Real Men Sow

A Patch From Scratch: Thoughts on Starting Out Part 1 – Why Am I Growing?

As much as taking on an allotment was great fun and incredibly rewarding, with hindsight I sometimes wish I’d had some focus when I first started out. I guess that arrives with experience, but at the beginning I never spent any time considering what I wanted from my plot.

Back in 2007 (pictured, freshfaced outside my old shed), I jumped in two footed, having only really applied for a plot because someone lent me the first series of River Cottage and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen on tele. As time goes by, and I embark on a new growing adventure, I think it’s useful to sit back and ask myself why I’m growing veg.

There are many reasons why people grow fruit and veg, and I feel that asking a few questions at the starts helps heaps in any quest for GYO success, especially when it comes to plan how we might go about things.

Am I growing for taste?
I’d argue that every homegrown fruit and vegetable tastes better than the alternatives bought in the shops, but some take it to a whole new level. If I was purely growing for taste, then I’d start with lots of different tomato varieties, plus plenty of soft fruit – especially strawberries and raspberries.

I’d be choosier with my seed purchases too. Some of the heritage varieties I’ve tried this season have really distinctive flavours, and are interesting to grow for that reason alone.

Am I growing to save money?
From what I found last year, growing veg to save money puts a really interesting spin on things. For example: as tasty as they are, it’s hardly worth using the big lump of space peas require, when you can buy 1kg frozen packs for £1. The same could be said for potatoes, which are as cheap as chips, particularly when bought by the sackload.

For me, expensive tomatoes, soft fruit and squashes would be my weapons of choice, together with cut and come again veg like chard and reliable, space efficient croppers such as beetroot.

Am I growing to be self sufficient?
I’m very keen on this idea, but I’m not sure I’m meticulous or organised enough! I love a spreadsheet, but to ensure a steady flow of food all year round I’d need planting plans and successional sowings coming out of my ears.

I’d need an eye on the whole year too, so sowings of under rated winter greens like kale and chard, and spring dependables such as purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens will be getting as much focus as the much celebrated summer treats.

A steady crop of good storers, like squashes, and freezers, like French beans will be important to me as well.

Are you growing for fun?
The the shackles are off and I’ll just go for it, buying and sowing anything I fancy. I won’t worry about plans; just getting out there and growing. If plants die, well, there is always next year.

If I’m growing for fun, then the easy and attractive plants will probably be the ones I choose. Failure isn’t fun, after all. Summer fruits, bright pink radishes, multicoloured salad leaves, bold beetroot and French beans are all really entertaining and reliable fruit and veg to grow.

Potatoes are great fun to harvest, digging around like a treasure hunt. Courgettes are easy, but best of all, can sometimes grow noticeably between morning and night. Mangetout and peas can be eaten raw straight from the plant too, and I love the idea of harvesting these fruit and veg as a way of getting a little ‘un involved in the plot.

I don’t want to overcomplicate my Patch from Scratch growing, but I do want to make the most of my space. I’ll probably want to incorporate parts of all of the above elements into my growing ideas and plans, so pondering the questions before I start is certainly helping me focus the mind, and hopefully give me better harvests come next year.

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  1. StevieJuly 31, 2012 at 1:24 pmReply

    I’m moving house and this is a great post to get me thinking along the same lines as you. I’m not hugely experienced and only have 3 years or so of experience but thinking about what you want is a much better start to planning a garden. Good Luck, can’t wait to see what you decide to do! x

  2. 5ollyAugust 2, 2012 at 3:56 amReply

    Fun. That’s the only reason I do it. I have more fun up the allotment than anywhere else. I suppose that makes me a bit of a saddo.

  3. Jono

    JonoAugust 2, 2012 at 6:00 amReplyAuthor

    Thanks for the comments both.

    Looking forward to see how you get on too Stevie. Sounds like you’re going to have a lot of fun.

    Olly – Well sad. But then aren’t we all.

  4. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » A Patch From Scratch: Thoughts on Starting Out Part 1 – InfluencesAugust 3, 2012 at 6:14 amReply

    [...] A Patch From Scratch: Thoughts on Starting Out Part 1 – Why Am I Growing? [...]

  5. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » A Patch From Scratch: Thoughts on Starting Out Part 3 – Exploring Your PatchAugust 7, 2012 at 7:33 pmReply

    [...] A Patch From Scratch: Thoughts on Starting Out Part 1 – Why Am I Growing? [...]

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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