How I grew over half a tonne of Veg on my allotment in 2013.. (Super-Blog part 1)

Wow – I was quite astounded when I added the quantities of veg that I grew on my allotment last season.. I grew 588 kg. on 165 sq. mt.  

My Harvest 2013

After seeing the price of runner beans in town I decided to do a harvest record just to see how much I have grown and priced at supermarket prices.. Some estimates are on the lower side!!

Strawberries 40kg = 88punnet @ £2.50 = £225
Broadbeans 6kg @ £1.80 per kg = £11
Peas 6kg @ £2 = £12
Potatoes 90kg @ £1 = £90
Gemsquash 130 @ 50p = £65
Runner beans 31kg @ 6.67 = £207
Courgettes 20kg @ £1.60 = £32
Squashes loads +/- 12 @ £1 = £12
Hubbard squash 4 large @ £4 = £16
Acorn squash 21 @ £1 + £21
Pumpkin 1 @ 2kg @ £2 = £2
Beetroot +/- 25 kg @ £3.3 = £83
Garlic 80 large bulbs @ 50p = £40
Onions 450 @ 20p = £90
Tomatoes loads! 100kg++ @ £2.50 = £250
Sweet corn 180 @ £1 = £180
Damson plums 10kg @ £3 = £30
Leeks 100 = 25 kg @£2.75 = £ 69
Soft fruits/berries 5 kg @ £11 = £55
A few cabbages £4

Total £1527 Unbelievable!! The total weight is about 588kg!!! Mmmmm..

Costs are difficult but about £20 on fertilizer, £40 on seed, £32 rent and a tenner on seed compost..

 

Read on to find out how I did it… 

 

My plot has a usable area of 188 sq. mt. But taking off for new non productive asparagus,  compost area etc. I end up with 165. So practically its about a 3/4 plot. Now when you take the weights and plot size it equates to about 35 Tonnes per Hectare (= 16 Tons per Acre.. ) Not bad when you consider a good crop of Wheat yields around 8 Tonnes and Sugar Beet which is a real heavy crop is around 58 Tonnes per Hectare.  So my 35 is quite a mean feat.. Anyway enough of the figures and on to my story of how I did it.. The good and the bad things that happened.

   

As you know 2013 was a brilliant summer for growing, but it started of really late. The bad winter continued for ages longer than normal.. but whats normal these days!! My tell tale signs of significance were the  hawthorn hedge flowers that were just under a month later than normal and my first pickings of my “Winter” onions were 3 weeks late.  And as the winter continued I couldn’t get all my digging finished and plants in as planned.. But they soon caught up… even my late onions.

In my first season I double dug my whole plot and incorporated tonnes of fresh horse manure/stable bedding which is full of shavings. We have this delivered free to the plots in nice manageable sized bin bags.. Adding this is against all practical advice given on various forums and Google sites due to the freshness and shaving content.. I have done it on my roof-top veg garden for years and had great results so i’ll continue doing it.  I scatter add a few handfuls of general fertilizer and chicken manure pellets when final forking over and preparing the soil a week or so before planting but mostly it ends up being done on the same day as planting!!

This year I only dug it over one spade depth and added more of the stable manure. After the previous veg was dug up I started to dig it all over and did most before the winter and finished when I could in early spring.

   

I also mix my own “Black Gold” potting compost to use for all my potting purposes. I get a few bags of general “el-cheapo” compost bags from B&Q (with birthday/christmas present vouchers), then I get some good old garden soil from my home garden beds, then I empty my home made compost bins and sieve some of each till I have a whole big pile of mixed composts. Then I add some BFB – Blood Fish Bone meal as it is a general fertilizer. Mix it all up and re-bag til required.

 

Winter Onions..  This is the first thing to plant so I always start off sets in modules in the GH as I never have the bed ready for them at the plot. So I plant the “Winter” sets mid September and plant them out about end of October when they are growing well and developed a good root ball. I feed them a bit with general fertilizer in Spring and that’s about it. I always start to eat them as new green onions on 1st May each year but this year they were 3 weeks late. I always grow at least a bag of sets (75-100) which is  a good stop gap before the main crop is ready to start nibbling on. My stored onions normally just last till the winter onions are ready so they come in real handy. As they don’t store well they are all eaten as green onions and some can get quite a good bulb size  to them. You can also get seed for winter onions but I’ve never tried them.

