Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The John Seymour gardening method: six month review

Glass over tomatoes in the Misc. bed, broccoli and kale adjacent;  with pumpkins, runner beans and Sparta apples growing against the fence:  September 2016
How is the John Seymour gardening method going, 6 months in?

I began gardening according to Seymour's method in his book The Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency this spring, starting in March.  To recap, he advocates dividing the vegetable patch into four main growing beds, plus a bed each for seed sowing and holding (an intermediary bed for holding young plants before planting into final growing positions).  He also has a bed dedicated to herbs and perennials, and also a bed for fruit (I do grow these, but mixed together and with ornamentals).

The four main veg beds are Peas/Beans/Brassicas, Roots, Miscellaneous, and Potatoes;  I did not have a separate bed for potatoes this year, giving me just three main beds.  Additionally I did not have a dedicated seed bed, but raised my seeds in trays--to alleviate losses due to slugs.

On the whole, I liked using this system, and it worked pretty well for me.  I had a good harvest off the Peas/etc and Misc. beds.  The Roots bed harvest was less successful (slugs!), though I actually raised some of the root veg in containers because of high slug damage.  The holding bed was very useful for growing the brassicas, and they transplanted pretty well after the peas were finished (I still have a couple left to transplant after the runner beans come out at the end of the month). 

I really like the holding bed;  it allowed me to grow a lot more in my small garden space than in previous years.  It means I can grow a full bed of the more tender vegetables in summer, then transplant the brassicas out from the holding bed after they've finished.  I get two harvests in one year from the same bed:  peas and beans first, then winter brassicas after.  It has meant I haven't grown many summer brassicas (just kale), but perhaps next spring--with some judicious planning--I'll be able to grow a few more alongside the peas.  It's a small sacrifice to make though, in return for a bigger harvest of those short-season vegetables.

I might redivide the beds to allow for a Potatoes bed next spring;  we don't eat many, but then again, my growing space isn't very big:  I could grow ten or so plants and we could certainly eat them gradually over winter. 

The Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency has a calendar of seasonal tasks which I have been following pretty faithfully.  It's a more helpful guide than my big gardening year book;  the tasks are set out bed by bed, and it's obviously geared toward food production (the year book is more focused on ornamentals though it does contain veg/fruit/herb garden tasks). 

All in all, I like this method and will continue using it next year.

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