Tag Archives: crop rotation

Preparation for the 2019 Season on the allotment

Garden design

The plot layout didn’t change from last year. The crops will rotate between the sections of the main vegetable patch (between the veg bed 1-2-3-4), following the four-year crop rotation system (see previous year’s planning here). I will extend the planting area into the front of the plot which I didn’t use last year, to accommodate for any excess amount of plants I end up having after planting up all the beds.

I still have a fair amount of seeds from last year so I will just use them all. I also will try a few new varieties and a few new plants I never grew before. For example sweet peppers and chillies, turnip and kale; or the potato variety of Arran Pilot.

Seed catalogues and the ordering of all the seeds

During the winter I realized there are a good amount of places out there where you can buy seeds. Apart from bigger supermarkets, there are garden centres and then there are the seed catalogues. An entire booklet just for seeds! So I just entered into the search engine ‘seed catalogue uk’ and went through pages after pages, websites after websites. I ended up ordering eight different catalogues.

  • Dobies
  • Unwins
  • Marshalls
  • Mr Fothergill’s
  • Thompson & Morgan
  • Chilternseeds
  • Sarah Raven
  • Seed-Cooperative

When I got all of them I checked the prices in all and checked whether the seed varieties I wanted would be available in any. I also included the delivery charges. I was surprised that they were all quite similar in price. If one packet of seed was more expensive then another was cheaper within one particular company. So I ended up ordering from the one which had the most variety I wanted: Mr Fothergill’s.

The ordering process online was tricky though, as I just missed the minimum limit to qualify for free P&P. They threw in a 20% discount on two items, which lowered the overall price of my order moving it under the limit. Checking the order confirmation e-mail I realised my oversight, it was just not as clear as I would have preferred it. Well, maybe next year I will use my eyes. All the bulbs arrived 5 days later, and the seed packs 11 days from ordering (including 2 Sundays), which is within the promised 7-10 days delivery time.

Sowing schedule for the vegetables

I decided that I will try this year to sow by the Moon phases. There is this idea, that the Moon’s gravitational pull has an effect on the growth of the plants, and sowing them in their suggested times would create an optimal condition for the seeds to germinate, the seedlings to emerge and the plants to grow. The Moon’s four phases are its four quarters, from where I would sow only in the first three, as the fourth being a rest time.

I downloaded a free yearly planner from Calendarpedia (http://www.calendarpedia.co.uk/) and marked all the phases of the Moon in it. How did I know those? Well, I didn’t, I checked them on a few websites. (For example: https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/uk/london) Then I took the seed packs one by one and checked the suggested times for sowing. For example, tomatoes are to be sown from February to April. Tomatoes are above ground producing annuals, where the seeds form inside the fruit, thus it should be sown in the second quarter, which is the week leading to full moon (13-19 Feb, 15-21 March, 13-18 April). Considering we can only plan Saturdays into this equation safely as we work during the week, there is only one Saturday in each month when sowing of the tomatoes are available (15 Febr/16 March/13 April).

The next step was to set up a spread sheet with the plants, varieties, month and manually input the dates as calculated above. For all the hundred plants! Then colour code them, sort them by date and then just copy & paste the upcoming month. I ended up with a pretty sheet:

I am hoping that this will help to keep track most of the things I’ll need to sow.

Our allotment site in the last few weeks were quite busy. We are creating new plots, covering existing walkways with wood chips, plowing the plots to get ready for potato planting. There are committee meetings and site inspections, pot exchanges and manure ordering. Spring is on the way. We are getting ready.

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Phase 2 -the main vegetable patch

As the weather has changed we turned to phase 2: the actual planting stage. From mid-April to the end of May there are 6 weeks when I could measure plot space, sow the seeds, repot plants and place them into their final position.

Growing system

This year I try the crop rotation system I read about in a book by Dick & James Strawbridge: Practical Self Sufficiency. I mean, I learnt about crop rotation in school, but it was something which belonged to the past, to medieval times, ancient Egypt or what not. I have never seen it in practice. The crops are divided into 6 groups which follow a four-year rotation. The groups are the following:

  • Alliums
  • Umbellifers
  • Legumes
  • Brassicas
  • Miscellaneous
  • Salads

Alliums and umbellifers share an area, while the salads can fit in anywhere.

