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Little Bookham Allotment Association 31 July 2018

Little Bookham Allotment Association
Visit to Kings Seeds:

We had a fantastic day on 8th July and felt privileged to be introduced to how the Kings business works. We left Bookham early and drove to Kelvedon, deep in the Essex countryside, where E W Kings is based. The surrounding area has been the centre of our seed industry for hundreds of years. We were met by Peter Miller, Senior Seedsman (and fellow allotmenteer) who walked us to the sweet pea fields, and within a few minutes he had us completely captivated.


The focus of Kings and the secret behind their enduring success has a lot to do with keeping abreast of what their customers want and positively responding to the need for change. They deliver a great service, through high standards in science, innovation, respect for tradition as well as investment in technology and the personal commitment of their staff. It seems that working for EW Kings can be family affair – with generation after generation working for the firm.   


Kings have seen huge change, gone are the days of growing all their seed in Essex. If they still did, they would be ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. They still grow some seeds like their impressive sweet peas, but most seeds are grown for them by specialists all over the world – in Europe, California and as far away as New Zealand. As Peter walked us around their ‘factory’, we began to understand just how much is involved to prepare seeds for dispatch to customers. We were shown the dry cold store, the seed cleaning machines (some ancient and irreplaceable) and the packing hall which couldn’t be more different with the very latest high tech automated sachet packers. Then into the picking & packing area and finally the testing laboratory. As we walked around we listened to Peter as he shared his specialist knowledge, learnt from a lifetime of being seedsman at Kings, and his own practical personal experiences gained from tending his allotment. We left the site impressed, brimming with new knowledge and Peter’s invaluable insight. Over lunch in a pub, we talked about how we felt others had missed out so we’ll try to arrange another tour next year. 

Food for thought:  
Peter Miller at Kings seeds taught us so much – we have to share some of it with you and there’ll be more next month:
Did you know that if you buy F1 seed, irrespective of the seed brand you buy, the seed will have come from the same grower?
- All seed names are tightly regulated and prescribed, so if you buy by name, such as the calabrese ‘Monclano’, you can have confidence it will be the same, irrespective of the brand.
When a seedling plant of grown naming regulations don’t apply, so a ‘Monclano improved’  
plug plant may be nothing of the sort.
All seeds sold in the UK are subject to strictly regulated and monitored lab testing. Every batch is tested for germination, vigour and type before sale, so it’s usually what we do to seeds that causes problems!
We all plant too early in the year – Peter Miller added ‘if the ground is too cold to sit on (with a bare bottom!), then it’s too cold for seeds’
- If Spring is late and March is wet and cold, then Kings are inundated with complaints of poor seed germination, but if Spring is early and March is warm and dry, they get almost none.
The best way to avoid weeding is to hoe before the weeds emerge – killing them at thread stage, then you have no weeds to remove
- Sow a few radish seeds with your veg seeds, they germinate quickly and delineate the row, so you can hoe safely.
When you use a hoe you create a fine tilth which traps air and moisture beneath the surface, so you won’t need to water anywhere near as much.                                  

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