Go find some bargains!

This point in the year is a great time to grab a bargain at your local garden centres and DIY shops. Thinking for the winter and following year ahead you can pick up all sorts of tools and materials that will be sold cheap as it is the wrong season to be selling them.

For example, we have grabbed some mini polytunnels of varying materials that we can use to help warm a patch of soil next year and protect those seedlings next year from frost and predators, and they were better than half price! Fertiliser is another good bargain find, as it’s not used as much this time of the year, so large buckets go cheaply.

So do get hunting now as it’s never too early to start prepping for next year.

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Alliums galore!

This year we planted as much as we could in the way of onions and garlic. Being our first year, we played it relatively safe in the types we went for. We planted white and red onion, shallots and garlic.

They were definitely worth it as we got a tremendous crop from all of them, and not a single one lost. I would love to say we had a secret to the success but it was just the basics of keeping them moist, weed free and giving them a feed of standard fertiliser.

They are certainly a rewarding crop as you don’t have to do too much to keep them alive, and you physically see the crop coming out of the ground!

 

We started them off in trays first in a greenhouse

We started them off in trays first in a greenhouse

Some were 10 times there original size

Some were 10 times their original size

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Not one single onion was lost!

We were told that garlics would produce multiple cloves this time of year, but how wrong they were!

We were told that garlic would produce multiple cloves this time of year, but how wrong they were!

Failing tomatoes

Tomatoes are probably one of the most rewarding crops to grow yourself. Not because they make it cheaper than buying in the shops, we’ve definitely learnt that is not the case this year! But because unlike the shops you get amazing tasting tomatoes and can get all sorts of varieties ranging from beef tomatoes to black cherry tomatoes. For us it was one of the first crops to be allocated space in our plot.

 

We have since learnt the hard way that growing tomatoes outside is a tricky affair.

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Every single tomato in our allotment got blight! Being the first time planting tomatoes we didn’t know you could get blight on tomatoes, and thought maybe we were silly to have planted some next to potatoes, but that turned out not to matter as other tomato crops that were planted nowhere near potatoes got it! So each one has come out.

There is hope for us yet though as we have also planted some in our garden at home. These too are outside but they are isolated from anything else growing in the garden and are planted against a wall in a sheltered area. So far they have an abundance of green tomatoes on them and no sign of blight, so we still have a chance of getting homegrown tomatoes.

So we’ve learnt for next year to invest in some tomato greenhouses, and keep them away from everything! You’ve got to try everything once I guess!

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions www.laboromarketingsolutions.com

A good crop of potatoes

In our first year at the allotment potatoes were a must for us. They can be reasonably hard work at times, but are normally guaranteed to succeed. We planted three varieties, giving us a crop early in the season, mid-season and late season.

Mound up soil as soon as they are at a good height.

Mound up soil as soon as they are at a good height.

 

Before anything we made sure the soil was well turned and fed, and gave our sprouting seed potatoes a good chance to grow before planting them. We made sure that we mounded up the potatoes at every opportunity we had, and kept them well watered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Try and not interfere with your foliage too much while the crop is maturing.

 

We actually missed the flowering of the early season potatoes and didn’t ┬árealise until a few weeks after that they were ready! Luckily they all came out fine and nothing had munched them. This meant that there was a slight overlap with the mid-season potatoes, so we had a lot ready at once!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cut back the foliage when the crop is ready to harden the skins

 

We didn’t want to pick everything at once so went about digging out every other potato plant. We were then told that cutting back the foliage of the potato plant would help harden the skins of the potatoes, so we gave it a go in the hope that it would help the potatoes keep longer. Since then all the potatoes have been picked and they all came out great, so this is a technique we will definitely use next year.

 

 

 

 

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We did have problems with the late season variety of potato. Almost 75% got munched by creatures, and they came out very small. We think we may have put them in the ground a bit soon, exposing them for a longer period when they wouldn’t normally be active. But it might also be that everything is becoming ready a month early at the moment!

 

But part of growing your own is having failure among success. Even with the last batch munched we got around 10kg of potatoes to last us!

 

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions. www.laboromarkeingsolutions.com

 

Sorting out a rotation plan for your plot

In my last post I brushed on the topic of a rotation plan for you plot. I wanted to go into a bit more detail about this as it’s also new to me, and I think it is a very important base to a successful crop.

A rotation plan is essentially a system which moves the vegetable and fruit groups around your plot each year. You can get anything from a 3 year to 5 year rotation system, which basically means it would be 5 years until the same vegetable group would be in the location where it started in year 1.

This is done for 2 main reasons. Firstly it stops your soil being exhausted by the same crop taking the same nutrients each year. It also reduces the risk of disease establishing and becoming difficult to get rid of. So you can see why this is so important to the success of your plot.

Below are the vegetable groups you will be using in your plot, and what vegetables are included in each group.

Vegetable families

You can be flexible with how you design your rotation. If you have a decent size then try to go for the 5 year rotation plan. Our plot is twenty by 5 metres, which is plenty big enough to fit that in. If perhaps you are doing this in your back garden or a smaller space, then don’t feel like you have to squeeze it all in. Go for a 3 year rotation plan, or just ensure that you do not plant the same crop in the same place each year. And of course if you really detest the vegetables in the Brassica group then don’t plant them! Below is an example of a 3 year rotation plan.

Rotation plan

Amongst this you will also be able to sneak in certain crops. Not all crops need to be rotated, and if you find a bit of space then slot them in there. These crops include courgettes and squashes, along with leaves such as lettuce and spinach. These can essentially be fitted into your overall rotation plan, which if you look at my plan below shows how I have achieved this.

Sketch plan of our plot

Lastly, if you have the space then set aside a bed for more permanent crops. There are a variety of crops out there that are perennial , which means they take 2 years to produce anything. These include crops such as asparagus and artichoke.

To summarise; create a rotation plan that suits your plot and your needs. Once decided, separate your plot either by raised beds or paths. Make sure you have a plan drawn up so you know what the next stage is the following year. After all this the next stage is prepping your plot. In my next post I will be looking at what tools are helpful to achieve this.