One of the mistakes that people make when starting to grow their own is thinking too short term. Many enthusiastic new gardeners will sow plenty of seeds in spring – then lose that momentum when it comes to the summer months. But planning for year round growing means continuing to think about what we sow and grow all season long. Sustainable food production means sowing not just for summer, but for the whole year.
Successional sowing of lettuce and other quick crops is something that can ensure a consistent supply for food from your garden. I am harvesting lots of leafy greens, radishes and mange tout peas right now, for example. But I am also sowing more that will take their place in my polytunnel garden as gaps emerge.
Sowing for Winter and Next Spring
But I am not just thinking about what we’ll be eating over the summer months. I am also planning ahead for the months to come. In our climate, with our undercover growing area, we can grow plenty even during the coldest months. And planting for winter begins right now.
I’ve planted winter cabbages and kale in trays, for example, that will be transplanted out after some spring crops have been harvested. And yes, I am even thinking ahead to the early spring next year – sowing purple sprouting broccoli, for example. More winter crops will be sown within the next couple of months – right through to autumn when the overwintering onions, garlic and beans will be planted.
Most of my attention right now is on warm weather crops. The tomatoes for example, which are in flower. Courgettes and summer squash are growing apace. And the runner beans and French beans are going out this weekend. But though I am looking forward to the next couple of months, I am also thinking about what comes after.
Planning for year round growing involves thinking about what is needed to keep your garden going through the coldest months. Here, that means an unheated polytunnel. And perhaps some extra cloches here and there. But even in colder climes, extra protection or indoors growing can offer a range of options.
It also involves thinking about maintaining fertility over time. Feed, build and protect the soil with organic mulches, liquid feeds and plenty of good home-made compost. Maintaining fertility also means making a crop rotation plan, adding companion plants, and boosting diversity all year round.