Garden Planning 2016

I love this time of year! When it’s cold, dark and everyone’s a little bit miserable, it’s a great time to snuggle up in front of the fire on a dark night and start planning the year ahead in the vegetable garden! I’m making this sound very poetic aren’t I!

I always create a list of the vegetables I want to grow and do a rough guide of where I’m planting each one by using the Growveg.com app, but I have to be honest I never stick 100% to my plan. I vow that I’ll grow everything from seed but then end up also buying plants from the garden centre; and of course every year, some things I’ve attempted just don’t come off!

I create my wishlist of vegetables first, then plot where to plant them. The app is really helpful with this as if you use the same plan year on year, it’ll highlight in red where you’ve situated a particular crop previously so you can avoid planting in the same bed in consecutive years.

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When I’m deciding what to grow, I start by listing the vegetables that we eat most frequently, or that will be most useful to us (and our family and friends!) Then I consider what else I want to achieve from the growing season, usually it’s to try something different or unusual or hard to grow, but this year I’m going for productivity over ambition!

We’ve got a new little mouth to feed and I want to make sure Henry eats as many fruits and vegetables from the garden as we can possibly grow, so sucessional sowing is the key this year! I need a constant supply of staples such as carrots, tomatoes, beans and courgettes, as well as introducing different tastes to him throughout the season!

Finally, a #teething aid that’s actually effective! #carrot #weaning #blw

A photo posted by Helen Lee (@pickleshlee) on Jan 13, 2016 at 12:26pm PST

 

Here’s my list for this year:

  • carrots
  • courgettes
  • runner beans
  • french beans
  • potatoes
  • cauliflower
  • sprouting broccoli
  • sprouts
  • lettuce
  • radish
  • kohl rabi
  • pumpkins
  • parsnips
  • tomatoes
  • chillies
  • spinach
  • leeks

I’m not going completely ‘straight’ when it comes to plant varieties this year, there’ll definitely be some purple carrots thrown into the mix and my one experiment is going to be with ‘flower sprouts‘ which we’ve had from the supermarket a few times and they’re very tasty! I’m also going to make an effort to grow from seed as much as possible, rather than buying plug plants.

Here’s my planting plan for 2016:

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The other thing I love about the Growveg app is the fact that you get a ‘cheat sheet’ (my terminology not theirs!) giving you rough planting and harvesting times! Of course you need to refer to the specific growing instructions for whatever varieties you’re planting, but it’s a handy place to start!

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Designing and Planning a Vegetable Garden

At the time that we bought our house with its overgrown wilderness of a garden, we had no idea how much outdoor space we actually had, but we were certain that whatever the size, a large part of it would be taken up by raised beds and become a productive vegetable plot.

Once we’d cleared the overgrowth I started to map out different designs using growveg.com‘s garden planning software (this is by far the best software / app I’ve come across for this job, and I’ve tried a few!)

We allocated some space for a new driveway as we previously had no parking area, and we knew we wanted a new greenhouse to feature somewhere, but apart from that it was a blank canvas.

This was my first design:

Back GardenWe were very fortunate to have some expert help in the form of Monty Don visiting our garden as part of a TV show we had agreed to feature in, who advised us to make a feature of the greenhouse and not hide it away in the back corner. He also questioned why we felt the need for a lawn and we conceded that it was because, well, it’s ‘what people have in the garden’ – but that’s not really what we’re about!

I then went through various adaptations of the original plan, all quite rigid and angular, until it dawned on me that I really wanted a ‘cottage garden’ feel, and that simply didn’t work with straight paths and symmetrical beds.

A revised plan that was ditched:

Revised_Garden_1

I threw all the angles out of the window and created curved pathways (which also lead exactly to where we’ll want to go, and prevent us taking short cuts across the garden) laid out the raised beds in a very informal pattern and included different shapes and sizes so it would look like the garden developed ‘organically’. We decided we did still want some lawn area but that it wouldn’t be the dominant feature of the garden.

Here’s the final ‘on screen’ design before we started work:

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 14.01.23A lot changed once we began the physical work; we switched the patio area and the lawn area round, moved the chickens over to the back right hand side where there was more room, and created a raised terrace area at the back of the garden to catch the last of the evening sun, which also meant moving the compost bins to behind the greenhouse – a much more sensible position!

Here’s a shot of the final result:

IMG_7436

I’m in the process of creating individual posts about various aspects of the back garden to go into more detail about how we achieved the final look:

Building the Greenhouse

Constructing the Raised Beds

Creating the Path

Introducing the Chickens