Although its now February, I haven’t been doing much gardening yet but I have some plans as to what I’m going to do in 2017. This means that I start up my blog again, reporting (irregularly) what I’m doing/trying to do.
For those of you who are not familiar with my gardening efforts, I have:
- A full sized allotment (which consists of eleven 7mx2m beds plus a permanent fruit bed, two apple trees (one cooker one eater) and blackberries. I’ve had the allotment for about 11 years and it is 2.5 miles away;
- A large(ish) garden (which we’ve had for 30 years) which includes:
- A 20ft x 10ft Polytunnel;
- Two 6ft x 8ft Greenhouses;
- A small vegetable bed (about 15ft x 6ft) beside the polytunnel;
- A fruit area (rhubarb, a blackcurrant and gooseberry bush);
- Two apple trees (one cooker one eater); and
- A large oak tree (as well as other trees around the boundary which provide lots of shade).
In the past, I’ve tried to grow all sorts of fruit and vegetables at the allotment and grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the polytunnel and greenhouses. However, as all the family have now moved away, growing large quantities of tomatoes (whilst fun) is a bit silly and the journey to and from the allotment is becoming more awkward.
So this year, I’ve decided to change my approach to the gardens and do something different.
Changes at the Allotment
Having read a book entitled “The half hour Allotment” (by Lia Leenertz), I realised that I have been spending too much time at the allotment “titivating around the edges”. The book suggests that, by being properly organised (e.g. planning what you’re going to do before you get there), one should be able to grow enough food for a family of four at an allotment spending no more than half an hour per day, five days a week (or two and a half hours one day a week). It also suggests that one should focus on growing things that you enjoy eating and can’t be bought cheaply from the supermarket. In addition, I’ve added constraints on growing things that don’t grow well at the allotment for whatever reason.
The allotment is heavy clay and try as I will over the years, despite all the manure, mushroom compost and garden compost that I’ve added, the ground remains heavy, cold in spring and heavy throughout the year. I don’t have a rotovator and because the allotment is a fair distance away, using power tools is a problem and I hand dig the beds.
With that in mind I have decided that:
- I won’t grow stuff that crops between November and March (the allotment is too wet and miserable to visit over the winter);
- I won’t grow potatoes (they’re cheaper from the supermarket and there’s lots of blight);
- I won’t grow carrots (carrot-fly and the ground is too hard to grow sensible sized carrots;
- I won’t grow parsnips (ground too hard);
- I won’t grow turnips (we don’t really like them);
- I won’t grow Leeks, Onions or Garlic (whiterot and leek moth);
- I won’t grow tomatoes outdoors (Blight) [except for perhaps blight resistant varieties as a continuing experiment];
- I won’t grow winter squashes;
- Any brassicas will be plants (not grown from seed);
- Three beds will be dedicated to growing strawberries (that gives me one bed to plant and two that should be cropping well). The oldest bed will be dug out each year and put into the vegetable rotation to let the ground improve.
- One bed will be Autumn Fruited Raspberries;
- That leaves me seven beds for:
- Sweetcorn (always does well and doesn’t need much attention);
- Peas (ditto);
- Dwarf French Beans;
- Broad Beans (I put them in before the winter so I won’t have anything to do provided they grow);
- Beetroot & Lettuce;
- Swiss Chard & Brassicas;
All of which should largely look after themselves and not require large amounts of attention over the growing season.
Whilst this may all seem very negative (a long list of “I won’t”), my hope is that it will give me more time to grow what grows well and to spend more time on the garden at home.
Changes at home
Usually, through the summer, the polytunnel has been filled with tomatoes planted into the borders a total of 48 – 60 plants. Last year I experimented growing a mixture of French Beans and Courgettes in one border and tomatoes in the other.
This year, I’m going more extreme and plan to put the whole polytunnel to Climbing French Beans, Dwarf French Beans, Courgettes, Lettuce, Radish, Peppers (in pots) and Strawberries (in pots).
Last year, one of the greenhouses was not used and the other grew physalis, cucumbers and peppers. This year, the greenhouses will be used mainly for tomatoes with a few (three) peppers and (possibly) a cucumber.
My plans are to grow the following tomatoes:
Amish Mayberry, Ananas Noire, Berkley Tie-Dye, Black Icicle, Black Sea Man, Black Unknown, Brown Sugar, Buffalo Horn, Chiapis Wild Tom, Cream Sausage, Cyril’s Choice, Dark Galaxy, Earliana, Gold Rush Currant, Golden Queen, Green Grapes, Japanese Black Trifele, Kanner Hoell, Legend, Mountain Magic (F1), Mountain Princess, Mrs Ruck’s, Oleron Yellow (A), Oleron Yellow (B), Otto’s Papa, Pink Brandywine, Quedlinberger Fruhe Liebe, Reisetomate Pocket Book, Rosella, Speckled Roman, Summer Cider, Vesennij Mieurinsky.
It may seem a lot, but I’ll only grow one of each plant and the determinate varieties will go in pots outside the greenhouses. (Mountain Magic will go to the allotment).
Again, last year, the outside bed was largely left untended so this year, my plan is to grow Mangetout Peas, Radishes and Lettuces.
Why am I changing?
Whilst I didn’t keep an accurate record of what I did at the allotment last year, my feeling was that I spent about eight hours a week actually there, plus six hours going backwards and forwards. My hope, is that I can reduce the travelling to/from the allotment to once a week (two hours travelling) and spend three to four hours actually there.
The time saved can be used at home where I can spend odd half-hours doing a range of jobs (not least keeping the rest of the garden under control).
A disadvantage (as I see it) is that during the peak cropping season, last year I went every other day, picking raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc. for the next few days. By going only once (or at most twice) a week, the picking each time will be larger (and therefore more difficult to carry back) and will have to last the whole week (or half) until the next visit. However, there should be crops from the garden and the polytunnel to make up the difference and (if last year is anything to go by) courgettes and beans will crop earlier and longer than at the allotment.