Be realistic

Be realistic

Be realistic (4)

You should also take into account which crops grow well locally. If you are not sure, find out by visiting nearby gardens, talking to your neighbors, or asking the growers at your local farmers’ market. Use your common sense, too, when it comes to selecting
crops that will do well on your plot. If you live in an area where the summers are cool and wet, then heat-loving crops such as eggplant and tomatoes will produce well only in a greenhouse.

Gardeners in hot, dry climates may struggle to keep leafy salads and brassicas going during the height of summer. It makes sense to put your effort into growing things that are either expensive or impossible to buy in the stores. What these crops might be depends on your local suppliers, but soft fruits, such as currants and berries, are often pricey, as are herbs, runner beans, and good salad varieties. Globe artichokes, kohlrabi, and the full range of winter squashes are often unavailable in the stores, so if you like them, why not grow
your own?

If you have never harvested food fresh from the garden before then you might not know how incredibly different it can taste, even compared to produce bought straight from the farmers’ market. When there are just minutes between picking and eating, none of the precious sugars have been turned to starch and the cells are still plump with water, so you get sweetness and crispness that simply cannot be bought. Some crops, including peas, beans, corn, tomatoes, and new potatoes, lose this freshness faster than others, making them worth growing just because their flavor can’t be matched by produce in the stores.

If you have never grown your own before, keep it simple. Start with crops that are easy to cultivate and almost guaranteed to harvest. Buy transplants, so not everything has to be raised from seed.

Radishes, salads, potatoes, and beans are all reliable, and tomatoes fruit all summer, paying back your investment in purchasing transplants. Leave challenging melons, cauliflowers, and grapes until you’re confident with other crops.

Planting directly into the soil involves early preparation, but once young plants are well established they usually grow happily without much input, except periodic weeding, watering during dry spells, and routine checks for pests and diseases.

Getting plants started in containers is initially less effort than planting in beds, but then you will have to spend time watering them, possibly twice daily in a hot summer, for as long as you want them to produce.

Hopes are invariably high when sowing starts in spring but, sadly, disappointment sometimes follows. To keep your enthusiasm going for years to come, it is vital to be realistic about what you are likely to achieve in the space and time you have available.

Don’t make the mistake of initially clearing a huge plot if you have only limited time to spend on it. Nothing is more disheartening than watching the weeds regain the upper hand after you have recently spent hours digging them out. It is better to start out small, and then expand as your knowledge and experience increase. Success will soon build up confidence.

There is no escaping the fact that whichever methods you use to grow fruit and vegetables, time and effort invested at every stage of the process are what bring good returns. Think carefully about how much you can plant without giving yourself an impossible amount of work later on.

Succession planting.

If you want a great harvest, but you don't want it all at once, then think about planting successive crops weekly. Radishes are great for this, as they take about 3 to 4 days to germinate and you can harvest in about 5 weeks. You can also do the same with lettuce, corn, herbs and coriander.

Apart from succession planting, another way to stagger your harvest is to plant different varieties that fruit at different times. For example, a range of tomato varieties in one bed - anywhere from small cherry tomatoes that will ripen up as soon as the weather gets warm and keep producing all the way through to the end of autumn, to larger varieties like oxheart types that start producing in late summer all the way through till late autumn.

It's a great way to ensure there's no waste from your harvest - you plant smaller numbers of vegetables through the growing season, so you harvest smaller, useable quantities.