The Season of Plenty

This is the time of year when the ground is either sodden or hard, and only the hardiest of Brassicas make it through to the other side or as it is affectionately known, spring. Yet, this is a season of plenty too. 

A seed mix is a wonderful thing but plan now what you're going to sow.

The larder is full, or would have been if the summer hadn't been a wash out, and the rug by the letterbox is brimming full of gardening catalogues. Akin to shooting fish in a barrel, the catalogue season is upon us but here are a few tips for selecting the best a catalogue can offer you.

  1. Before you start draw a plan of your garden how you want it to appear next year. 
  2. If you're a vegetable grower, split this plan into four for crop rotation.
  3. Decide what varieties you want to grow and if that bit of ground becomes empty by June/July then fill it with something else. 
  4. For example, when peas have been cleared, follow with Brassicas or if you want to be a little more adventurous, Pak Choi. All these can be sown in modules and planted out after the peas have been cleared. When we clear our peas next year we will be following them with leeks. Likewise when we lift the early potatoes we will follow with turnips.
  5. Remember, don't leave any of your ground empty. If you get caught out and have naked patch in your garden, then direct sow with spinach or lettuce. That way you will have another crop in a few weeks. We try to sow green manure too after potatoes.
  6. Grow only what you will eat.
  7. Grow what you know will grow in your garden. There is no way something that grows well in a south facing garden will grow well in your north facing garden. We tried for two years at Pig Row to grow French beans and they simply can't tolerate the altitude we're at. Until we get a polytunnel they are consigned to the drawer.
  8. Know your soil. Look around and see what did well this year, or better still, last year and grow that again. Just remember crop rotation.
  9. Don't be swayed by a pretty photo. It may look good on the page but I can guarantee you it won't look the same in your garden.
  10. Impulse buys are great but if you have no room to plant them they will be forgotten in a drawer.
  11. Set a budget. We always do this and never go over it. That means we often hunt around for our seeds and go to a number of seed producers. Shop around, look for quality and seed volume if you want to sow large patches.
  12. Think about saving your own seed. Beans and peas are great for new gardeners as they are easy to save. Just allow them to dry on the plant and then store in a cool place. We save our own cosmos, nasturtiums and sweet peas at Pig Row. We even have some old varieties of peas we couldn't get from catalogues.
  13. Plant to a theme. Next year we're planting Dig For Victory but planting to a theme has always helped us. We decide sometimes what colours we want in the garden next year. This means that the garden is always changing with annual flowers alongside our stalwart vegetables.
  14. Remember that there are hundreds of varieties of courgette and lettuce. Just because one didn't work for you doesn't mean that others won't. Also, every vegetable has its own taste. My wife hates the white swiss chard, Lucille but loves Bright Lights. Do they taste any different? To my wife they do. 
  15. Enjoy planning your plot. Planning is important as you will learn how to plant with the seasons and can even draw up a planting diary so you won't forget to sow those forgotten French beans in a drawer.