Saturday, 14 November 2015

An idiot's guide to planning next year's veg plot ...

After you've read this short post, you might consider that it's simply an exercise in the bleedin' obvious, but we've been thinking about which vegetables and, more importantly, how many of each we should grow next year.

It came about because we recently planted some overwintering garlic for next year, and since the seed cloves were sold in batches of ten we had to decide how many to buy.

In the end, we used some very simple reasoning and arithmetic.  We probably use a whole garlic bulb every two or three weeks, so if we could grow and store enough for a year then we'd need around 20.  So this is the quantity we bought and planted....

Extending this simple reasoning to other vegetables, it forms the bones of a plan of sorts :-

  • Onions; say we use around 2 per week, therefore should we grow 100 ?   Not necessarily, because there's a storage issue here - in May of this year, we were still eating the onions we harvested in the autumn of 2014, but in terms of quality they were fading very fast.   So if we were to grow enough for use during the period of August to April, i.e. 32 weeks, then say 65 plants would be a better number.   There's another factor to consider, too - since we'll be growing from seed, then we'll actually sow 75 to allow for some of them failing to germinate.
  • Leeks; let's say a similar amount, i.e. 75 seeds for 65 plants.  The leeks actually stay in the ground over winter, but we'd be looking to dig them up anyway in the spring ready for the next lot. 

These few crops are the most important ones to think about for now, because we'll likely be sowing our onion and leek seeds between Christmas and the new year.

Over the next couple of months, we'll further develop this idea for the rest of next year's vegetables, taking into account the expected yields and shelf lives etc for each - I'll probably do this in a spreadsheet or similar.  Sad, I know ! 

To throw other factors into the mix, there are also some crops that we've had no real success with over the last couple of years, such as broccoli and cauliflowers, so we'll probably not attempt them again next year.   

Then there's those vegetables of which we seem to grow far too many every year, and just end up wasting most of the crop, such as lettuces - no matter how much we try successional sowing techniques, the later sowings always seem to catch up the earlier ones and we end up with everything ready for picking at the same time.

So next year, instead of spreading random seeds around over any piece of spare ground we can find, we'll just attempt those vegetables we can grow reliably, and in specific quantities that we can actually use.  

However, we'll still find space for experiments with new stuff to grow, only on a smaller scale ...


  1. speaking as a (garden) idiot I like your reasoning and workings.... overproducing and therefore always eating old food seems to contradict the point of growing veg - to get it as fresh as possible as well as cost saving of course;-)

  2. Great ideas and as a garden newbie also I appreciated the post!
    We have nowhere near enough space in our garden to work out yearly usage and go from there unfortunately, but it does highlight the point that planning is needed. Last year I just sowed randomly but may well make my own spreadsheet or at least draw out the plot/pots/areas I can grow and try to get more stuff and more useful stuff grown in the limited space we have.

    Are there any other newbie gardening resources you would recommend, in particular for those with limited space?


  3. There's some useful stuff in the comments and answers on this forum :-

  4. Thanks for the reply, will check it out!

  5. Jerusalem artichokes store themselves helpfully in the ground all winter. They make fine soup, 50:50 with potatoes. Add bacon or whatever to taste.

    We find potatoes worth growing because that way you get to choose the varieties, rather than putting up with whatever the supermarkets sell, often labelled unhelpfully.

    We don't bother with the other root vegetables, except radishes and, if you class them that way, garlic. Our soil is no good for carrots, and we just buy swedes, onions, and parsnips as required. Maybe we should think again.