My allotment journal for 2017 has been completed, and in these drifting, limbo days between Christmas and New Year my mind (while not having to think about work) has been pondering over plans for the new growing year. It’s a good time to take stock, think back over what has worked or not for you in the past year, and make some fresh plans. So here’s a summary of mine.
I had good success with red varieties this year and discovered that the slugs and snails are less attracted to them. So I plan to grow more red lettuce, carrots and mange-tout peas, a revert back to red Brussels Sprouts (green ones get terrible whitefly, though the red don’t suffer as much) and I’ll try some red broad beans as I’ve heard they don’t get attacked by pests as much either. Maybe also red kale (I already grow one called red Russian which has a red vein but greenish leaves) and maybe some red dwarf beans.
Chillies: a few (and I mean a few – see photo below) plants of Ring of Fire from home saved seed, and then some other varieties have been purchased: Ancho, Jalapeño, one called Onza and another called Zimbabwe black – just because the plant looks beautiful. All from Premier Seeds Direct (premierseedsdirect.co.uk).
Squash: I’ve grown Sweet Dumplings the last 2 years, and they are tasty but a pain to peel, so I want something easier to prepare. I might go back to butternut, but I want something tasty and good to store. Suggestions welcome. I’m tempted by Crown Prince, but it’s a bit of a whopper.
Potatoes: blight resistant varieties grown last year were indeed blight free, but succumbed instead to eelworm and slug damage, and they weren’t that tasty. So I’m going back to tried and tested varieties, Anya, Desiree and Charlottes.
Beans: More Borlotti beans grown from saved stock, and I’d like to grow something similar to a kidney bean as we love them, so I’ve gone for Vietch’s Climbing from Beans and Herbs (beansandherbs.co.uk) along with a couple of other heirloom varieties. This company is great if you (like me) like growing beans for shelling, they have an amazing collection in the heirloom section.
New crops: kohl rabi, and I’m thinking about trying chickpeas. I do buy and eat a lot of chickpeas, so it would be lovely if I could grow them, but I’ve heard mixed results.
From home saved seed (varieties unknown): leeks, sweetcorn, spinach and basil.
Cucumbers, courgettes, parsnips, beetroot and broccoli will all be the same as last year.
I’ll be experimenting with a fast growing tomato variety (literally called tomato 42 days, I hope it does what it says on the pack) and maybe grow more of last years Defiance that stood up well to blight. Overwintering garlic and onions are all growing well already, and some more shallots (Longor) will be purchased and planted in the spring, these were fantastic last year, and I might plant the remaining ones too.
Flowers: as usual there’ll be cosmos and calendulas, nasturtiums (like it or not, I may have to weed these out a bit) and cerinthe major. A few cornflowers and hopefully some sunflowers (though I never seem to have much luck with sunflowers). But mainly new this year will be lots of dahlias. I have grown dahlias before, but only the odd variety or two that got a bit lost in among everything else, but I want a small bed dedicated to them this year so I can grow lots of different varieties. And I need to try better at keeping the tubers overwinter, I have dug up and lost so many in previous years by not storing them properly.
So apart from drawing up a ‘what to plant where’ plan, I think that’s all. It sounds like a lot of work from where I’m standing, but it’s no more or less than I’ve grown before. I took on my plot in April 2008, so next year will be my 10 year anniversary. I don’t know where those 10 years have gone, but I do know I’ve learned a huge amount, eaten some delicious fruit and vegetables, made some lovely friends, benefitted physically, emotionally and mentally, and generally enjoyed all of them. So here’s to 10 more.
Here’s a few things I learned this year: