Pig For Victory No.23: Pig Row Cropping Plan

2014 will be our second summer in the Wartime Garden. Last year we had three beds across the back plot, using around a 1/3 of the garden. This year we are expanding to bring in more of the garden; areas that until now have been mainly areas to store stone for walling and wood. If you click on the images in the main blog post they will bring up the areas we are growing in this summer (you can also right click and select 'save as'). The plan doesn't include the orchard which is already a designated growing fruit area. We have plans for the orchard too, working in small growing zones and more fruit but more on that later. However, the only part of the garden we have yet to reveal is our front garden and hopefully when we reveal it in all its glory this summer it will reflect how many suburban houses during the war battled with growing crops whilst maintaining a status in the community. It was a fine line between being an outcast who grew nothing to being someone who was bringing down the neighbourhood with vulgar vegetables, like marrows. Marrows were reserved for the Anderson shelter in the back garden and though doted on by many homefront gardeners were too bulbous and vulgar for front gardens.

How growing in your front garden was seen as obscene by some.
'I'm not coming out until it's gone.'

We wanted to echo in our Pig for Victory multimedia the old Dig for Victory hardcopy leaflets but unlike the first one, Dig For Victory Leaflet No1: Grow for Winter as well as Summer, we have put our cropping plan at No.23. The reason for this decision was simple, and was born out of the confusion that was the first two wartime growing plans. The first campaign in 1939/40 relied heavily on brassicas, and the winter of that year was so harsh that many new to growing ended up with mush for cabbages and though the Dig for Victory cropping plan resulted in more of a balance on the plot (believe it or not they cut down on cabbages and planted more potatoes, spinach and early greens) it still pitched itself at the established gardener. The No1 leaflet was useless and downright confusing to those new to vegetables and fruit, and though they could turn to radio gardening programmes and columns in newspapers, there was still the feeling that growing was something that was reserved for the countryside and no place in the city and suburbs. It was literally a fear of digging. H. Williams in 1942 wrote a letter to Gardeners’ Chronicle: ‘The digger and the spade were repulsive. I went out and dropped them in the hut and went for a walk’. The War Ag failed many of these new gardeners by pitching those early leaflets at the converted rather than those seeking aid to be converted. This can be seen by were they placed how to dig in the Dig for Victory leaflet series, it was one of the last leaflets to be published, after the war ended.

Follow our cropping plan www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

So our Pig For Victory learnt from these Ministry mistakes and from the start we wanted to cover simple tasks. After all we were learning at the same speed you were, failed crops and all; we even had someone message us about our Pig For Victory No.10: Tomato Growing concerned about how stressed our tomatoes looked. They seemed to miss the point that we wanted crops not perfect looking tomatoes. We were also learning and thankfully our Facebook Page stepped in with tips, pointers and hand me down knowledge from the war years (we won't discuss net curtains here but let's just say they caused a furore in 2013). We the wanted to move into more demanding projects later in the series, and in our second year rather than hitting the ground running we wanted to amble more. So, 2014 heralds a larger growing space, no dig techniques and our own crop plan developed from the No.1 leaflet (no spinach because it simply fails and we have replaced with chard). The cropping plan covers just under 3500 square feet but you will see that we are adapting, slotting in around perennials, fruit trees and new areas coming into production. 

Cropping Plan, Pig Row style www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

