January can be dull, grey, cold, and wet. It’s hard to get motivated to go outside on days off and at this time of the year that’s perfectly fine! I’ll be visiting my allotment garden to do some digging this afternoon but my first task of the year was planning my summer garden. It’s probably one of the most fun parts of gardening for me – dreaming about warmer days, growing plants, and colourful harvests.
First Step – thinking about my successes/failures and challenges/opportunities
On a cold and dreary evening I sat down on the sofa and thought about what I need to do this year. I’ll be finalising my move from one plot at the Laxey and Lonan Allotment, to a plot at the top of the field. Challenges at my old plot were just too much for me – it’s a struggle to haul things back up the hill; the vacant land below was filled with weeds that were constantly invading my garden; and the land becomes boggy in the winter. That last reason is probably why my row of nearly indestructible raspberries failed to thrive.
Great things about my new plot
My last update on my new plot shows how I’ve covered the soil with black plastic to kill off weeds and protect the soil from winter erosion. There’s a patch left open to the elements and here I have Oca planted. It’s my first season growing them and while you’re supposed to wait for the first frost to dig them up I haven’t actually noticed a frost here at the house. On the hills, yes, and maybe there has been one at the allotment but I haven’t been up since the end of November.
Things I love about it:
- It’s at the top of the field and a short walk from the carpark.
- The former tenant took great care of it and dug and manured it in 2014.
- Perennial fruit and veg is already thriving on the plot: raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries.
- It’s near the shed.
- It’s a chance to start fresh!
Unusual Varieties I’m growing again
I’m a big fan of growing things that can’t easily be purchased in the supermarket. I’m also a fan of growing food that might be more expensive it you did buy it and have decided to avoid growing veg that’s inexpensive or just plain ordinary. No more onions for me and you can bet that maincrop carrots, potatoes, and cabbage are off the menu.
Instead I’m planning on growing a lot of leafy green vegetables and herbs like Pak Choi, coriander (cilantro), Choi Sum, spinach, Kai Lan Chinese Broccoli, and lettuces (links go to Amazon.com). Have you looked at the price of greens recently? I popped into Marks & Spencer yesterday and bought two bags of mixed greens for £3. For that same price you could purchase enough seeds to keep you in the same greens for a month.
Other vegetables I’ve got on my to-grow list are Oca tubers, which are described as a lemony potato that is 100% Blight resistant. For those of you in North America it’s the main reason you have so many citizens of Irish descent. Blight swoops in at the end of summer usually and pretty much decimates your potato and tomato plants leaving the edible bits black and rotten and the green parts withered brown stems.
Saying that, I am going to grow some potatoes. First earlies are just so tasty and usually are able to thrive without interference from Blight. The main crops of Pink Fir Apple and Majestic Purple are tastier than most of the spuds you find in the shop so I’ll probably end up growing them again too.
Other unusual veg I’ll be growing include: Quinoa, Round Courgettes (Zucchini), White Strawberries, Golden Raspberries, and Summer Purple Sprouting Broccoli (links to Amazon.com). The last one is becoming standard allotment fare here but I imagine it might not be so well known elsewhere.
Perennial Fruit & Vegetables
I am a HUGE devotee to perennial produce. These are vegetables and fruits that produce every year with very little work required on the gardener’s side. Fruit trees fall into this category but so do fruit bushes and plants like red currant, rhubarb, and blueberries. All of those are on the menu!
Another perennial that I cannot recommend enough is the hardy Welsh onion. It’s like a cross between chives and green onions and produces from spring to autumn. Thanks to this plant I no longer bother growing green onions. There’s a photo of them above and you can get them going in your own garden either from seed, as I did, or through finding a pal who grows them already. When they’re ready to split their clump, kindly beg them for a small piece to take back to your patch.
My Garden Planner
For all that I love technology, I’m old skool when it comes to my calendar. No online reminders for me or phone apps, just a simple paper calendar that I have pinned above my work station. This calendar is going to be key to my productive summer garden since I’ve used it to create a garden planner.
Part of my planning involved sorting through my current seed packets. On the back of each is a sowing to harvest timing that lets you know how long it takes for your crops to grow before they’re ready for the table – or in the case of cut flowers, until they bloom. Using that information and how much space the veg will roughly take up I’ve made notes on when to re-sow. For most things I’ve decided a four-foot stretch should suffice and that I’ll sow seeds of greens every two weeks in the spring to early summer.
With my plan in place I know what I’d like to grow, how often I need to sow, and also what seeds I’ll need to order. My endeavor isn’t just practical either – I’ve been thinking of creative ways to grow my garden this year and so decided to add my task to my Creativity Jar. Each day this year I’m aiming to do at least one creative thing per day that’s not directly work related. Making soap for Lovely Greens Handmade doesn’t count and I’ll be sharing some of my additions on my Instagram.
It’s now up to the allotment I go today to prepare a row for fruit bushes I’m transplanting and to dig up those Oca. I’m really very curious as to how they’re going to be on the plate!