Growing vegetables for this year or next?

I’ve been rather neglectful of my blog these past few weeks – but in terms of developments on the Smallest Smallholding front, you’ve not missed out. Rain has, for all intents and purposes, stopped play for a few weeks and on many occasions I have been resigned to standing at the window with arms crossed, watching the dark sky roll in, before fat drops of rain cascade down and muddy puddles appear left, right and centre.

Only the weeds and shrubs have been growing prolifically; anything that fruits or swells has thus far struggled – my onions, garlic, tomatoes, raspberries, cherries and peppers are looking to produce a paltry yield this year… or are they? The hedgehogs seem to be pretty happy though – I often see three, four, five or more in a night, happily chomping on mealworm, cat biscuits and no doubt slugs, snails, moths and beetles that seem to be everywhere in abundance.

But as of yesterday, it’s been all change. I’m currently sitting holed up in my office under the stairs (for real, that’s not a Harry Potter allusion), which is coincidentally also the coolest spot in the house. Outside, the sky is porcelain blue and what little cloud wafts over us is more of a haze – no puffy cotton-like clouds that we’ve become accustomed to over the past few weeks. It’s hot. It’s really hot.

Earlier this afternoon, I was thwarted in my attempts at weeding – I retreated into the house and took a cool shower after managing to work up to a ruddy complexion, resembling some sort of sun-ripened tomato with a face. I’ll wait until later this afternoon or early this evening to get out there do whatever needs doing. We’ve just been firefighting of late, but I do have some home-grown Cosmos to plant in, and some squashes that have been thriving in the wet warmth of the greenhouse that I should really get into the ground. But I don’t think there’ll be a plentiful Smallest Smallholding harvest this year… although I may be pleasantly surprised. Ever the optimist.

But word on the street (or the field, or the country lane) is that this strange, topsy-turvy year of weather is set to have some major implications on food prices for next year. I don’t know how the current heatwave will affect matters, but it’s my understanding that the prolonged wet weather has negatively impacted cereal crops, meaning flour, bread and its cereal-based brethren will prove more expensive in the supermarkets next year. The same goes for onions, and I imagine there’s a few other veggies that aren’t doing so well at the moment.

So I’m wondering whether I ought to have a plan of action to try and maximise my home-grown produce output, and minimise my supermarket spending come 2013. I mean, the whole grow your own/reduce your outgoings is always on the agenda, but it seems it’s more important than ever given the state of many food crops (so I’m told). Here, we tend to buy things like onions in bulk and in season, but other than that we can be fairly lax, just buying on a day-to-day basis and ultimately spending too much.

I need a plan. The trouble is, I’m working a lot and tired and busy and travelling and I just don’t seem to be able to offer much headspace for the whole process. Do I forget about planting food and veg this year, and focus on fertilising and soil conditioning for next year, or do I give second sowings a go, and hope for an Indian summer? I tend to opt to grow fruit and veg that’s either expensive in the supermarket, is best eaten in season (eg asparagus), usually has to travel a long way to get into my shopping basket (eg chilli peppers), or is best eaten fresh (salads, herbs, green beans etc).

But for some reason, I’m finding it really hard to work this all out.

What do I do? I need your help.


  1. Apparently the price of broccoli is set to skyrocket according to my veg box delivery man; I’m thinking of getting some ‘quick heading calabrese’ in from here:

    My tomato plants seem to have gone bananas with foliage but I have absolutely no tomatoes yet. Beetroot are rotting in the ground, peppers have been eaten by the slugs for the 3rd year running and my cherry tree looks fairly dead. However, my peas and beans are loving this constant rain, so I’m hoping for a bumper crop there!

  2. Hello,

    I’m still sowing beetroot, turnips, french beans, chard, spinach and carrots. It’s too late for you to plant chillis. Next month is the ideal time to sow some spring cabbages and kale for over wintering.

    Although we’ve still had a successful year, I think it could’ve been better. This weather has been almost biblical.

    Good Luck

  3. One day a few weeks ago shouting at “Him upstairs” about the constant rain, realised in my yelling, it was actually the best weather for growing veg; went straight to the garden centre and have not looked back. I”m in SW Scotland and agree with 5olly, I’m on my 2nd sowing (and 3rd in some cases) of bush beans, swiss chard, broad beans, spinach, baby carrots and beetroot, various kale (slug proof), swede and cabbages. My cauli’s are small at moment (I was late in planting) but really tasty, bit like our hens eggs! I compost kitchen waste mixed with poultry sweepings and the result is consistently excellent. I’m hopeless with carrots and have always wanted to grow globe artichokes so am planning getting ready to plant ones for April 2013. Would love to hear how others are getting on and urge anyone half interested to take advantage of warm wet weather!!

  4. Lucy hi

    I’ve been through, and am going through, precisely this problem. So here, for what it’s worth, is my thinking:

    • To hell with the sensible, grown-up, thought-through ‘plan’. Like you, I always intend to grow the stuff that’s expensive to buy or best in season. Result: Lots of work, lots of headaches, lots of broken self-promises, lots of self-reproach and feelings of failure. So sod it. Instead…
    • Grow EASY vegetables. In quantity. Spuds, onions, French beans, courgettes. They don’t take much time, and the results are always plentiful and gratifying. When you’re working hard, and you have no time, it’s absolutely essential to get a good, reliable crop that makes you feel it’s all worthwhile. Disaster is working your a••e off to grow the ‘plan’ veg and getting nothing or next to nothing for your efforts. So sod it. Again.
    • Don’t beat yourself up about weeds and neglect. I have learned that provided you look after your soil (which DOES mean proper manuring and fertilising – time that’s hard to find, but absolutely essential), the veg pretty much look after themselves. They get fewer diseases, fewer pests, and they can tolerate a lot more weed. The soil’s fertile, so even a LOT of weed is rarely enough to dampen their spirits. All of which means you can stop beating yourself up when the plot’s weedy as hell and looking awful.
    • Remember it’s a hobby. I know, I know – it feels MUCH more important than that, and ideologically (for all the reasons you give above) it IS. But the thing is that actually you won’t starve and the world won’t stop turning if you plant nothing and get nothing. It just means you say: “OK, will do better next year.”
    • And that’s OK.

  5. I think it’s worth trying to grow as much as you can yourself. Self sustainability is something that I like to promote especially these days with the current economic climate. Although this washout of a British summer has made it hard to sell ha!