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The Viability of Vegetables - Thompson & Morgan

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Viability of Vegetables

Lawrence D. Hills produced this poem in the style of Thomas Tusser (1524-80) to show how long vegetable seed can be kept. The Editor has had recourse to refer to it on numerous occasions since it first appeared in print in 1963.

Write the year of buying on the packets when you fold them over to put them away in a dry drawer in a shed or not too warm room, and remember the span of each, sowing your new lettuce seed in spring for it gets away faster than old which serves for summer.

  • You have in your drawer since Candlemas Day,
  • All the seed packets you daren't throw away,
  • Seed Catalogue cometh as year it doth end,
  • But look in ye drawer before money you spend.
  • Throw out ye Parsnip, 'tis no good next year,
  • And Scorzonera if there's any there,
  • For these have a life that is gone with ye wynde,
  • Unlike all ye seeds of ye cabbagy kinde.
  • Broccoli, Cauliflower, Sprouts, Cabbage and Kale,
  • Live long like a farmer who knoweth good ale:
  • Three years for certain, maybe five or four,
  • To sow in their seasons they stay in ye drawer.
  • Kohl-Rabi lasts with them and so does Pei-Tsai,
  • The winter 'cos-lettuce' to sow in July,
  • But short is the life of ye Turnips and Swedes,
  • Sow next year only, enough for your needs.
  • Mustard and Cress for when salads come round,
  • Sows for three seasons so buy half a pound,
  • Radish last four years, both round ones and long,
  • Sown thinly and often they're never too strong.
  • Last year's left Lettuce sows three summers more,
  • And Beetroot and Spinach-beet easily four,
  • But ordinary Spinach, both prickly and round,
  • Hath one summer left before gaps waste ye ground.
  • Leeks sow three Aprils and one hath gone past,
  • And this is as long as ye Carrot will last,
  • Onion seed keeps till four years have flown by,
  • But sets are so easy and dodge onion-fly.
  • Store Marrows and Cucumbers, best when they're old,
  • Full seven summers' sowings a packet can hold.
  • Six hath ye Celery that needs a frost to taste,
  • So hath Celeriac before it goes to waste.
  • Then fillen ye form that your seedsmen doth send,
  • For novelties plentie, there's money to spend,
  • Good seed and good horses are worth the expense,
  • So pay them your poundies as I paid my pence.

Lawrence D. Hills is the founder of the Henry Doubleday Foundation and a renowned champion of organic gardening techniques.

Source of article:
Growing From Seed - Winter 1989-90 Vol. 4 Number 1
© The Seed Raising Journal from Thompson & Morgan