I’ve chosen my seeds, prepared the ground and now I’m armed with my paper and pencil (or laptop and garden planner!), raring to plan this year’s plot.
Trouble is, I can hear Jan in the back of my mind. ‘Jono, have you remembered this?’ These are my tips for planning the plot, and mostly derived from her tapping me on the shoulder.
Would raised beds be a good idea?
Is your earth stoney or clay-based? Some veg, such as carrots and parsnips, get the hump if planted in such conditions and end up short and stubby. I built a raised bed for my carrots, and am growing parsnips in containers this year to try and counter the unsuitable soil.
Have I measured the plot properly?
I was lucky enough to borrow a surveyor’s wheel a few weeks back so I could get accurate measurements of my plot. I got a few odd stares as I wheeled it around my beds, but I can now plan pretty accurately how many plants I can squeeze in.
Keep families together & think about crop rotation.
Put the legumes, brassicas and root veg in their own beds, as they will have similar growing requirements and make soil preparation easier. These three groups also form the basis of a simple crop rotation sequence.
Is there enough room between paths to not trample on plants?
In my keenness to fit as much as possible on my plot, I’ve often overlooked the small but significant matter of where I stand to pick and water. When you’re the flexibly-challenged lummox that I am, it’s very easy to wipe out a whole plant in one awkward stumble.
Think about the sun aspect.
Some stuff needs more light than others. Fruiting veg, such as tomatoes, courgettes and squashes, need loads of sun, so don’t do what I did one year and plant your courgettes behind a row of climbing runner beans.
Leave space for successional sowing.
One thing that I’ve vowed to get better at this year is sowing seeds so that I have a steady stream of veg through the year, rather than all at the same time. Instead of planting full rows, I’m going to sow in thirds, three weeks apart, so I get veg at a steady pace. I cannot eat that amount of cauliflower again…
Try planting quick veg with slow veg.
I love the resourcefulness of allotment growing, and especially ingenious ways of making use of small spaces. Last year I put fast growing Sparkler radishes in between the slow growing winter crops such as Brussells and cabbage. This year I’m keen to try some other combos that I’ve seen on neighbouring plots, like lettuce in between caulis
Having spare space is not always bad. If something is obviously struggling in one spot on the plot, it’s always handy to be able to cut the ropes and try putting it somewhere else. I’ve had plants sulk on me, yet be perfectly happy when the same type were sowed in another place.
Is each bed ready for what you want to put in?
Are the manure-loving runner beans being sown in the well-manured bed? That’s one thing I’m trying to prepare for this year with my runner bean trench.
Use an online garden planner?
You can always take the convenient way out, and use an online garden planner. Growveg.com gives growing advice on 130 vegetables, fruits and herbs, as well as month by month option to help with succession planting.
The planner will also estimate how many plants you can cram in to a row, before creating you a planting plan adapted to your own regional climate and setting up a email reminders in case you’re the forgetful type.
Of course, these are only my experiences, based on nothing but trial and error, but hopefully they’ll be of some use. Are you planning your plot at the moment? Got any tips that you use? Let me know in the comments box below!