Fruit and Veg Growing
This page is part of the Making a Living from Local Food Resources pages.
In this section there is lots of useful material to help plan, and improve your growing. There are are pointers to other websites with more information. There are different tools and templates for recording your activities, to help plan and improve, and detailed examples of other businesses to compare and help assess your own plans and outcomes. The topics are:
- General sources of information on growing
- First steps
- Crop planning and management
- Polytunnel /protected growing
General Sources of Information on Growing
The Soil Association has Technical Guides on a range of topics. You can select the topic you want to find information on through a search filter. The ‘horticulture’ section, for example, has fact sheets on slugs and other pests, improving soil, planning and managing protected crops, and many more topics. The section on Soil Health has 22 documents/fact sheets, covering topics like earthworms, green manures, drainage, soil testing and more. Additionally, this page has a list of seven videos that explain ‘sourcing quality compost’, ‘assessing soil health’, ‘soil management for protected cropping’, and more.
The Farm Advisory Service has lots of useful downloadable information including case studies, news updates, Handbook chapters and online regional discussion groups, that can be searched by topic (including ‘crofts and small farms’, ‘new entrants’), and has an advice telephone line for general inquiries.
The Organic Research Centre publishes research, provides information services, contributes to policy, posts lots of news and event updates, and publishes an e-bulletin that you can sign up for.
If you are interested in biodynamic growing, The Biodynamic Association is a membership organisation with interesting case studies and resources (much of which is for sale, unfortunately).
If you are looking for books, these are good places to start (more to follow shortly):
- The Organic Farm Management Handbook (2014, 10th edition), Nic Lampkin, Mark Measures & Susanne Padel (unfortunately not available online, but the link takes you to the details)
- Pest and Disease Management for Organic Farmers, Growers and Smallholders: A Complete Guide (2010), Gareth Davies, Phil Sumption & Anton Rosenfeld (ditto, not available online)
The Site Assessment Checklist identifies the questions you need to ask yourself about your site. It is a one page handout with half a dozen questions about the space itself and the structures on this land; the climate and the growing conditions; and the site’s history. With each question it suggests some action points.
This Powerpoint presentation about Propagation Methods Powerpoint has 44 slides that explain seed germination, types of seeds, chemical treatments for diseases and fertilisers, methods of sowing, costs and more, mostly from a perspective of a large conventional veg grower, but indicating in places how this applies differently for organic growers.
Indoor Propagation Key Points has lots of useful advice in two pages of short sentences: the advantages/disadvantages of direct sowing vs sowing for transplantation, using different types of seeds, different methods of sowing indoors (trays, pots, boxes etc.), what composts are available, and how to’s about sowing, aftercare and temperature, all in 2 pages.
Outdoor Sowing Key Points is a brief one page advice sheet about bed preparation, methods of direct sowing, and lists the advantages of growing in raised beds.
The Propagation Methods Record Sheet is an example of a spreadsheet that can be used to record the propagation type, the transplant method and bed preparation that was carried out for a list of 30 different crops over a calendar year.
The Cullerne Sowing Calendar is a spreadsheet listing the details of growing 30 crops from basil to turnips across a year’s calendar, broken down in weeks. Cullerne gardens belong to the Findhorn Community, in North East Scotland. The calendar indicates for each crop the time of sowing, the methods used, the location and quantities sown and planted, and is thereby a good example of how particular garden establishes its crops.
Crop Planning and Management
The Crop Observation Sheet is an empty template that prompts you to record a lot of detailed information about each crop individually, starting with the details of the variety, where and when it was planted, what its needs are in terms of site and soil, nutrients and water, etc, and a detailed diary of its development prompting you to note its progress and any actions needed at each stage.
The Northern Greens Sowing Schedule is an example of a year’s calendar showing when each of thirty crops were sown (sheet 1) and harvested (on sheet 2)
The Detailed Growing Plans Example spreadsheet is another real example of an organic business’s crop records: there are six different sheets including an overall map of all beds, bed-by-bed details, details of each crop sown, dimensions, a picture plotting crop densities and more.
The Brookfield Farm Crop Planning Spreadsheet provides an example of how a medium-sized veg growing farm records its growing activity. It has an overview as well as pictorial map of its different fields, keeping track of detailed information such as particular crop varieties, amounts, location, acreage covered; product timing and amounts; yields targeted; row numbers, length and bed depth; and lots more.
The Northern Greens Crop Area Calculator shows the detailed records of one particular farm’s production of 20 to 60 veggie boxes, three years later. It records information about each of 35 crops for each year, detailing its unit size, number of plants, number of customers it was grown for, number of weeks, size of land needed, etc..
The Legumes is a three-page handout with key information about nitrogen-fixing green manure crops that can also be eaten as crops in their own right. There is information about peas, broad beans and french beans and other green manures. It gives advice about fertility requirements, pests and diseases and more.
Three Rs of Crop Management is a one-page summary handout to remind you of what you need to understand about three key in crop management namely: the right crops, the right timings, and the right conditions for each crop. It then lists what you can do to build up your understanding of these e.g. by recording, market research, site assessment, and to improve your performance.
Polytunnel / Protected Growing
The Polytunnel Study is a 13-page detailed report that documents the ‘Profitability of twelve small-scale organic vegetable crops grown in a greenhouse in the North East of Scotland’. It was completed in 2008 and therefore dated, but it prompts reflection about what factors should be considered to assess profitability.
The Tunnel Crops spread sheet shows detailed information about each of ten crops generally grown indoors in Scotland, including planting data, against labour and sales costs/incomes (as they were in 2008), with an overview sheet totaling all incomes and costs. These are also the crops that are discussed in the above paper.
The Organic Soft Fruit Growing Considerations is a brief two-page list of key points to consider on Which market?, Which crops?, Is my site suitable?, Which growing system?, and more, with a handful of conclusions and essential ‘Action Points’ at the end. Useful as a checklist of things to bear in mind before you start on detailed planning or invest in any particular direction.
The Orchard Micro Planner is a short seven-point step-by-step decision-making chart that prompts the key questions you need to answer at each stage for drawing up your plans for an orchard.
The Apple Tree Pruning Guide is a short two-page practical guide that takes you through the timing, your goals, and what bits to prune off your trees. This is followed by a paragraph each on pruning mature and neglected trees, full-size trees and young trees. Useful for getting the hang of basics for pruning apple trees and similar other types of fruit trees.