Gardening Catalogue is a joint venture between Garden Organic (HDRA) ‘Europe’s leading organic gardening organisation’ and Chase Organics based in Horsham, Surrey. With over 50 years of experience, Chase produce all their seed organically with no chemicals used before or after harvest. They were voted ‘Best Mail Order Gardening Company’ by readers of Grow Your Own magazine last year.
Find out more: www.organiccatalog.com
Offering a comprehensive, and growing, catalogue of organic seeds, Tamar Organics began life in 1994 as a small market garden and has since grown into a thriving delivery service providing seed to the UK and beyond. They now offer a wide range of organic vegetable and herb seeds as well as fruit and flowers. All their seeds and plants are organic and Soil Association certified, and they also offer a useful (if small) range of books for those looking to get into organic home gardening for the first time.
Find out more: www.tamarorganics.co.uk
Seed to Plate
A new website packed with useful information about how to get the most out of your garden (however small) and your time (however little you dedicate to the vegetable patch), Seed to Plate also offers a small range of organic seeds. All their seeds are selected with the flavour of the final product in mind and easiness to maintain. Growing tips and methods to help your seeds get the best out of our climate help to reduce the amount of ‘battling against nature’ you have to do. They also stock gardening equipment chosen for its environmentally friendly credentials.
Find out more: www.seedtoplate.co.uk
A small family run business; Laura’s Organics stocks a range of organic and eco-friendly plants and seeds. The website also comes with advice about what is best to plant or harvest at any given time of the year as well as a blog featuring the goings on at the company. Based in Lancashire, their offerings include organic seeds plus a range of biodegradable pots, bird and wildlife food and houses, and household goods such as planet-friendly cleaning and skincare products. They also have a handy planting calendar and are Forest Stewardship Council approved.
Find out more: www.laurasorganics.co.uk
Why the big secret? Well, in part because their growing locations are top secret but also in honour of Mother Nature who has a ‘tendency to come up with a few surprises.’ Featuring bulk deals on wildflower and vegetable packs, their prices for organic seeds start at as little as £1. Along with commoner varieties, they also stock an ever evolving collection of rare and unusual plants with more than 1,350 different species to choose from.
Find out more: www.secretseeds.com
Jekka’s Herb Farm
Dubbed the ‘Queen of Herbs’ by Jamie Oliver, Jakka McVicar runs the only organic nursery to win over 60 RHS gold medals, two consecutive Tudor Rose Awards from the Hampton Court Flower Show and a RHS Lawrence medal for their 2009 garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. When she’s not winning awards, her shop sells over 650 herbs, culinary, aromatic, decorative and medicinal. They were also the only organic nursery to feature in the Independent’s ‘Top 50 Garden Centres’ article last month.
Find out more: www.jekkasherbfarm.com
Seeds of Change
Founded in 1989, Seeds of Change stocks a wide range of organic seed selected with everyone from occasional gardeners to full timers in mind. Better known for their organic food range, Seeds of Change donate one per cent of their net sales to organic and sustainable farming initiatives across the globe. They source their seed from both large scale and family producers and have created their own unique brands such as ‘Rainbow Inca Corn’ of which they are very proud.
Find out more: www.seedsofchange.com
One of the oldest companies on our list, Edwin Tucker Ltd has been in the industry since 1831. Geared towards those who like to take their gardening seriously, they offer a wide range of root vegetables along with grasses and plants to attract beneficial insects. The company has branched out in recent years and now malts its own barley and brews its own beers. They are also having an open day at the end of September should you feel the need to inspect the farm before you buy, or just want to sample their beer.
Find out more: www.edwintucker.com
In this Diamond Jubilee year, an honourable mention for the Prince of Wales. The idea of an organic farm on the Prince’s Cornwall estate was born back in 1986, gained full organic status 10 years later and has been seeking to raise the profile of organic food in this country ever since. Along with pre-prepared food products, the estate also supplies organic seeds to the eco-conscious gardener. The 51 product range, all available online, covers all the traditional favourites including vegetables, herbs, salads and peas.
Find out more: www.duchyoriginals.com
The spotters guide to spring wild flowers
With spring in full swing, the UK’s ancient woodland is bursting into life. From bluebells to ramsens, Rebecca Campbell rounds up the best British blooms
Why bees & biodiversity benefit from indigenous wildflowers
Filling your garden with wildflowers helps honeybees and butterflies, and creates a relaxed mood. And, from the Easton Walled Garden to Sissinghurst, there's plenty of inspiration
The beginner’s guide to making your own compost
Contrary to popular belief, composting is simple. What’s more, it’s also eco-friendly, cheap and utterly addictive. Hannah Corr shows you how to get started
How to… grow and use herbs
Expand your culinary horizons, says Michael Littlewood, as a confident hand with home-grown herbs will add a new dimension to your cookery
Lofty ambitions: why green roofs are the future of urban gardening
Run out of space in your garden? Look to higher ground and you’ll find an eco-friendly solution