January 8

7 top tips for organising vegetable growing this year

Christmas decoration in the pond.

A Happy New Year to everyone.

I can always tell when I have too much time thanks to the rain because I try and organise myself and the coming vegetable year. I am doing this even though I have not yet got my broad bean seeds in yet. Oh dear! Anyway, there is a reason for that – my greenhouse is full of loft insulation and I can’t get in to it to do anything. So, here are my top tips which I am going to do this year:

  1. Plan how many plants I need of each sort, roughly. This year I have almost been self-sufficient in sprouts. I haven’t bought any yet and probably won’t need to until the end of February. On the other hand, I didn’t grow anywhere near enough celariac. So, I’m creating a spreadsheet where I put down when I want to eat the veg – I don’t want to eat leeks all year round – and therefore how many plants I need. You can see it here.
  2. I am not that fussed about rotating plants around the plots. I try not to grow the same plant in the same place two years running but I have done it with no loss of productivity. However, I do forget which sort of compost I have put on each bed and I would like to know because I vary my compost probably more than I do my vegetables. I put 7-10 cm of compost at the start of each year and occasionally a bit more later on in the year. I don’t dig but I do grow on sand and so it needs a lot of oomph. I’ve drawn up a rough plan of the plots and recorded on each one the year and the type of compost and pin it up in the shed in a plastic wallet so that I can always access it. I have 5 different composts that I make and 1 that I buy but I will talk about how I use them in a different post.
  3. I have been dabbling with sowing seeds according to the moon phases – biodynamic gardening – but usually lose the plot in April when there is so much to do. This year I have bought the Maria Thun diary so that I can know exactly when to sow the seeds. Does it work? I don’t know but in soil like mine you need every little bit of help you can get. I have looked at my spreadsheet of plants that I want to grow and written into the diary when I should sow them.
  4. With two plots I have quite a lot of growing space but there are times in the year when I could do with a bit more. So this year I need to try intersowing which is where you plant young plants amongst others so that when they are finished the next crop is in and ready to take off with the increased space and light. I am thinking particularly of brassicas here because we eat a lot in winter and they take up a lot of space. The lettuces seem the most obvious crop to interplant because we pick leaves off them regularly so they have spaces in between the plants.
  5. I make nettle tea and comfrey tea and have worm juice from the vermicomposting but there are a whole lot of other teas and feeds that can be made for the garden including ferments. I have bought some chamomile and yarrow seeds because biodynamic gardening uses the flowers to create specific teas for the garden and to add to the compost heaps. Chamomile supports the recycling of materials and yarrow helps connect the plant to its environment and make it adaptable to the changes. Both are going in my compost heaps as an addition.
  6. I am the sort of grower that hates spending time in the kitchen preserving, freezing and any other -ing the food that I have grown. Who wants to make tomato sauce in the hottest time of the year? Not me. If I can chuck it in the freezer with no prep I am happy. I do this with tomatoes (I cut them up if they are enormous), berries, chillies, broad beans, peas and sweetcorn (sliced off the cob) but the rest of the time I prefer to pick and eat. Steve of Steve’s seaside allotment is working on this and is writing about it in his free ebook  so I am going to read and implement his ideas.
  7. And finally, reading, reading, reading. You get the best new ideas from reading books, blogs, youtube channels and anything else you can get your hands on as well as talking to fellow allotment holders.

What do you do to keep yourself on track?