The Plot Plan for the coming growing season has become something of a tradition on the blog. It is one of my favourite posts to write, and my Plot Plan for 2011 remains the third most visited page in Real Men Sow history.
Back in 2011, I used Microsoft Excel, but while I like to think my gardening skills have progressed, it looks like my plot planning ones have gone in the opposite direction. I haven’t moved on to any of the fancy software I reviewed two years ago. For 2013’s plan, I’ve opted for good old fashioned paper, ruler, and colouring pencils instead.
The plan is to a scale of 1cm: 1 foot, and I’m quite proud of it. It might well be the artiest thing I’ve ever done. A PDF of the plan can be viewed by clicking here.
This year is different of course. I’m growing in my garden and not my allotment, so space is at a premium, and the veg you see on the plan have been prioritised for growing using my Veg Prioritisation Spreadsheet. I’ll be using a few new tactics to counter the reduced growing space too; the most ambitious of which is an attempt to grow squashes vertically.
Squashes have always done really well at the plot, but they take up lots of room. Some varieties, like butternut, can climb, so to save space I’m going to erect a structure parallel to the fence using some posts and canes I’ve salvaged from the allotment.
I’m quite nervous of failure with this method. We grow lots of squashes as they keep all through the winter, making them a staple in our house. I’m looking to get 6 plants along with the 13ft long structure, with 3 outdoor cucumber plants growing up the last 3 feet.
Another space-saving method I’ll be utilising is the trusty wigwam. Gardeners have been growing runner beans up wigwams since the year dot, but I’m going to try peas and mangetout this way too. I’ve had to look for climbing varieties, but I’ve decided on trying Telephone pea and Golden Sweet mangetout. Both plants grow to 6ft and are available from heritage seed supplier, Real Seeds.
Growing in Blocks and Successional Sowing
I’ve also done some research into the efficiency of growing in blocks, rather than rows. The theory is that you can cram more veg into blocks, so I’ve set my courgettes, beets, French and broad beans, pak choi, and tomatoes out in this way. They might look a little like rows in the plan, but that’s because the compact nature of the space isn’t really reflected, and I’ll be planting successionally, rather than one big row.
I need to get on top of successional planting this year. In the past, I’ve had the luxury of big beds, so I could just pop seeds in willy nilly. Now, French bean seedlings have got to be ready to go straight in after the broad beans finish, and pak choi needs to follow my first beetroot harvest.
I didn’t think I was going to have enough room for any potatoes, but the plan suggests I might get one row in. At the moment, I’m undecided whether to plant a row or use the space for something else and try growing potatoes in florist buckets. Again, this space-saving method is a new one on me, but if I did go down this road, I’d choose pink fir apple. They were very productive on the allotment in 2012, and I got an excellent harvest of potatoes per plant.
I’ve also left a gap in between where any potatoes might go and the pea wigwams. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons. As it is my first year, and I’m not completely confident of fitting everything in, I think it is a good idea to have a gap to fall back on. The French beans might grow wider than I thought, for example, pushing everything across a couple of feet.
I might also decide that I want more peas and runners than potatoes, and need the space for successional sowings of these veg. And as I’ve learnt from the allotment, there is always a chance veg you’ve grown on a whim that needs a home.