What you gonna grow now?

Chris Beardshaw from Gardeners Question Time was once asked by a listener what she should plant in her newly acquired allotment. He replied  “grow something you’d like to eat yourself”. Too right!

Why waste time and effort on something that will end up on the compost heap or go to seed because you won’t use it. Think about what you’d fancy next to your cheese and potato pie or roast chicken on a Sunday.

People say ‘why should you grow crops like onions or potatoes when they are cheap in the shops when in season’. Have you ever tasted home-grown boiled spuds picked a few minutes before being put in the pot with a sprig of mint? You could choose something that is expensive to buy fresh like asparagus or those “exotic” salad leaves that come in a plastic bag ready washed for £3 odd. A plastic mini greenhouse, which would cost £30 new or cheaper secondhand could have you growing salad leaves nearly all the year round for the cost of seeds, feed and compost. It’s easy!

A few things to think about when deciding…

  • Will they get enough sun? Vegetables and herbs (especially tomatoes and peppers) need about six hours of sunlight a day, though root veg and lettuce and kale can tolerate some shade. If you use pots, can they be moved about to get the sun most of the day?
  • Are they the right size for your plot? Tall and climbing varieties of veg are unsuitable for growing in tubs and containers so choose compact type plants if growing on a balcony. Deep rooting veg would be no good for shallow pots/containers either.
  • How much maintenance will the plant need? The plot/pots will need to be watered daily in the summer (usually first thing in the morning or in the evening but not in full sunlight) and will also need to be fed weekly.
  • What’s the soil in your plot like? Got much in the line of builders rubble and mummified underpants like we had? We’ll cover testing and improving soil in a later post, but plants thrive when they have the nutrients and soil conditions they need. If it’s really bad, how about building raised beds out of wooden planks that can be filled with two thirds potting compost and one third garden soil (which will give the beds a bit more body.)

The best ones to begin with are: beetroot, courgettes, carrot, dwarf french beans, garlic, lettuce, cut and come again salad leaves, onions, parsnip, radish, spring onion, potato, basil, coriander and tomatoes. Choose varieties that suit your space and conditions.

Add to your space using large pots and tubs. These have the advantage of being moved to catch more sunlight and to dodge the frost. How about growing some potatoes in those special sacks or in a plastic bin so you can free up some space for something else, the same with tomatoes in growbags. Fast growing crops can be put in next to slow growing crops to utilize the space also.

The trick is to keep it simple and don’t be too adventurous or you’ll be wanting to pack the hobby in after the first month. If you’ve been lucky to find yourself a big plot only use a small part of it the first season.

You’re nearly there, you’ve got the plot and know what you want, but do you know how to get it?

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