March 2017 IV: Planning a 7.5 sqm bed for root crops

With a small garden of 50 sqm, using every square metre of soil productively is critical.

My four bed roation has broadly the following layout:

Bed I: potatoes

Bed II: Broad beans, leeks, beetroot, forcing carrots and lettuce

Bed III: Garlic, Runner beans, french beans, beetroot, June carrots

Bed IV: Parsnip, April and May carrots, onion.

Where space is available, additional salad, turnip, radish and fennel are slotted in for half a season.

This post discusses my root crop bed, how I plan it and why.

I start with parsnips, as these take a whole season to grow. My 2016/17 crop was 4 rows of 1.5m spaced at 40cm, with rows at 20cm, 60cm, 100cm and 140cm from the north end. The crop has yielded 8-12lb/ row and has if anything been slightly more than required for the whole winter. The roots have been up to 40cm long and up to 1.5lb in weight.

As a result, this year, I will only plant three rows, spaced at 20cm, 60cm and 100cm. I will be sowing Tender and True from Real Seeds.

Next I will sow three rows of carrots in early April, spaced at 130cm, 160cm and 190cm. Two rows will be Sweet Candle and one row will be Early Nantes.

Next I will transplant onions: 5 rows of Kelsae spaced at 20cm in an equilateral triangle lattice (220cm, 237.5cm, 255cm, 272.5cm and 290cm); 2 rows of van Rijnsburger clumps (325cm and 350cm latticed); and two rows of van Rijnsburger singles sown at 10cm spacing (370cm and 390cm).

Finally, 5 rows of carrots (Nantes) will be sown in early May (410, 430, 450, 470 and 490cm).

Target yields will be:

Parsnips: 30lb;

April Carrots: 20lb;

Onions: 50lb;

May Carrots: 30lb.

In addition, radish will be intersown between parsnip and April Carrots (5 rows) and as an early crop before May carrots (total radish target 5lb). After the onion harvest and April Nantes carrots, autumn salads will be grown (total target 15lb).

As a result, the target for the 7.5 sqm bed for the season will be 150lb.


Author: Rhys

Rhys trained as a research biologist, working for a decade in the cancer research charity sector, before completing an MBA and working in management consultancy, technology transfer and early technology investment spaces, mostly working with UK academics to turn their scientific discoveries into value for society. AS a younger man, he was fascinated with mountains, both climbing them and ski-ing down them. Whilst living in Scotland, he completed a round of (then) all 277 Munros, the independent mountains over 3000ft originally complied as a list by Munro. He also spent his holidays representing the Ski Club of GB, as a Representative and Party Leader between 1990 and 1997. During that time, he found to his bemusement that he was able to predict, without understanding fully why, to a remarkable degree of accuracy, when good snow conditions would occur in the Alps, gaining an unworthy reputation for predictive genius in 1990 when predicting the evolution of the 1989/90 winter in Wengen, Switzerland for his CEO boss. He used this skill for the next seven years to ensure that he enjoyed powder snow pretty much every time he went ski-ing. An MD student he was training in Oxford also impressed his wife by taking Rhys' advice about when to take her to Italy in the mid 1990s! In recent years, Rhys has turned his mind toward how to grow prize tomatoes, winning several prizes in local and London shows and has, in the past 3 years, moved toward taking over a 50 square metre urban vegetable patch, which he has turned into a no-dig area since autumn 2014.

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