Winter Broad Beans.. I tried these this year but failed horribly. I sowed Aquadulce Claudia on 28 Sept in modules and planted them out a month later. By the time winter hit they were just too big and they were hammered. I did cloch them for a while and should have mulched them for the winter – but didn’t !! Anyway I might try again and only sow them directly at the plot at least end of October so they don’t grow too much.

   

Winter Peas.. I also tried these and sowed Douce Provence into lengths of guttering in the GH end November and planted them out end December.. We actually had some good weather  in December as I planted quite a bit of veg out. I think I waited too  long and they became too tall to fend for themselves properly. Same problem as the broadies I’m afraid.. So need to get them planted out sooner when no more than 4″ tall!!!  So overwintering broadies and peas were a disaster… Is it worth the extra effort just to get picking barely a few weeks earlier? Mmmm – I think not. Maybe better to concentrate in getting the plot done over sooner and get sowing into modules end Feb for early planting for a few early pickings. This way I reckon it’s almost guaranteed not to fail… unless we get a bad prolonged winter. Even still if we sow the winter types they should cope.

Main Crop Peas…  Well these were mixed batch of results for me. I decided to 7 rows as we really love our peas. I had some no name seed given to me last year so grew them, ate loads and collected seed for this year. I also had some freebie seed from Birds Eye and a few varieties from the forum seed shop. Most did well but I had to replant some a couple of times.. I think the reason was the bed was too wet when we prepared it and the rotavator was just clogging up. so it was never really dug over properly. I always soak the seed overnight, dig a shallow trench with my Azada (aka Chillington) hoe 2″ deep and 5″ wide  and sprinkle the seed at least 15 per foot. Cover over, water and leave to germinate. I do throw a protective netting (normally scaffold netting) over the rows to stop birds and mice from nibbling on the seed and new shoots. When they start to come up I string a line of chicken wire along the row for them to climb up. Occasionally I have to tie a few strings along the rows of peas as they grow to stop them leaning out and holding hands with their buddies in the next row.  once again I was a bit late and planted them mid April.. Ideally 3 weeks earlier would have been best. I had great pickings and freeze them raw after shelling. I think for the space taken up i’m going to do larger peas instead of smaller Petite Pois which don’t yield as much. I tried some purple podded and was not overly keen on the taste. I was given some Champion of England (heirloom) seed and also 4 seeds of Serpette Guilloteau – a french heirloom variety and grew them at home for seed collection. The CoE grew prolifically and had loads of full large pods on quite tall 7 foot high vines. Taste was a bit disappointing but I collected loads of seed to grow again at the plot next time.  The Serpette Guilloteau were delicious and I collected enough for 3/4 of a row so will collect more seed next time.

Peas netted, then 7 rows growing on, then the French (left side of pic) and English heirlooms and a days pickings..

   

Garlic..  I sowed the cloves in my cold greenhouse on 28 September in modules and they really took off – even with the cold lingering. I planted them out on 28 December. They had developed a fantastic root ball and grown a good strong looking stem by now. I fed them a bit of general fertilizer about March and they just grew and grew into the best crop of garlic I have ever done. I reaped some on 3 August and the rest about 2 weeks later. This was possibly a few weeks to late in pulling them up but they really had good full bulbs. I grew 4 types, some named some not and also some elephant type for the first time and really like them roasted. I dry them in the GH for a few weeks, trim them up a bit then store in my garage. (I believe it should not be dried in the GH as temps can get too hot and damage them).  We eat loads of garlic and I reaped about 80 bulbs of normal and a dozen elephant type. To store my garlic, I peel a few bulbs of each type so I get a mixture of flavours and tastes. I either thinly slice or coarsely blitz them a bit, then pack jars full and add a bit of oil to fill up the gaps. I then (as advised) put the jars in the microwave and warm them up for a few minutes to kill any Botulism spores, then refrigerate. We also use lots as fresh garlic. See one of my delicious recipes here.  I always make sure that I keep the best for planting out the next season. I also occasionally get tempted and buy another few bulbs each year to boost my varieties.

   

Weed Fabric.. I started a year ago using weed fabric to grow through with my strawberries and courgettes/marrows. They did really well and kept the slugs and weeds away. There were the odd straggler weed that does pop up through the growing holes and the mares tail just forces through..  But in all it does a great job. I was given a big roll of it so I added more crops to the “grow through weed fabric list”- being, onions, sweetcorn and cabbages/romanesco.

