A novice's guide to producing his own food

The Master Plan

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How the plot will look eventually (we hope)


  Since acquiring the new allotment I’ve done little except dig. Out of the six major beds, I’ve now completed three. This is despite spending every spare weekend hour with a spade (when the weather has been kind enough).        

However, Janek and I did complete one job very quickly – planning the allotment’s new layout. On the day we took the keys (to the shed), we got out the measuring tape, and spent the evening drawing up a plan. Like I said in my last post, we will be taking as inspiration the “ideal allotment” from Caroline Foley’s Practical Allotment Gardening.        

Pictured above is what we came up with. I’ve ordered nearly all the plants and seeds from Dobies (not to be confused with the Dobbies with two ‘b’s. That’s for genteel coach parties. In Dobies with one ‘b’ , the ‘b’ stands for bitchin’).        


So, here’s a run-through of what we intend to grow. We’ll skirt any talk of bees, as I’ve still to get nucs (nuclear hives), and that’ll be in May, if at all (depending on how other folks’ bees survive the winter).        

Top left is the greenhouse. That’s where we’ll grow tomatoes and cucumber. You’ll see this was a pretty expensive undertaking. Two reasons for this. Firstly, we didn’t grow either vegetable last year, and their absence was sorely missed. After potatoes, cucumber and tomatoes are the most used veg in the Trunkbeast household. Secondly, both crops need specific conditions ie, plenty of heat, food and sunlight. That creates a little anxiety in a novice like me, so I thought I’d buy expensive grafted plants to give myself the encouragement of ensuring a good harvest (that’s the theory anyway).        

To the greenhouse’s right, is the patch for onions and “miscellaneous”. One of the biggest beds, I have bought two types of onion sets – Setton, which will be the main crop, and Golden Gourmet Shallots. They have already arrived by post, and have been planted  in trays in the shed to sprout. The sets were sold by weight, and as the Setton bulbs are quite large, I can see already there won’t be enough. However, Sue bought a packet of onions just before Christmas, so I’ll use them to bulk it out.        

As for the “miscellaneous”, we’ll just have to wait and see. Not sure what will go there yet, but if it is anything like last year, I’ll probably acquire some seedlings I hadn’t planned on. I’ve also sent off for a bunch of trial seeds from Which? Gardening  magazine, and these include a white sweetcorn. So I might bung them in there.        

Next in line is the first rotation bed – legumes (peas and beans). The Alderman peas sound promising, but it is the very distinctive Borlotto beans which are most exciting. Looking like mini salamis, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (a new hero of mine) raves about them, and yet I’ve never seen them in the supermarket. Growing a veg which you just can’t buy makes it priceless in my estimation. I love the idea of eating a crop which is completely unfamiliar to most folk (including myself).  It also makes a nonsense of the principle held by some allotmenteers that the sole motivation for growing veg is because it’s cheaper. Blethers. You need to experiment too.      

Next we have our second rotation crop – spuds. I’ve ordered four types – Dunluce (first earlies), Maris Peer (second earlies), Maris Piper (main crop) and Charlotte (salad). These have also arrived, and I hope to chit them this weekend. Their bed is ready and I’ve dug in our own compost, so once the frosts are over, we’ll stick them in the ground.        

Oh, and then there are the leeks. Another new crop. I’m hoping they really take off. Seemingly, home-grown leeks with cheese sauce is something to be experienced.      

Beneath the spuds are the root veg. The beetroot seeds I got in some sort of deal in the Gardeners’ World magazine,  and the carrots and courgettes are from Dobies . The bed’s been dug, but won’t need planted until next month.        

The Celio cauliflower - straight from the set of Star Trek (first season, of course)


Then there are the Brassicas. I’ve yet to get hold of the sprout and turnip seeds, but I love the look of these caulies. I’m in complete agreement with Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall that cauliflower is the dullest and most bland of all the veg, but the Celio look amazing. Seemingly they taste like a cross between cauli and broccoli. Can’t wait!        

Finally (thank god) we have the strawberries. They were a great success last year, producing a fruit which was so sweet and full of flavour, it instantly convinced me of the advantage of growing my own. I’ve got high hopes for my strawberries this year, so I’ve invested in three types – the Malling Opal, the Cambridge Favourite  and the Amelia. That should see me through the growing season, with plenty left over for jam.        

That’s the lot. It cost me £120 (and I still need to spend more), but I’m expecting much in the way of abundance from late spring, through to autumn. Here’s hoping!

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