“ Online supplier and producer of garden seeds „
Recent years have seen me moving away, as far as possible, from always using large firms to source products, that I could just as easily find somewhere else. This has introduced me to some very special and rather unique companies, and many of these have become firm favourites.
Many readers of my reviews will know that I am rather passionate about gardening vegetables, and in particular I have a very keen interest in growing salad leaves. By this I mean not just lettuce, but many different varieties of baby leaves, which can be cut and used in salads. So keen am I on this that my garden is almost entirely turned over to their production, and even now in the depths of November I am producing enough leaves to make two hearty salads each day.
Sourcing the seeds to make this possible led me to the website called Nicky's Seeds which can be found at www.nickys-nursery.co.uk. I came across this website one day when I was looking for some seeds to grow unusual salad leaves, and was rather interested to discover that this organisation is small scale, but has a fantastic selection of unusual seeds. This was important to me, as to be self sufficient in salad leaves all through the year needs quite a lot of planning. It also relies on the ability to sow some leaves whose seeds are not as commonly grown, as to warrant a place on a stand in a conventional garden centre.
Nicky's Nursery was originally a garden centre, and in 1999 they formed an online presence, and diversified into seed supply from their former business which was pre-dominantly a centre for the production of plants ready to purchase. The business is small; there is Nicky herself, who produces and sources the seeds, an office manager and a staff of three who send out the orders. To keep overheads small there is no paper catalogue, but the website shows clearly what is available.
The website itself is really impressive, and this is probably one of the first things I noticed. Its clarity and simplicity and uncluttered homepage encouraged me to look around, and to place that all important first order. It is so clearly laid out with the homepage so well designed, that access to what you are looking for is quick and effortless. It runs very quickly in my experience, and after ordering, emails both to confirm, and thank, and subsequently to advise of despatch, are prompt and courteously written.
As well as seeds Nicky also supplies garden games and sundries, and there are links to pages which list these. I use the site purely for seeds, and so will concentrate on that aspect, but there is a fantastic selection of games, and sundries, including wormeries and eco friendly garden items, all available for purchase.
By following the link to the seed page you can immediately direct your search to exactly the type of seed you are looking for. These are clearly labelled along the left hand side of the page, and there is also a drop down menu on the home page, which can direct you to exactly the group or category you wish to look at. It is superb and within each category there is an amazing selection. Also on the seed page are calendars for sowing, so you can plan your purchases according to the time of year and appropriate sowing recommendations. Unlike larger seed production companies new varieties are added all the time, as Nicky is not dependant on a paper catalogue with an annual deadline. The choice totals over 3000, and in my area of particular interest, the salad leaves, there are countless fantastic options to choose from.
Ordering is simple and secure, and there are all major payment methods available including Paypal. I found delivery to be very quick indeed within days, but I think in the height of popular sowing times you may have to wait a little while longer. If your order exceeds £20 delivery is free, but amounts under that are very reasonable indeed. Orders over £20 are also treated to an extra packet of seeds of Nicky's choice.
To give you an idea of the variety of leaves I purchased I will just briefly list a selection of them.
American or Land Cress - this is a lovely winter crop in particular, tastes similar to watercress.
Amaranth Red Leaf- A lovely South American plant which produces lovely red leaves which can be used in salads.
Winter Lettuce- a variety called Black Seeded Simpson.
Japanese Mibuna and Mizuna. - Great winter crops especially good for times when the salad leaves are less productive.
Borage- this produces leaves for salad and lovely blue star flowers which are also edible, and have a cucumber flavour- used to make star-flower oil.
This is only a tiny selection of a portion of my several orders, and I also bought some for my daughter, who is trying to establish a cottage garden in her Edinburgh city centre house. So far she has received Stevia - a seed which produces leaves which can be used to sweeten desserts, and which contains no sugar, and does not affect blood glucose levels. Also in her collection are Quinoa, and many other more unusual seeds for plants and vegetables. She has been delighted with her seeds and reports a high degree of successful germination.
On receipt the first thing I always notice is that the orders are always perfectly packed and correct, and the most pleasing attribute is that each packet of seeds has a marking stick contained inside the packet. This seed label has space to note the date of sowing and the variety. This not only saves money as you do not need to buy seed markers, but also is so convenient as it is ready to write up and label immediately on sowing. This is one of the ways this company stands out from the crowd, as it offers something over and above what is offered by the big companies. There is also a wealth of information on the packets as to the way you should sow the seed, including any special care needed such as sowing in sand or special considerations. The seeds themselves are contained within hermetically sealed foil packets, but what you don't get are the pretty flowery photographs on the front which the big companies use to attract sales.
All the seeds I have bought have germinated so readily. I now have a small greenhouse stacked high with seedlings bursting out of their pots waiting to venture out into the garden and join the others. I am currently harvesting various winter lettuces, land cress, lambs lettuce, mizuna, herbs, borage, and many other salad leaves including baby spinach, radicchio, rocket and violas. I have been so pleased with Nicky's seeds and have found them to be of exceptional quality. I am even trying an experiment and have bought some watercress seeds this week from Nicky, and am attempting to germinate them with a view to harvesting this crop early next year.
I also use a company called Suffolk Herbs which are also very good for unusual varieties of plants, but it is so refreshing to find another source as Nicky's seeds are different, and offer a slightly alternative range allowing for a wide variety of crops to be grown.
There is nothing wrong with the big seed companies. I eagerly look forward to their catalogues dropping on the mat with their new varieties showcased in the glossy pages. I also, however, value enterprise and something a bit different, and that is what you get with Nicky's. The prices are cheaper - for example 2000 land cress seeds are £1.35 - at Suttons they are £1.69 for 1000, and most prices follow the same pattern.
Although there is no paper catalogue Nicky offers a free CD Rom which you can order. This has the entire catalogue on-line as well as a useful sowing calendar, which you can personalise allowing you to use it as a personal reference for your gardening plans.
I am delighted with this company and the plants I have grown with their seeds. The quality of the seeds they sell are brilliant, and I expect to be self sufficient this winter with salad leaves sourced mainly from Nicky's. I think it is a great example of a small company offering something rather special. I remember thinking when I opened the first packet how lovely it was to be given a label - something small I know, but it was such a lovely touch; and it really set the scene for me to get to know what this company are all about- attention to detail, customer service and the supply of excellent seeds. I'm one very happy customer!