  I laid the fabric out and marked the hole positions, then got my blow torch and burned 3″ holes through it. I put a plank under so the lawn did not get burned as well!! It worked so well I’m going to add leeks, garlic, broadies and tomatoes next season. Some people cut slits or X out but I find my blow torch does a great job.

 

Sowing Seed – Tomatoes/Leeks/Onions
These I started end of December early Jan. We had the forum Leek growing competition for the biggest leek about to start and I decided to start all my leeks, onions and some tomatoes as a trial to get some into the GH early. Christmas day in our house in my day off from being a courier and our boys go to their girlfriends house for Christmas meal – so we have a quiet day and get my seeds in – oh and I share a bottle of port with our small ham I cook!! I was gifted an electric 3 bay propagator for my birthday so I got it fired up and ready to roll.. But soon found it was too small for the quantities I was doing. (I always do things in a big way). So I had seeds in all sorts of cold propagators in the spare room and strewn around the conservatory. Luckily it all worked out well and they all germinated.

Ok – so of all the seeds sown I had a great germination. When the onions and leeks were 2″ high I potted them up – they died. The competition leeks – they died.. Had to re-sow more which all……. grew on in situ!! My tomatoes did well and soon took over the seed growing unit!! I potted them up a few times before finally planting them out first week of May.

Leeks…  As written above my first sowing was a disaster and died when potting on.. So my second sowing on 3 Feb went on to grow well but I kept them in their sowing tray as a mini forest and planted them out 4 May. I just dibbed a hole and plonked them in.

They were about 3mm in thickness and would have preferred a bit bigger like pencil thickness which would have grown into bigger plants. I grew about 6 types (one row of each) and found that the best were the competition  seed from the forum Mammoth Blanch leek. The comp seemed to fizzle out but a few of us still grew on till the end. I grew the fattest leek of 18cm. and generally the best row I had were all from the competition seed pack. I under fertilized I think when planting them out so they all could have done a bit better. I WILL remember to add fertilizer next time!!

 

Onions from Seed… My second sowing on 3 Feb also grew well as a forest like the leeks. I also planted them out on 4 May. I decided to grow them through the weed fabric as a trial. I dibbed a hole, plonked them in and filled the hole with a fine sieved soil/compost mix then watered them in. I had a few varieties in and they all seemed to catch up with the sets that I also planted.. I found that a few that survived the early sowing in December grew to the same as the later sown seed in Feb. So Feb is best for planting onion seed as they do also take a great deal of looking after and keeping cool because they don’t like high temps. An excellent crop was reaped. I dried them a few days lying on the ground at the plot (only if no rain about) and then in the GH by placing them on my staging tables with their necks and greenery folded downwards to stop rot setting in. I do however regret growing on so many Mammoth type as they dont keep very well. But in hindsight I should have used them up first with all my tomato soup and tomato slosh that I made for freezing.

   

   

Onions from Sets.. I planted a few bags of Setton sets in modules in late Feb to get them off to a good start before the bed and weather was ready for them. I planted them out a couple of weeks before the seedling onions on 25 April  through the weed fabric as well and they grew really well. Nice big round bulbs which have kept really well. I pulled them all around mid August and found that the seedling onions were a bit smaller than the sets but really did grow well considering the lateness that they were planted out.  The weed fabric really performed well and only a few weeds had to be manually pulled that had popped out the growing holes. I also freeze loads of leeks and onions for the soup and stew pots. I simply just cut them up and freeze raw. Delicious and so easy to add when cooking.

Tomatoes.. It was my first real year of growing tomatoes so I trialed early and later seed sowing. I found the plants from the seed sown in December did grow well but they were caught up by the later planted ones sown end of Feb. So  I reckon stick to end of Feb for sowing toms. I grew about 100 plants – some in the GH and some outside at the plot and on my patio. When I planted the early sown plants out they were all quite tall so I buried them to about 2/3 of their height below ground level which I was told would enhance the plant by sending out more roots. Sure seemed to work.. I had loads of toms to eat, process and store. Lovely grub!! My speciality are these recipes – tomato soup , tomato slosh, tomato chutney and relish.

I grew some real beauties from seed bought all over the place to enter into our fun biggest tomato comp on the forum.

