Before we think too much about this year, I want to consider 2018. In my limited veg growing experience, conditions last year seemed particularly challenging. The cold spring followed by a hot, dry summer made for difficult veg growing. Seeds didn’t start well in the cold, then it was a job to keep things alive in the heat, never mind growing well. It was not a vintage veg year. All these difficulties were, I’m afraid, compounded by my rookie choices:

1) to try to grow a little of a lot of things, upwards of 60 different veg varieties were on my full year plan.
2) attempting to trick the weather and start early for outdoor crops.

Wiser, more experienced growers said things like “it’s too soon!”, or “grow more of less things!” There was method to my madness, I wanted to squeeze as much crop as possible out of my modest veg plot, and I was also keen to see what varieties work best on my three raised beds. Regardless, the wiser, more experienced growers were probably right. In a good year my plan might have been a stretch. Last year, with the crazy weather, it was basically unachievable with my skill level and available time. I lost the plot entirely during the second half of the growing year, basically giving up in a huff, except for some iffy carrots and grumpy parsnips. The rest of the plot lay fallow once the squash was harvested.

This year then, I plan to be a bit more modest in my aims.

The plan for the first half of the growing season looks like this.

Bed 1

My squash harvest suffered from being too closely planted, I think, so I want to give them a bit more room this year, reserving half a bed for them. I have ‘crown prince’ seeds and maybe a couple of others to try.

Much as I do end up cursing the excess courgettes, it is a reliable performer in my garden and prolific with it. I might end up using half the space for something else, not sure I need more than a couple of courgette plants.

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I have sown some shallot seed, ‘zebrune’, probably too soon, in the greenhouse for now. I was impatient. Strictly speaking they are a funny shaped onion rather than a true shallot. Not 100% sure what the difference actually is.

Salad is another reliable grower for me so the final corner is reserved for salad leaves, a cut and come again type.

Bed 2

Runner beans are usually pretty good for me, although were not as prolific last year, I suspect due to irregular watering in very dry conditions. I will go again this year with just the one wig-wam.

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French beans next. I am steering clear of borlotti beans this year, a disappointment the last two years, always a poor crop for some reason. French beans were better and I have a couple of different kinds to sow.

I have grown onions from sets with variable results, last year I tried them from seed for the first time. Disaster! They just didn’t grow. I am trying again this year. I’ve sown three varieties, ‘bedfordshire champion’, ‘red baron’ and ‘red brunswick’.

Carrots. Chuffing carrots. I made about 7 sowings last year, getting carrots of a sort from the 6th and 7th sowings. Of the first 5 sowings, nothing was seen. Either I didn’t sow them right, or it was too cold, or too hot, or something ate them, or all of the above. I eventually succeeded by sowing into paper tubes in the greenhouse and later planting the whole tube out.

They weren’t great, quite small, but were recognisably carrots, quite a step forward compared to prior years, when mutants were the thing. I will go with the paper tube method again, I think.

Garlic. This is already in the ground, a mix of newly bought seed garlic, and saved cloves from last year’s crop. I have been a bit lax in my labelling, so can’t recall off the top of my head what the bought seeds were, nor do I know what the saved garlic was as it was mixed in with my stored garlic in an untidy bundle suspended from the shed ceiling. It has all sprouted, pretty much, and seems to be growing on nicely. Last year was the first time growing garlic for me and it was generally successful, although I would have liked bigger bulbs. Certainly we haven’t bought garlic since the end of June, and I still have a fair bit left to use. I’m hoping it lasts until more or less when this year’s crop is pulled.

Bed 3

Peas. One last go with the peas. I never seem to get a very good crop with peas. I’ve given up on pod peas, preferring either mange tout or snap peas. I grew blauwschokker last year which looked quite nice, but didn’t taste that great.

More salad, can’t have too much salad, probably leaves of some kind again.

I’m giving parsnips another go, the experience last year being similar to the carrots. Last chance though.

Sweet peas. A success last year, I am reserving the same spot for 2 wig-wams of sweet peas. I have enough plants for about 8 wig-wams, but no room for them all.

Lastly, rhubarb. Just a single crown, but it is maturing nicely. I am expecting it to be even better this year and might consider splitting it when dormant at the end the year.

I will also grow tomatoes and chillies in the greenhouse, and new potatoes in pots dotted about, that worked quite well last year, and maybe main crops in sacks, although those were appalling last year, too dry for them.

I will have a similarly simplified plot plan for the second half of the growing season, but haven’t given that much thought as yet.

What do you have planned for your veg plot this year?

I’ll be back in a while with the plan for the late season.

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