This year I have big plans for my little plot, just three 8’x4′ raised beds. This is the latest version of my plot plan for the first half of the season, click and zoom in to see properly. I’ve tweaked it slightly since my last plan update. Over the course of the whole year I am trying about 60 different seed varieties plus chillies, potatoes and tomatoes. That actually sounds a bit crazy now I’ve written it down, it’s going to be intense! It’s partly an experiment to see what grows well on my plot, what we like to eat, what’s fun to grow and what we can store. I hope it doesn’t get too difficult to manage…
Doubts aside, let’s crack on! It’s still too early to be sowing most things, but I have made a start where sensible so to do, and in one case even when not sensible…
Onions – sets
I have sets of ‘Electric’ , a japanese overwintering variety, growing on nicely in modules. I was planning to plant them out in the ground mid-autumn but left it a bit late, I think it was November before I planted these. In fear of them suffering in cold, wet conditions, I chickened out and planted them in modules instead. I shall let them grow on in the modules and plant out mid-March when conditions will be more conducive. I should be able to plant 9 per 1 foot square giving me a total of 36 medium size red onions.
Onions – seeds
I have also sown seeds of two onion varieties – ‘Bedfordshire Champion’ and ‘Red Brunswick’. These have germinated pretty well already. This is the first time I have grown onions from seed so I have been casting about the internet for advice on how best to grow. I have settled on a method demonstrated by Charles Dowding on his no-dig YouTube channel. In mid-March or so I shall plant each module out without thinning, 8-10 seedlings per module. If I left them like this I would get very small onions, but if I harvest a few from each bunch as spring onions, the remaining 5 or so per bunch will all grow to medium sized onions that should store well. I am in bit of a quandry over planting spacing. I think I should be able to get away with planting 3 modules per square foot, if so that would give me 15 onions per square, 60 in total from the 4 squares I plan to give to these onions, plus a load of spring onions.
Garlic – This is the first year I’ve grown garlic, I’m quite excited to see how they get on. The cloves were all planted in November and for the most part are doing well. I had an excess of seed garlic so planted the extras in bags, they are also doing fine. The only ones yet to show their face are the elephant garlic. Perhaps it is slow to grow, or perhaps the local squirrels are partial. If all the other garlic matures to whole bulbs I will have about 30 bulbs, some of which will keep well for a few months at least. It should last us through the second half of the year and beyond.
Broad beans – these are just beginning to germinate. I will grow on in the greenhouse for a while then harden off and plant out in March.
Tomatoes – I have been a little impatient with my tomatoes this year. My excuse is that I lost the entire crop to blight last year, and want to get at least some fruit harvested before it strikes as it inevitably will this year. I sowed Sungold in early January, they have germinated and are pricked out. They will stay in the heated bench while it is cold in the greenhouse. The rest I sowed at the end of January, the Roma and Gardener’s Delight are coming through but no sign of the others yet. I am restricting myself to greenhouse growing this year, again in the hope of avoiding the ravages of the dreaded blight. This means I have limited growing space, with room for maybe 10 plants. Quite why I have sown enough seeds for 50 or more is a mystery.
Sweet peas – not an edible crop, but a crop all the same, cut flowers in this case. I have dedicated 8 square feet of growing space to sweet peas in the first half of the growing year. I sowed these at various times over the last few months, most are growing on nicely, the more recently sown are yet to germinate. These were old seeds, so perhaps they never will.
Rhubarb – this crown is a couple of years old now, so I am expecting a half decent harvest this year. It is beginning to emerge. Since I just have one crown, I won’t be forcing it, that would exhaust the plant – I will wait.
Chillies – I’ll track my progress with the hot-stuff separately, but by way of a brief update, I now have ten varieties sown. The cayenne, jalapeno and hot-wax have germinated, no sign of the others yet. You can read more about my chillitastic plans here.
Leeks – a throwback to last year, these are not fine examples of the breed. I had two squares (4 square feet each) of leeks planted last year, all ‘Musselburgh’, a reliable heritage variety. I harvested the other square last weekend and they made an entirely creditable leek and potato soup, despite looking a lot more like muscular spring onions than leeks. I will sow this year’s leeks later this month and the cycle starts again.
Cabbages – I don’t know why I bother with cabbages really, I never get a decent head forming. These are spring cabbage, variety Um I Forget. I should thin these out as they are planted too close I think. I’ll need to make up my mind whether to keep these or compost them as this space is alloted to leeks and beetroot this year. They probably have a month before I decide either way.
Potatoes – I have just taken delivery of my seed spuds for this year. I have ‘Charlotte’ for first earlies, ‘Lady Crystl’ for second earlies and the beefy Sarpo Mira for maincrops. The earlies are all set up to chit in the office upstairs, a cool room with a big window. The mains I’ll just stash in the shed till I’m ready to plant them, they allegedly don’t need chitting. I don’t have the plot space to grow spuds in the ground so I shall be planting up in sacks. I’ve done this before, it works well, but I will be adding plenty of suitable fertiliser to the soil mix this year as the spud crop was a bit disappointing last year.
I’m really looking forward to the veggie growing year this year, I’ve put much more thought into the planning than I have ever done. Most of the sowing action doesn’t really kick off until March, by which time it will be getting busy.
I’ll be back in a month or so with another veg plot update.