My winning tom was 673 grammes (pic of it on the scale) – not a record breaker but by far my biggest ever. I fertilized before planting and then only ever fed them with Comfrey Tea.. I have a water butt at the GH continually being topped up with rain water from the GH gutter and I have a patch of comfrey and some patches dotted around the site that I just cut every now and then and keep filling the water butt. It stinks worse than a sewer but it sure seems to work!! I have a hose fitted to the water butt and simply give each plant a pint or so of tea then I water it in with a hose and sprinkler. I haven’t a clue how strong the mixture is as it just keeps on getting re-filled with the comfrey and water. To support the plants I used old fence poles and roofing batterns/laths hammered into the ground next to each plant and tied with string. I had great results from both in the GH and the outside grown plants. I also had about 30 plants on my patio. Mmmm we love out tomatoes. I also have a salt & pepper mix at the plot to have with my raw toms… Delicious.  I really enjoyed my tomato growing and will do loads again next season.

       

Strawberries..  I was given a few neglected nearly dead plants a couple of years ago and I nurtured them on to produce hundreds of runners. I gave loads away and kept some for the plot. I also got given a few plants by other people so I ended up with a patch of 121 plants. I’m just a geek so I always make the most of my space and plant in exact spacings. This was where I first started using my weed fabric. I pegged it down, cut the slots and planted the strawberry plants in March 2012 and had a fantastic first years pickings of about 10 kg.  So this season was the second year and although some plants became really leggy had fair sized fruits. A bit squashy but delicious. I picked 50 kg. off the patch this year!! Made loads of jams and preserves and have more in the freezer. I have a new second patch going as a nursery for new plants to replace the main patch after the next season when their steam runs out. Yes far too many plants now!! Anyone for some Strawberry n Apple jam!!

Sweet Corn… Blimey we love our sweetcorn. In Zimbabwe we had a 12 acre plot with a 2 acre “veg patch” and grew about an acre of white Maize.. delicious but not as sweet and tender as sweet corn. Both my wife and myself were also from farming stock and we grew hundreds of acres of maize each year. So I suppose we were brought up on it …but absolutely love the Sweet Corn here. Last season my crop was wiped out by a freak mid September frost a couple of weeks before they were ready to eat. So this season I grew 2 blocks amounting to about 220 plants. One patch at each end of the plot as you cant grow certain types with one another. See this article. I sowed the seed mid April to be ready for planting out late May. All worked perfectly with the propagators and some seed germinated in 3 days!! I had about 95 percent germination so was really pleased. I planted them out using the weed fabric once again end of May and ran out of plants!! So I placed an emergency vegetable seed order with the shop: https://www.seedparade.co.uk/8-vegetable-seeds and 2 days later I had another 50 seeds in the propagator. Within 5 days they all came up and I planted them out 14 days after sowing.. Blimey they were quick… and they eventually almost caught up with the main crop that was actually 5 weeks older from date of sowing. I had a great crop and the overlap with the late planting was great. I had various varieties but my best were Earlibird Supersweet and Sweet Nuggett. One of the forum members sent me some Mira Bi-Colour and they were delicious and big. We had many many meals of 2 cobs each and most plants produced at least one cob each – some however just had nothing .. I fertilized when planting them and then a few dressings of ammonium suplphate as they like it. I sowed the seed in modules then a few days after germinating I took them off the heated propagator and grew them on in the conservatory for a couple of weeks. By now the weather was getting warm so the GH was used as a cold frame – for 2 reasons. Firstly my cold frame would have been  too small for all my toms and others veg and secondly, my cats took it over as their own hot house so nothing went into it – they do run our lives!! I planted them through the weed fabric simply by digging a small hole through the fabric hole and plopping the plant out the module then tamping it down. Quite a few of the modules broke up so the roots and soul were disturbed… no problem at all – contrary to general info that sweet corn roots and plants hate to be disturbed I got 100 percent grow on. Growing through the fabric once again worked like a treat. Although I did have quite a few bind weed come through the holes and take hold on the plants it was easy enough to pull them off. You can see the difference in size of the late emergency sweet corn in the last photo..

   

continued here – part 2

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “How I grew over half a tonne of Veg on my allotment in 2013.. (Super-Blog part 1)”

  • barry:

    great plot gavin keep up good work well done…barry

  • john dean:

    Hi Gavin, I find this very difficult to believe!. Your allotmant is smaller that mine If I planted it fully with strawberries I would be surprised to equal your 88 punnets and have nowhere to grow anything else. Pull the other one. You know what its got on it.

  • Lin Robertson Milne-davies:

    Hi Gavin, I am too long in the tooth to believe fairy stories. I have been an organic gardener for over 40 years so I know how much produce will be produced.

    Lin

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