Annual Growing Plan Checklist
Winter is an excellent time to decide what to grow on an allotment in the year ahead. With cold wet weather often keeping the gardener indoors, it is the ideal time to research varieties, buy seed, and plan where crops will grow.
This article looks at the approach we take in our family. We hope this may be useful for you too. Our perspective on what we grow is to achieve the following:
- Allotment Essentials
Replacing shop bought vegetables we eat regularly with our home grown crops
- The Desirables
Growing crops for the excitement of improved flavour, the challenge, or simply because they are not readily available to buy from shops
Our ‘Allotment Essentials’ list are crops we know we will eat, will reliably deliver a good harvest, and will be available for eating either fresh or stored for much of the year. Many are very easy to grow, hardy, and require little care and support.
Our essential crops are:
Growing our ‘allotment essentials’ saves us money. Each year there is the opportunity to try new varieties, but the emphasis is on ensuring a good harvest. Success is not measured in excitement, but in having a good supply of vegetables to eat all year round.
Notable omissions are carrots, cauliflower, and celery. We have found these to be very difficult to grow successfully either through their care regime or because of pests like carrot fly.
Our desirables list contains the crops we see as treats, the food we look forward to eating each year, experiments that challenge our ability to grow (in the UK climate), or are simply crops that we want to eat but are difficult to buy in the shops.
For our household, our list always contains a large amount of fruit and mediterranean vegetables. Some are very easy to grow – mainly the traditional UK crops – but others require a degree of knowledge, a good summer, or a favourable growing space like a polytunnel or greenhouse.
Easy to grow, but need a long growing season, and ideally a warm growing environment. See our article on how to grow chillies.
As per chillies.
Achieving a good harvest involves know-how and luck. See our guide on how to grow tomatoes.
A delicious treat in late summer, perhaps the biggest challenge is protecting the crop from animals that want to eat the corn as much as you do. See our article on how to grow sweetcorn.
As per tomatoes, an acquired skill. See our how to grow cucumbers guide.
Easy to grow once established – alpine strawberries help extend the harvesting season. See our guide on growing strawberries.
By careful selection of varieties, it is possible to harvest raspberries from early June to October. Read more in our guide on how to grow raspberries.
For those in the know, gooseberries now come in many delicious sweet flavours. If you like fruit – grow gooseberries! See our guide on how to grow gooseberries.
- Blackcurrants & Redcurrants
One of the healthiest fruits to eat, and easy to grow. The challenge is finding enough ways to enjoy eating them – see our how to grow currants guide for more.
Large juicy berries that are delicious in jams. Very easy to grow once established – see our guide on how to grow tayberries.
This year, inspired by James Wong’s book ‘Homegrown Revolution’ (James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution on Amazon UK.) we are experimenting with three new crops:
- Inca Berries
Delicious small orange berries wrapped in a Chinese latern. Read more on Suttons Seeds.
Juicy melons suited to the UK climate. See our guide on how to grow musk mellon.
Easy to grow green tomato like fruit. See our guide on how to grow tomatillos.
We have chosen these out of the many other ideas in the book because they seem relatively easy to grow, provide good harvests, and have a taste that seems to match the palette of our family.
Creating A Growing Plan Checklist
For annual crops or new perennials that need planting, we have created a ‘Growing Plan Checklist’ as part of our Allotment Planner & Record Keeper. The purpose of this list is to store on one sheet of paper everything to be grown in the year ahead.
The value of this list is to provide a reminder of seed and plants that need to be bought, and as a checklist for creating an allotment growing plan to chart where you will grow the crops either at home or on the allotment.