There was no allotmenting last weekend so instead of writing about what I did, I thought it might be useful to talk about the coming season, what we want to grow etc.
We are going into this season with more raised beds than ever and a polytunnel, while I could do some re-arranging of space at the front of the plot, that would lose us the flowers and the slightly wilder spaces. As Ma says I’m not allowed another plot, this is it for my growing space (unless and until I win a vast amount of money and set up a homestead because I would really like a cow!).
There is some work to do at the back of the plot with the boysenberry which I talked about last week and I will get another blueberry to replace the stolen one but unless I decide to give up some space for an asparagus bed, there isn’t really any other space for fruit or perennial plants now. There is some infrastructure I need to buy (arches for the squash beds) and some other supports but aside from that, I’m hoping to be able to do more maintenance and less building in the coming season.
So let’s talk about some growing goals this year and to do that we have to talk about last year. Last year, wasn’t a terrible year, it just didn’t feel very good. The cold spring was followed by a miserable summer and so we had a pretty good year for cabbages, cauliflowers, onions and more traditional crops, we didn’t have great summer crops. The tomatoes got blight, the squash were late and the winter squash harvest was small compared to the year before. So this year, I’m hoping we’ll do better much of that depends on the weather but I’m hoping that with the polytunnel, I’ll be able to get seedlings out of my dark flat and into it sooner so that they will be stronger and able to grow on more quickly when they are planted out.
We still have seeds of all the summer crops we grew last year so rather than buy new seeds , we are just going to grow the same varieties again so we can see what they are actually like when they grow and also to use up what we have before we embark on new stuff. It feels like restraint but it’s not really. So for cherry tomatoes, we’re going for Millefleur Yellow Vine and Gardeners Sweetheart. We don’t have many seeds so I may also pick up a cheap packet from Wilko, something like Gardeners Delight or Red Cherry, to fill my gaps and as seedlings for Sue. For big tomatoes, Peche Vilmorin Andrieux, Amish Paste, Ethel Watkins Best, Feo De Rio Gordo, Orange Banana, Black Russian, Marmande and Cour di Bue. As I said I’m going to grow some plants for Sue (and probably people at work!) as Sue’s garden is challenging, she has requested something less difficult so I’ll use the Craigella and Amateur seeds I already have. I know, it’s a lot, I was thinking about trying tomatillos again but I don’t think I’ll have the room!
We’ll have the two big beds by the polytunnel for winter squash and are pretty much re-using the seeds we bought last year so Waltham Butternut, Sibley Winter Storage, Anna Swartz, Hokkaido, Galeuse D’Eysines. We also have two little squash Honey Bear F1 and Casperita F1 – they are going in the big boxes by the herbs, to grow up an arch. I also have some standard Jack O’ Latern and I may pop a couple of those in to give away.
We’re going to put arches to span those squash beds and grow, beans up them, my current plan is three arches, one for drying beans, the Giantes we didn’t get to last year, and two for french beans, green and purple, which are from saved seeds. While I’m on beans, in another bed we’ll have bush beans, the Aida Gold we had last year and the Purple Queen. We also have the Jacobs Cattle Gold Bush Drying Bean to try too, which I bought because they are so pretty.
I will also try to grow sweetcorn in those beds but we’ll see how we get on with time and space.
The other major summer crops for us are summer squash and cucumber. For the summer squash, we’ll going to aim for 6 plants in total. We’ll definitely grow the Summer Crookneck and the Early Prolific Straightneck again because we love them and one plant each will be enough for the two of us. Although we weren’t overly impressed with the round courgettes last year we do have them to use up so we may sow them to give away and keep one, we have Zucchini and Firenze and we’ll put two of those in. Lastly we’ll grow a patty pan, either Benning’s Green Tint or Patisson Gagat.
For cucumbers, we’re growing Early Fortune and Boothby’s Blonde as we did last year.
Other basic crops for use are carrots, beetroots and potatoes. I did two rounds of carrots last year and that worked so I want get on top of repeat sowing for them and for the beetroot. I also want to do the same for potatoes, we are growing a first early (Red Duke of York) and a second early (Nicola), in July I’ll start another pot each so that we hopefully have Christmas potatoes. In fact, I would really like to have all the vegetables for our Christmas dinner to be homegrown, we’ll see how it goes. We’re going to attempt sweet potatoes again this year but I’m going to grow some of them in the polytunnel, last year the weather and the magpies stunted them a bit but they do better in the ground so the poly seems the obvious place. We are buying those plants, five of them from DT Brown and we’ll see how we go.
We’ll grow salad leaves, radishes and spring onions outside too, we’ll set aside a bed and sow whatever packets we have, we’re toying with growing peppers and aubergine in the polytunnel but they take a while and need heat to germinate so it may not happen!
We do pretty well at having something to harvest every month of the year already, last year the turnips and parsnips were new to us and we liked them, so we’ll grow them again, our autumn/winter standards are cavolo nero, cauliflower and cabbages and we’ll grow all of them. New this year will be celeriac, Giant Prague (Ma’s pick), swede Champion (my pick) and brussels sprouts (a joint favourite), we have all of these as free seeds so whichever variety we have will do. Because the other thing we want to do is try to do is grow our autumn/winter crops from seed. I also want to get around to growing fennel and growing black radish again. We’ll see how it goes and I reserve the right to quit and buy seedlings if it all gets too much!
Our fruit production should be pretty good, we should have an abundance of rhubarb. All six of the crowns are pickable this year, which may be more rhubarb than we can handle! In fact, I’m hopeful that we’ll have a good year for fruit, the raspberries and plums are pretty consistent, we have alpine strawberries this year, and a strawberry bed that should give us a couple, we are one blueberry bush down but they should all be coming into production so fingers crossed, we won’t notice the lack. This year I’m going to net the blackcurrants and gooseberries early in the hope of some fruit.
New to us this year because of the polytunnel, will be melons, we have two types, the Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe and the Five Desserts Large Early Melon, both from Real Seeds. I have no idea if they will work for me but it’s worth a go!
I’m not planning on adding to the vast array of herbs and flowers already have, I will sow the usual annual herbs, basil, coriander, dill and flat leaved parsley with the tomatoes, cukes and other vegetables. I hope that jasmine survives the winter and all the thymes, mints and lavenders grow well. Last year I scattered some of the calendula that had gone to seed in the bulb bed at the front of the plot and I let almost everything go to seed, so who knows where it will come up in the summer? I’m expecting borage, amaranth, calendula, orache, white cornflowers, mallow in pink and white to come up. I also let a stock go to seed so we’ll see if that comes back. So with that and the perennials (verbena, knautia, rudbeckia, roses and so on) and bulbs, daffodils, grape hyacinth, tulips, snake’s head fritillaries, bluebells, irises and some alliums), there should be enough flowers on the plot.
If I can keep it all growing and get it to be tidy and productive, then it’ll be a great year!