February is the month when we start to think about what to grow in a vegetable garden or allotment for summer harvesting. Whether you are new to GYO or an old hand looking to grow something new, here are some planning considerations.
What to grow: firstly understand why you want to GYO. Is it for the fresh picked flavour? No point in growing and storing maincrop potatoes but a few
salad potatoes dug and cooked within minutes are a taste revelation. How about unusual veg? Look for ‘heritage’ varieties of everyday crops like tomatoes or give space to veg that shops rarely stock such as Salsify, easy to grow and rare in the UK. If you like salads plan to grow a row of Rocket. It is ready in a few weeks, can be succession sown for the whole summer and is very reliable. Also it is as cheap to buy a packet of 500 seeds than a bag of pre-packed rocket leaves!
How much to grow: not every vegetable yields the same volume of its crop so you do not need the same number of seeds or plants for everything. For example, runner beans can yield up to 5 times the crop per plant than garden peas. So you may decide to grow a wigwam of 6 bean plants but two whole rows of peas. If you want to harvest 30 carrots then you need to sow (at least) 30 carrot seeds but think about the consequences of growing 30 courgette plants: your entire veg plot would be covered and you could feed the neighbourhood with courgettes.
Finally, be realistic about how much time you will spend in the vegetable garden sowing, transplanting, weeding, thinning and watering before you dig up another stretch of lawn or take on a full sized allotment. Better to be successful with a few choice crops than over commit and end up stressed and frustrated. Not the point of gardening at all.