In the above image you will see the crop rotation for three years in the top left hand corner. This part of the garden is the over spill from the original three beds to increase our crops in potatoes and beans. We found ourselves in year one running out spuds and beans early on in our storage over winter. Plot A includes the potato varieties Isle of Jura (2kg) and Amour (NVS) (2.5kg - both varieties from R.V. Roger, N. Yorkshire) bordered by the new plantings of cherries, Morello and Early Rivers. We also have a hedge of blueberries that we received from Andrew's Dad earlier in the year. They are still in bags but starting to grow as we speak. The whole Plot A will be handed over to Manchester Market Turnips come August. Never underestimate the potential of a turnip for salads, stews, chipping and making wine. In Bed C we have herbs grown from seed and cuttings, including oregano, dill, rosemary, parsley and thyme, along with several gooseberry varieties from a heritage source. We have the over spill of the Dwarf Beans 'Tendergreen' (all our seeds unless stated otherwise came from Thomas Etty), which was one of the success stories of last year, ending up in the freezer and in our preserve, dilly beans. We're planting Czar Runner Beans (DT Brown) for their ability to be eaten fresh and left to mature to dry. We also have space for Blue Lake White Seeded Haricot alongside a small crop of NE Plus Ultra Peas (seed saved by us and with a direct line to Victorian Kitchen Garden). We'll be intercropping with Fat Lazy Blonde and Drunken Woman lettuces. The entire bed will then be handed over to the leeks Monstrueux de Carentan for winter and next spring. On the borders to the east of the garden we will be planting pears, William's Bon Cretien, Hessle, Doyenne du Comice and Beth, there will also be new cordon apples, Hunthouse, Balsam, Dog's Snout, James Grieve and Ribston Pippin. We also have a Quince Portugal in this bed too before it drifts into the perennials.

Planting potatoes will keep us through winter, cropping plan www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

After the over spill beds we move into the main cropping areas with a huge planting of Harlequin (2kg from R.V. Roger, N. Yorkshire) and Rudolph (saved seed potatoes. We wished we saved Shetland Black too as they are thin on the ground like Rudolph this year). To the north of this Bed A are parsnips, Half Long Guernsey, and maincrop carrots, Autumn King (DT Brown). Though parsnips did well last year our carrots failed even in the small wartime bed by the compost bins. We plan to bring in some tubs around the garden and a storage area for over wintering root crops. These crops will be followed by turnips and a late covered sowing of chard rather than spinach (though we may try again). This area this year will house a new bed of rhubarb below our maturing fruit patch which contains blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries. The polytunnel is now gone and we plan to build large coldframes here for forcing early crops of winter lettuce, spring strawberries, radish Gaurdy (DT Brown) and our award winning marrows, Table Dainty (DT Brown and recommended by the wartime grower, Eleanour Sinclair Rohde). We hope to crop more this year from our compost heaps and hotbed coldframes. The usual beds of rhubarb and raspberries remain. Let's hope we have a bumper crop of rhubarb this year for fruit leathers and cordials. We're still eating the leathers.

Intensive cropping in a small area www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

The Glasshouse garden is the most intensive area of growing, in Bed B we are growing: brussel sprouts, Evesham Special, intercropped with early carrots Paris Market (DT Brown) and early chard. In this bed are curly and straight kale, with swede, Best of All, beetroot Egyptian Turnip-rooted, we'll be growing the pea Feltham First as an early pea before clearing for Early Purple sprouting broccoli, savoy cabbage and winter cabbage De Pontoise 3. Not all these crops will be in the bed at the same time, and some of these will be grown in modules for filling gaps as they become available. It's recommended that you follow the sowing instructions on the packets or common sense, if it's cold there's no point direct sowing. 

The original wartime cropping plan was 90 x 30 feet www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

The original wartime cropping plan was 90 x 30 feet. We're slightly larger but still following the same reliance on root crops, brassicas and spuds. We're also using chickens for the first time this year for eggs, and will also be expanding into growing them for meat. We discussed the possibility of rabbit to be kept behind the house and decided against it. It wasn't a case of them being fluffy or cute, it came down to the simple fact that we don't like rabbit as a meat and prefer chicken. Now comes the tricky question of how and when we sow, it's not an exact science, which we learnt last year when we sowed our parsnips very late, and was told by everyone we wouldn't get a crop and ended up with great parsnips for Christmas. It is here that the original number one leaflet still stands true, give or take a week or so depending on where you are in the country. You can find the recommended sowing months in the below image.

Dig for Victory No.1 sowing times www.lifeonpigrow.co.uk

We've been doing the Wartime Garden for over a year now and as you can see below there is plenty to read but don't forget you can find the Wartime Garden,GrowingGreenFamily and Food playlists on our You Tube channel too plus we have content over on Instagramtwitter and Audioboo. With inspiration for your home and garden on Pinterest and our Facebook Page too. The page there contains a thriving community of over 1,000 people all interested in growing, baking and preserving; there we share our successes and disasters.

Some of the Wartime Garden links:

Wartime Garden: Harvest Festival

Digging for Victory: The Guardian Blog