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How I'm growing in 2023

This year will be my sixth harvest year at the allotment. It's been a long journey of trial and error, learning what method works best for me, and hundreds of yummy homegrown meals.

I'm pretty much there when it comes to the layout of the plot and building structures. The greenhouse is going well; most of the raised beds are in, apart from one I'll add in the next few months, and I'm looking for an arch to grow grape vines or rose's on.

My main aim for this year is to think forward and plan ahead so that I'm able to handle what I have to do. While the evenings have been dark and the days frosty, I have sat down with a pen and paper to work out my plan for this year. My main three lessons for this year are:

Planning what I'm planting and where

This was a fun activity I did last year when I was on holiday - I drew out my beds, made a list of what I wanted to grow and then plotted where each plant was going to go. This was a great exercise to tell what I could realistically fit in the space I have. I used translucent paper, so each year, I will keep my map of the allotment and my beds and refer to what I have planted where previously.

Writing a shopping list, checking what I already have and swapping.

No one needs 6,000 celery seeds.

This is a totally different tact than I usually take. Normally I browse the seeds catalogues, get excited about the different varieties of plants and end up with a basket with way too many seeds to manage (and a massive hole in my bank account). Tomatoes, for instance - I use my tomatoes in salads and in sauces. So this year, I have opted for a delicious plum which I can turn into passata and ketchup, a meaty beef for sauces and bolognese, and a heavy cropping cherry tomato I can eat with salads as well as dehydrating.

Before opening a catalogue, I wrote a list of what I wanted to grow. I checked through what I already had and then had a seed swap with my Dad. I was left with eight vegetables left to buy - that's when I started looking through the website on what varieties I wanted - limiting myself to one type of seed per veggie needed. My basket total this year is a tiny £8.42.

Growing Chart

I can't be the only one who gets overwhelmed when it comes to knowing what seed to plant and when. I often don't know what to start first, forgetting something and planting it weeks after I should be. This year I created a chart (you can download a copy here). I've listed all my crops, and against the months of the year, I'm going to mark up when I need to sow, transplant, and harvest each seed.

As well as giving me a guide on when to plant, it also means I'm prepared on when to harvest, so when I'm planning my social diary in the harvesting months, I know when I need to leave a weekend (or just a whole month) to process the produce.

Bring on 2023

It's only February, but I'm already primed that next month, I need a weekend to sow my sweet peas, tomatoes and aubergines. By investing the time now, I'll be able to streamline my effort later - as my Dad always tells me, 'Work faster, not harder'.

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