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Trial and Error

Next time you stand in front of a display of seeds at the garden centre or browse through a colourful catalogue trying to decide what to grow, spare a thought for the work that went into it. Seeds may be a natural product, but making sure the right seeds, of the right quality, are in the right packet and are sealed in a way that will ensure good germination is hard work.

Mr Fothergill's Seeds are one of the UK's largest suppliers and they go to great lengths at their trial ground in Suffolk to make sure their product is healthy and reliable. New varieties are grown to see how they perform, unusual variants are carefully kept aside for future use and existing varieties are regularly sown from retail packets to make sure that they “do what it says on the tin”. This means that if a customer has a complaint, staff can go outside and check how the control patch is growing as a comparison.

The trial field itself is an open, rather windswept area where the plants have to fend for themselves to a large extent. They are watered to get them going, but then interference is minimal to make sure they are representative of home-grown plants. Vegetables like beans and onions grow alongside sweet peas and marigolds, but space also has to be made for the many collections of tomatoes, cucumbers and salad leaves. Some of these have to be grown in poly tunnels because they are not outdoor varieties and to give them a fair chance, but this also allows the researchers to try different composts and feeding regimes.

Reports are compiled to record how well the plants flower or fruit, whether they are early or late in any given season (there is an on-site weather station) and how well they grow. It is particularly important to check seeds sold as collections to make sure they contain a good mixture of plants. Growing a patch of annual flowers to support pollinating insects is currently very popular and can be a huge boost for the rest of the garden. It would not be an exaggeration to say this trial field is absolutely awash with bees when the flowers are in full bloom, so they certainly appreciate the effort.

You can see more about Mr Fothergill's range and place orders online at www.mr-fothergills.co.uk

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This story was published on: 24/08/2019

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