Sowing the seeds of summer

So first official grow blog for me. And I’m hoping to cover a few things. Firstly this year’s goals, followed by the varieties and then the method of attack.
So without further due, let’s get started.

For the few of you who didn’t know for 2 seasons I had an allotment. Not a great size one, it was classed as a quarter plot which translated into a space around 20m x 10m. It was over-run with every weed known to man but over 2 seasons I got it to be very productive.

Then last year a few things changed which forced me to spend less time down there and as a result it got too much. Disappointed, I came up with the plan to grow at home like the good old days. I mean the benefits are endless. More time to grow, family get involved, no travelling, easier management… the list goes on.

On-top of this, growing in your garden has phased out vastly in the past few years, but in my opinion is one of the most valuable assets you can have. It’s also easier than people think.

So September 16 I started to plot and build which I’m hoping will be the start of a good future. I’m very fortunate to have a south facing garden which gets between 5-7 hours of full sun (when we have it!) in the winter and around 12 hours in the summer. The spot also happens to be the bottom right corner which is also very handy.

Dimensions of the box are 3.6 x 3.6m resulting in 12.96m2 of growing space or 139sqft!


The box is arranged as a keyhole design allowing me to gain access to the middle section. It’s a little wide at the back and right hand side for access from both sides but nothing a plank of wood can’t resolve.

The box itself is built using the no-dig method and is made up of cardboard, leaves, grass clippings & farmyard manure to a total depth of 1ft.

Perfect rich soil ready for growing in.


So after all this as you can guess I have a few key milestones I want to achieve:

Organic

At least 100kg of food

A wide selection of food

Season long growing

 

So let’s expand on them a little bit.

 

Organic

Simple. I want all of my food to be grown using both organic & sustainable methods. No chemicals. All fertilisers I need will be made using 3 ingredients. Nettle, comfrey & seaweed. Simples.

 

 

At least 100kg of food

More of a challenge of my growing skills rather than a goal. I want to help demonstrate that a small space can yield a large amount of food if planned correctly. My ultimate goal will be to inspire you to do the same.

 

 

A wide selection of food

Rather than my usual crop of broccoli, sprouts, potatoes, carrots and parsnips I want to experiment with a much wider variety of crops. From pumpkins grown vertical (for my first ever time) to trying new varieties such as Romanesco, I want to try it all. After all the experience is the best part.

 

 

Season long growing

One of my main goals this year. Every year I have a mad season where I grow a lot of food in one go and then the plot dies back. Rather than an all or nothing growing season I want to focus on a more consistent crop, meaning smaller more frequent sowings. Add to this seasonal varieties and there’s no reason I can’t be picking fresh veg in winter J

 

And last of all I want to pick my Christmas dinner. Yes I know its January but it’s all in the preparation!

 

So what am I growing?

 

Carrots – Nantes

Peas – Douce Provence

Broccoli – Calabrese F1

Cabbage – January King

Parsnips – Gladiator

Onions – Turbo (Sets)

Kale – Dwarf Curled

Beetroot – Bolt hardy

Tomatoes – Montello F1 bush variety

Pumpkins – Jack be little

Sprouts – Flower sprouts & Red Bull

Courgettes

Garlic

 

Not a bad list I would say 😉

 

The method of attack:

 

Ok so I have a basic plan for this, some of which has been highlighted above. I believe that if I plan a little more into sowing times there’s no reason why I shouldn’t accomplish what I want. The biggest factor I can see is space. As you can imagine I will be cropping quite close. For this I have a plan. For years I have devilled into the fascinating world of square foot gardening.

I have a separate blog detailing the method.

By using the simple guide for spacing, if done correctly, I will be on to a winner.

Remember to follow me on twitter @homegrownwxm or Facebook plot44organics for up to date posts 

 

Steve

 

 

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Why so square…

Why So square..


Square foot method

Square foot gardening. The art of growing a large amount of crops in a small space. This is one of my favourite ways to grow. Originally created by Mel Bartholomew, Square foot gardening is a method that allocates a set number of plants per square foot in a grid arrangement.

