Growers often spend a lot of time planning rotations and reading seed catalogues (or checking the web) but the first thing you should do is to decide what you want to grow and how much. It’s obvious when you think about it but we often miss out this first step.
What to Grow?
If you don’t like celery or celeriac, then why grow it? I’ve seen people grow vegetables on their plot which are harvested and composted. They didn’t know why they grew them either.
So the first thing to do is to make a list of what you actually want to crop. I do believe it’s worth trying things out you’ve not had before and sometimes home grown is so different to shop bought you discover you do like something you haven’t liked before.
How Much to Grow?
Having decided what you want to grow, the next thing is how much. This can be really tricky. Crops aren’t guaranteed or perfectly predictable. One chilli plant will provide all the chilli peppers we need for a year but if something happens and it dies we could end up with none so we grow two or three.
Most often the problem is one of planning though. The funniest thing was seeing an allotment with about 30 courgette plants. The plotholder wasn’t even that keen on courgettes! He’d planted the seeds and they’d all germinated. Rather than waste the plants he grew them on and, in the end, wasted masses of courgettes.
You may like cauliflowers but how many will you eat? A large cauliflower will be enough for three or even four meals which would last the two of us a month, so we only need to grow a dozen but a large family may want twice that or more.
Plants or Seeds?
Once you’ve worked out what you want to grow and how much your next decision is whether to grow from seeds or buy in plants. The advantage to buying in plants is that you don’t have a lot of seeds, some of which are bound to be wasted. You do need a good and trusted source though. If you buy in some brassicas that are infected with clubroot then you have a major problem.
You’ll need to consider the price as well. I’ve seen just six plants going for 99p in the nursery and a pack of 200 seeds going for £1.19. Even if only a quarter germinated, they’re still only 14p for six! Stored properly your cauliflower seeds should easily last 4 years, if not 5 There’s an article on seed life and testing germination here.
One thing I have taken to is growing tomatoes from plants. Recently local nurseries have taken to selling wider range including heritage varieties and the quality is as good as I could grow. So rather than buying a packs of seeds to produce a couple of plants each I can buy a selection of plants for the same result with less effort and cost.
Finally, before you start buying your seeds for next season, do check what you have from previous years that you can use. If in doubt of how good the seeds are, check the seed viability and germination rate.
You can’t avoid gluts but you can reduce them down and be more productive with a little planning.