In Keep Calm and Grow Your Own I was pondering the wisdom of stockpiling a few essentials in case Brexit causes some disruption to our (rather precarious) food supplies, but also thinking about what we could grow next year – to keep us fed in the (probably unlikely) event that those disruptions are going.
The first step to planning next year’s garden is to have a good look at what’s currently in the ground that will provide harvests through the autumn, into the winter, and beyond.
The newly planted perennials bed: Sea beet, Good King Henry and Sea Kale. The dead English Mace in the centre has since been replaced with a nice, healthy chive.
We have 12 raised beds in the back garden, some of which are planted with perennials. I have a bed of wild asparagus, and one of cultivated asparagus. They’re both relatively young, so they will provide small harvests between April and June next year. There’s also a bed of three blueberries, which crop from July through to September. On top of that, I have one bed dedicated to perennial veg, which I have just replanted with Good King Henry, Sea Kale and Sea Beet, all leafy greens that come into their own in the pesky hungry gap/Brexit period in early spring.
One bed of leeks will offer their oniony loveliness from September through until March, and I have a bed of purple sprouting broccoli that crops in March/April (depends a bit on the weather). So we shouldn’t be short on veg on Brexit day!
I had two beds ready for replanting, both of which had been leafy greens. I have planted one with two spare PSB plants, undersown with a mixture of chard, leaf beet, spring onions and radishes. I had some sad looking pea plants indoors, long past their time to be planted out, but I have planted them out in the other bed. They’re tall peas, and I’ve given them a nice A-frame to clamber up. I’ve also sown some dwarf peas underneath them. Those seeds were old, so neither of them may come to anything, but if not I have some more pea seeds I can sow there in a few weeks.
That leaves me with four beds that are cropping now, and will be free later in the year. I’m growing summer squash, French beans, potatoes and a mixture of basil and carrots. As those harvests are lifted I will be planting over-wintering onions, broad beans, hardy peas and garlic. In the old garden I used to be pretty self-sufficient in garlic. My cloves weren’t prize-winning, by any means, but they fed us and I had enough to save and replant for the following year. Here, I’ve had two complete crop failures in two years. The garlic is badly bothered by rust (the onions and leeks are barely touched). I wasn’t going to try again, but BadgerMash has had success by planting garlic deeper, so I am going to try that this year.
Even in a bad rust year I still get a decent crop. I've planted up to six inches deep and try to get the cloves in as early as possible.
— Badger Mash (@BadgerMash) 4 July 2018
We’re in quite a good position, because I like having full beds through the winter, and always plan a succession of crops through the year. For people who don’t do that, having crops ready to harvest in spring is a bit tricky – a lot of the overwintering crops have to be in the ground for many months. A quick solution is to look in the garden centre (or online) for winter veg plants to plant out now. You can get trays of individual veg, but if you’ve got a smaller space some places also do mixtures, so you’ll have a few plants of several different types. It’s also not too late to think about sowing crops, although you do need to get a wiggle on. Spring cabbage is a traditional choice, but Alys has just recommended some other winter brassicas you can sow now, and Real Seeds have a nice guide to summer sowing, with some more ideas.
Once the urgent need for sorting out autumn/winter planting is satisfied, it will be worth thinking ahead to next year’s plantings, and sourcing seeds while they are plentiful. More on that in the next blog post.
Hope for the best, plant for the worst 🙂