What to Grow

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The crops you choose to grow should be based on the number of mouths to feed, the space available and your family’s tastes.

Start by making a wish list of all the things that you would like to grow, and split these into 2 categories: essential crops and desirable crops. This list should not be limited to vegetables either, include fruits, trees and even flowers for cutting. The wonderful thing about allotments is that you can grow (within reason) pretty much anything you want!

You can then plan your crops into your allotment, starting with those on the essential list, and then fitting in the desirables in order of preference if there is room. If you are really short of space then consider focusing on crops that you may not be able to buy in the supermarket, or those that are more expensive. For example onions take up a ,lot of growing space and are cheap to buy, so the space could be better used to grow strawberries, which are both expensive to buy, and taste so much better fresh from the plot.

Once you have your list of crops to grow, the next stage (This is a favourite pastime of mine when indoors in winter and the plot is too cold or wet to do any real gardening) is to go through the seed catalogues and select the varieties you want to grow. There are some great catalogues available that you can order online… and once you order them once you will usually get sent the new ones as soon as they are published!

Look out for the following traits when selecting varieties:

Flavour / Eating Quality

This in my opinion is the most important trait. Do you prefer strong garlic, or mild? What about stringless beans? Waxy potatoes or soft and fluffy?  The choice is yours, grow what you like to eat!

 

Tolerance

Select varieties that suit your local conditions. Grow hardier varieties in the north, short rooted carrots in very heavy soils and so on.

 

Appearance / Size

I always grow some giant pumpkins for a bit of fun. You may be interested in entering your veg to shows, or just want to try some different varieties – purple carrots for example, or yellow beetroot.

 

Time to maturity / planting calendar

Some crops need planting early and mature late and so take up the ground for a long period of time, others can be sown and cropped within 3 weeks (radishes for example). You should also consider whether you want to crop all year round – summer cabbages or winter cabbages… perhaps a bit of both?

 

Performance

Most catalogue companies will have tested the performance of crops and will give you some detail as to how heavy they crop and so on.

 

Keeping time

How well does your crop keep? Some varieties are better for keeping – for example maincrop potatoes can be stored over winter, but earlies and salad potatoes need to be used immediately after digging up.

 

Heritage Varieties or Hybrid F1 Varieties

Some gardeners grow for performance and cropping, and if this is what you are looking for then go for the hybrid varieties. If however you are looking for a more traditional approach, and perhaps some of the more unusual heritage varieties then these are well worth a go. Many of these varieties will disappear altogether if gardeners do not continue to use them.

 

 

These are not the only considerations however. Some plants are supported by having other plants near them. Carrots are susceptible to carrot fly but by planting onions around your carrots, carrot fly have difficulty locating the carrots. This might mean you are growing onions even though you have no use for them, but don’t worry even if none of your neighbours use them, someone on the allotment will always welcome a big bag of onions.

Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!

Website: allotment.uk.com

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