Knowing how much to grow of any crop is down to bitter experience, but here’s a simple approach
How often have you sown a 5 metre row of runner beans and then been over faced and overwhelmed by the crop? No matter how fast you pick, there are always more and all your friends and neighbours are sick of you giving them yet another bag of beans!
After a lifetime of growing I know now exactly how much to plant of any crop to feed me, my family and my friends and neighbours. There are times when i still have excess, but never so much as to be impossible to shift. There is just myself and Julia my wife to feed on a daily basis with regular visits from the children and their other halves. I also grow enough to provide some of the needs of a few elderly people in the village and the local pub.
To work out how much to plant just ask yourself how much am I likely to eat of a particular crop in a particular period.
I grow just thirty two tubers of early varieties. I can get a meal for two from each plant I harvest at the start of the season towards the end of May, and enough for eight portions at least by the end of the harvest in August. I am able to keep any remaining tubers to eat until my main crop is ready for harvesting in ate August and September. I grow three varieties of main crop. Currently they are; Pink Fir Apple, an excellent salad, boiling and sautéing potato that will keep until late April. The second is King Edward which I grow exclusively for roasting. In my onion there is no finer spud for the job. Part boiled until they start to fluff up and then roasted in goose fat until crispy brown all over. Pure heaven. I also grow a red variety called Kondor as a baking, and mashing potato. I grow just 16 tubers of each variety. That gives me a yield of at least one 25 kilo bag of each crop and in a good year more than that. I always have spuds left over in the spring.
There are two varieties of garlic – soft-neck and hard-neck. Hard neck garlic tend to be late harvesting and keep well. Soft-neck are often early and need to be eaten within three months of harvesting. I like to grow three varieties, an early autumn planted soft-neck red-skinned variety, an autumn planted hard-neck variety and a spring planted hard-neck main crop. Unquestionably in my opinion garlic from the isle of Wight is the best for my plot. I use garlic in my cooking a great deal so eat at least 20 cloves a week – that’s about 100 bulbs a year. Each bulb has about 10 cloves so I plant cloves from three bulbs of each autumn variety and four bulbs of the spring variety.
Very expensive to buy but dead easy to grow – just like garlic – I cook at least 100 shallots a year, especially in the spring when the onions have been used up. A single shallot will yield between four and eight new bulbs so I plant twenty bulbs.
A couple of nets full will last me a whole year. I prefer to grow red onions because they are just as easy to grow as white ones but cost twice as much to buy. In the autumn I plant about fifty over-wintering and a similar amount in the spring. I also plant 100 seedlings
This versatile vegetable grows throughout the year. I sow two metre-long rows in the autumn to over-winter and provide me with a crop from December to the end of April. I sow a single metre-long row successionally in April, June and August to provide me with more than enough young specimens for salads and curries.