Measuring of the patch

The main vegetable patch is 7 metres wide and 16 metres long. Along the two pathways I won’t use around a foot wide strip on both sides, as probably that’s where I will collect throw the pebbles. This gives an area of around 100 square metres (or around 120 square yards). For each section, I will have a 7 metres wide by 4 metres long area to plant.

crop rotation 2018

crop rotation 2018

The idea is that whatever seeds we have, just throw into the relevant area and see what happens. They might grow. Or not. Either way, we will learn a lot about the soil.

Alliums and Umbellifers

Also to avoid injury in the first year, we decided, we only dig up the first section of the main vegetable patch, where all the root vegetables will be. They will be planted fairly close so I cannot measure and mark the area and dig only in the space where the seeds/bulbs would go. The rest of the crop group grows above ground so I could loosen up the soil with a hand trowel when I plant the crop. We don’t know what had happened in previous years on our plot, what kind of vegetables grew, so double digging a section a year seems a fair share. (Double digging I mean to dig two shovels deep and turn the soil over and break it up a bit.)

We dug the trenches for the potatoes and put them a foot deep. They are on the south side of this section. We put on the north side all the other vegetables belong to this group.

The individual plants are:

Plant Variety Amount was sown
Potatoes Charlotte (second early) 18
Potatoes Kestrel (second early) 18
Potatoes Picasso (main) 16
Onion Stuttgarter Giant 25
Onion Karmen (red) 23
Garlic Casablanca (hardneck) 11
Garlic Solent Wight (softneck) 18
Shallot Red Sun 8
Spring Onion Ramrod 1/2 row = 3 metres
Leek Musselburgh 1/2 row = 3 metres
Carrot Amsterdam Forcing 3 1/2 row = 3 metres
Parsnip Gladiator (F1) 1/2 row = 3 metres
Beetroot Detroit 2 – Grimson Globe 1/2 row = 3 metres
Spinach beet Perpetual spinach 1/2 row = 3 metres
Parsley Green Pearl 1/3 row = 2 metres

Miscellaneous

As I love the warming earthy Halloween inspired soups in autumn and winter, I decided to try a full pack of pumpkin seeds to sow this season. I also had some leftover sweetcorn seeds from previous years, slightly out of date so I thought to give them their last chance. I built a bamboo structure for the gherkins so I would be able to tie them up as they grow, and the gherkins won’t touch the soil and start to rot. I have never grown salads so I will try to this year in this section.

The individual plants are:

Plant Variety Amount was sown
Pumpkin Cinderella (Heirloom) 6
Sweetcorn Applause (F1) 13
Sweetcorn Incredible (F1) 3
Gherkin Venlo pickling 16
Squash Hornet (F1) 5
Squash Jaune de Vert 2
Courgette ? (gift) 3
Courgette ? (gift) 3
Lettuce Little Gem 1/3 row = 2 metres
Radicchio Ceasare 1/3 row = 2 metres
Lettuce Lakeland 1/3 row = 2 metres
Lamb’s Lettuce 1/3 row = 2 metres
Wild Rocket 1/3 row = 2 metres

Legumes

From previous experience, we learnt that it can be a problem if all the beans and peas ripe at the same time. We could manage to harvest but got into trouble with post harvesting; we run out of time to be able to handle, clean, sort, package, preserve and last but not least eat all the crop. We had to discard a lot of them as they turned bad and spoilt. So this year we try with succession sowing: sow seeds in batches so the plants ripe continuously.

The individual plants are:

Plant Variety Amount was sown
Broad Bean Bunyards Exhibition
24
Runner Bean
Scarlet Emperor 4+6
French Bean Jazz 12+6
French Bean
Wachs Beste von Allen
12+11
Dwarf French Bean
Borlotto Firetongue 12+11
Pea Kelvedon Wonder 48 in pairs
Mangetout Sugar Bon
48 in pairs

Brassicas

We have only grown Brussel Sprouts previously, by chance. I wanted to try to grow a few more vegetable in this group as green leafy vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals. Apparently, it is quite difficult to grow them for various reasons so it will be an interesting experiment to work with these plants.

 

IMG_5559

Brassicas are under cover

 

The individual plants are:

Plant Variety Amount was sown
Broccoli Purple Sprouting
12
Savoy Cabbage
January King 7
Cauliflower All the Year Round 12
Brussel Sprout
Bosworth
16
Radish
Scarlet Globe 15
Cabbage Greyhound 4
Cabbage Golden Acre
5

 

All these vegetables will be exposed to the elements, to the good old English weather, moderate sun and fair amount of summer showers. If all things go well, there will be plenty of food to eat.