When the wind and rain are howling outside, it’s easy to see why winter tends to be more about armchair gardening than the real thing. Besides, it’s bad for the soil to work it in the wet. This is the perfect season then, to start planning your plot.
Of course not everyone wants to eat the same food, nor grow the same vegetables which led me to the idea of creating a method aimed at beginners – or anyone who isn’t confident about growing to eat. I ended creating 35 different plans for beds of 1m x 2m (‘modules’) that covers a huge variety of plantings from edible flowers for baking, to perennials for predators. There’s even one for growing your own hazel bean poles and comfrey for fertiliser.
Larger plans show potential combinations of modules for different requirements and tastes – for example a family plot, or a garden for bakers and jam makers – and there’s solid basic advice on how to assess your space, prepare the ground, sow/plant and maintain your crops.
The 12 different vegetable modules are also themed on different combinations of crops for particular tastes. Grow summer salads, or parsnips and sprouts for Christmas dinner. There’s a module of veg to grow with children, and, as illustrated below, veg to grow for the stir-fry enthusiast.
Note: Each module plan is at a scale of 1:10, i.e. 1 centimetre (cm) on the plan represents 10cm on the ground. Use the plans to determine how far apart to space your plants: black dots show the centre of each plant.
A planting plan for growing Stir-fry veg
This is the module to choose if you like your vegetables small and sweet. Harvest moments before cooking for the ultimate taste; stir-fry or add to a salad.
- You will need 1 packet of seeds or 3 young plants (potential yield 0.75kg +)
- Sowing seed can be difficult and requires a heated propagator, so it’s much easier to buy young plants.
- Plant out when all risk of frost has passed, and give them some support â€“ tie in to a cane or spiral stake. They are ready to harvest when firm to a gentle squeeze (when still green), or wait for them to ripen to orange/red if you prefer.
Dwarf French beans
- 1 packet of seeds or 12 young plants (yield 3kg +)
- Purple and yellow varieties are available as well as the usual green.
- Sow in modules or direct in stations, thinning to the best seedling. Plants crop heavily when picked regularly, but for a shorter period than climbing varieties.
- Sow successionally if you want a regular supply. By protecting plants from frost you can harvest from May to October. Plants will need some support from small stakes.
- 1 packet of seeds (yield 20+ carrots plus thinnings)
- Orange, purple and white varieties available, short, long or spherical. ‘Resistafly’ offers increased protection from carrot fly.
- Sow seed in a drill in March/April and thin. Sow successionally or keep carrots in the soil until you’re ready to use them. Mesh/fleece will guarantee protection from carrot fly.
- 1 packet of seeds (yield 12+ whole heads, more cut and come again)
- ‘Joi Choi’ is bolt-resistant, ‘Red Choi’ has purple leaves.â€¨ Station sow or sow in a drill and thin. Sow successionally to avoid the driest and warmest periods â€“ some in spring under cover and planted out later, more in later summer.
- Use whole heads large or small or CCA. Water well to prevent bolting.
A word of caution: growing plants is relatively straightforward, and growing your own food and flowers will fill you with pride and satisfaction. Your kitchen garden will be bountiful and beautiful, but it will never be perfect. Be realistic about the factors out of your control – you should be prepared to lose plants here and there. So don’t be disheartened, and definitely don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes, enjoy your success, and start planning next year.
Planting Plans for your Kitchen Garden is published by How To Books