 

The idea is simple. To grow as much as you can in a small area. Benefits also include leaving little space for weeds to grow, which is always a benefit.

 

I must admit when I first discovered this method, I was a bit sceptical. The idea of growing a large amount of veg in a small area raised various questions for me. “How is this possible?”, “What if they done get enough nutrients?”

To understand how this can be implemented we first need to look at the reasons behind this. Mel came up with the idea in the 1970’s as a solution to creating a productive and easy to manage solution to growing. Tired of the traditional growing methods, the square foot method was a direct counter to highlight the inefficiencies.

This method quickly gained popularity as the ‘new’ and ‘upcoming’ way to grow and is still widely used today.

Spacing.

There are a few rules to follow, certain crops have a limited amount that can be planted in a group. Depending on what you want to plant, there can be as many as 16 plants in one square foot. That may seem a lot but rest assured it works.

There are various websites with chart layout, pre-plans etc but one of the most useful I have found is Gardeners  They have a fantastic selection of pre-planned gardens, all of which are perfectly labelled and well thought out.

I would definitely recommend checking it out.

So what are the benefits?

One of the main benefits here is reduced use of water due to plants being in one concentrated area. Water saving can be taken to the next level by using drip irrigation if required.

Another great benefit is the ability to grow in a very limited space. This is perfect for any back garden or disused area of you allotment, so why not give it a go?


So what’s the plan?

Behind every method lies a tried and tested way of doing it. But being me, I have combined two of the best methods I have used to create my own way of doing things. I use both the NoDig method & Square foot method to give me the best foundations for growing. I also use Interplanting to maximise the potential of each crop. The result, very vibrant plants with reduced pests. Win, Win!

Keep me up to date with all of your progress on @homegrownwxm

Preperation is key 

Being a No-Dig gardener, Soil preparation for me is a very simple task. Every year the same look of disbelief and confusion appears on people’s faces when asked about my growing methods.
Long gone are the days of relentlessly digging away to create a nice tilth only to find a few months later you’re back to square one. Many people walk around with a spade ready to go. Me, I walk around with a rake.

Although confusing to many people, the idea of No-Dig gardening can be traced back to ancient times. The process involves a layering or ‘lasagne’ effect rather than the traditional digging. There are a few reasons behind this.

Organic matter left on the surface is a natural process that you will see throughout the world. Just go down to your local forest and see the way trees dispose of their leaves which compost in place. You will also see that there is a LOT of microbial activity going on.

No-Dig is a way of preserving this structure and using it to our advantage. Despite various myths about the soil needing ‘aeration’, gardening this way allows the soil to develop into a perfect state.

Brimming with beneficial bacteria, your crops will be in a better position to utilise the vitamins and minerals available which will lead to a better quality crop.

So you’re probably thinking, “That’s good and all but what about weeds?”.. Well good news on that front too. Various weeds can be a real pain and not all can be eradicated, but for the vast majority this method actually does a good job of controlling them.

Ever noticed that after you have dug an area over weeds magically turn up? Annoying isn’t it. This is due to the disturbance of those pesky weed seeds that stay lingering ready to pounce.

By using this method you are effectively putting a blanket over the soil which also keeps the annoying weed seeds at bay and stops them surfacing. Result? Less chance for them to attack.

Admittedly nothing is 100% effective, however why not give it a go and see if you gain any benefit from it? And your tools will thank you for it.

This year, I started a new plot at home. The area I chose for this was the unused, often neglected corner of a garden which is in full sunlight from dusk until dawn. It was over-run with Dock leaves, Couch grass, annual weeds and ground elder. Sounds fantastic doesn’t it!


Contrary to this I wasn’t fazed. I lay down a layer of cardboard, grass clippings (around 2 inches), leaves (around 2 inches) and well-rotted horse manure (around 6 inches) in autumn. That’s right no digging of the weeds beforehand, just straight on top. The results? Well, the pictures speak for themselves.

You can follow my journey on Facebook plot44organics or Twitter @homegrownwxm.