The year has barely started and at Farnham Community Farm (FCF) our minds are already racing ahead to the months ahead. 

What seeds to buy, what should we sow, what grows best, what tastes good? When looking through seed catalogues, there is sometimes a temptation to buy lots of different seeds and try them all out. It is easy to get carried away, but at the same time there is a limit to the amount of land we have and thus to how much we can try out and grow. 

And, of course, one you have bought the seeds, you need to sow them too – and that is quite a job!

We are slowly trying to diversify our seeds by saving some of our own; so far we have been successful with beans, spinach and lettuce. We also take part in seed swaps (in both Guildford and Farnham) and have been choosing some more heirloom and open-pollinated varieties instead of ‘F1 hybrids’. 

Hybrids are more consistent and often offer higher yields; however, if you save the seeds, you could end up with a random mix of genes, not necessarily the favourable ones that the hybrid variety was initially created for. 

Open-pollinated seeds, on the other hand, are pollinated by the wind, animals or by hand; they may have slight variations but are usually ‘true to type’. And there are some gorgeous varieties too.

So, this year we have chosen ‘Kew blue’ heirloom runner beans that have been saved by other growers in this area. One of the benefits is that such a seed can adapt to our micro-climate. We are certainly looking forward to watching it grow and tasting it!

If you are curious about what we do and how we do it, then why not come and have a look? We organise regular “new volunteer walkabouts” during the month. These are on a Tuesday, from 10.30am to 11.30am. Our volunteer coordinator will take you on a tour of our field, explaining what we are doing in the various sections and highlighting how our volunteers can and do help out. 

You don’t need to know anything about vegetables, plants or growing – just come prepared with some enthusiasm and be ready for the outdoors! Next walkabout is on February 6.

By Marlies van den Hurk

Farnham Community Farm