What Shall We Grow?

January 2021. On the allotment.

A blank sheet! Or, rather, an empty glasshouse and some vacant land. What an opportunity! Yet – how daunting – where do we start? Well ORGANIC it must be!

Of course it would be crazy to try to grow too many different types of vegetables to begin with, but over time, with a fair wind and lots of hard work, and enough space, it’s amazing what we could achieve. Here are some suggestions from which we can select the most popular to start with.

In the GLASSHOUSE: salad crops.

  • Lettuce – in sequence, grown from seed in plugs, planting them out every week or so to avoid a glut.
  • Tomatoes – large, medium and small, selecting the tastiest varieties.
  • Cucumber – one plant can produce dozens of cucumbers and small fruits are best; one of the femspots would be a good variety.
  • Rocket, a peppery fellow but good in salads.
  • Watercress, which grows well in damp soil and can be picked frequently.

More ideas for the GLASSHOUSE:

  • Peppers – red bullhorn are a good variety.
  • Chillies – red Thai is a good one.
  • Aubergine, or eggplant, which grows well in a glasshouse.
  • Small amounts of other vegetables to get an early crop, such as broad beans, peas and spinach, with the main crop grown outdoors.

Outside, in the WEST BED, which is less sunny than the east bed, so root crops to start with.

  • Potatoes. An embarrassment of varieties – it depends on what you want them for – salads, boiled, mashed ,roasted, baked, or just general purpose, they’re the most versatile of veggies.
  • Beetroot, sow bolt-resistant in March/April, for later use sow May-July.
  • Carrot, again can be spread across the season with different varieties.
  • Parsnip, sometimes difficult to germinate but worth persevering.
  • Jerusalem artichoke. Flatulence-inducing, but makes wonderful soup.

In the sunnier EAST BED.

  • Broad beans, wonderful early veg, can be eaten whole when very new.
  • Butternut squash, which is prolific and can be stored if you’re careful.
  • Courgettes will turn into marrows unless you harvest them regularly.
  • French beans, earlier than runner beans and very versatile.
  • Leeks sown in a seed box, plant singly in a hole which you fill with water.
  • Peas like broad beans can be eaten whole when young, but delicious at any time when freshly picked.
  • Runner beans, scarlet or white flowers, bumble bees love them.
  • Spinach beet is the best variety and lasts for a long time, pick regularly.
  • Sweet corn, plant in a square, not a row, for maximum germination.

Brassicas are difficult to grow because they get eaten by caterpillars, slugs and sparrows, so they have to be protected, but we could try a few.

  • Brussel Sprouts, grown in the summer, harvested in autumn.
  • Cabbage, spring, summer, winter – take your choice.
  • Cauliflower, difficult to grow well, small varieties probably best.
  • Purple sprouting broccoli is a winter crop harvested from January to May.

The onion family is another opportunity, garlic, onions, spring onions and shallots, but you can get such good locally grown products that they’re probably only worth growing when you’ve exhausted all the other vegetable varieties.

And of course herbs – Basil, Fennel, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, to name but a few. This is a specialist field and could be the province of a herb enthusiast if we’re lucky enough to find one in our midst!

Shall we establish some perennial crops?

  • Asparagus – a massive challenge for the organic grower, difficult to establish and weeding is a nightmare, but………what a reward, if only!
  • Globe artichokes – beautiful sculptural plants with wonderful foliage and rewarding edible seedheads. Can be propagated by planting suckers.
  • Rhubarb takes time to establish and shouldn’t be picked in the first year, and only lightly in the second, after which you get a delicious result.

And what about fruit?

  • Strawberries, Cambridge Favourite are hard to beat and easy to establish.
  • Raspberries are trickier to establish than strawberries and they need supporting with wires and posts, but if you grow different varieties you can harvest them from midsummer until October.

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