Full of enthusiasm and plans for my veggie plot again this year, I have recently been reading The Self Sufficiency Garden by Welsh YouTube Gardener Huw Richards and Instagram’s favourite fermenter and chef, Sam Cooper.  I’m not on social media, where these lads have most of their followers,  so it was nice not really knowing what to expect.

The book was inspired by a project the social-media-savvy pair undertook to see if they could grow six portions of vegetables per day per person in a plot half the size of a standard allotment (just 125 sq metres).  That’s an impressive 586 kg of food in total – or just over 92 stone.  They claim that the experiment actually worked far better than they imagined it would and that the whole garden, once up and running,  was maintained on just 4 hours a week.

It’s an interesting and inspiring read with lots of detail, from setting out beds and watering systems to recipes for simple, nutritious meals and preserving your harvest.   There are monthly sowing plans, design and building instructions for hot beds and raised beds, compost bins and watering stations and lots of clever tips, like vertical gardening and utilising boundaries, to get the most out of a small plot.   There is no doubt that it an invaluable guide for those wanting to lean toward self sufficiency but it does strike me that as well as learning gardening skills you will have to be prepared to learn some DIY skills too – or know someone who already has them! 

And preparation is definitely key – it is essential to spend time setting out the plot properly to get the most from it – which may take most people a significant amount of time. But having said all that, I am a firm believer in ‘just getting started’. I think if you wait for everything to be ‘perfect’ you’ll never get anything done.  So maybe just adopt some of their ideas for this growing season and then use next winter to develop your plot and carry out some of the construction projects.  Although I will definitely be constructing some ‘hoop houses’, or mini polytunnels, to go on top of my raised beds as soon as I can to lengthen my growing time at either end of the season.  

I love some of the tips – like using the metal cage of an IBC water storage tank (intermediate bulk container) to grow runner beans over and making ‘plant tea’ to feed your crops with.  The ‘plant tea’ is one of the four ‘amendments’ – natural non-invasive preparations to boost the health of your plants and soil – that Huw recommends and shares the recipe for. It’s a great reminder that no matter how many books you read or how much construction you do, your harvests will only really be as good as your soil. 

My own veggie plans this year are leaning heavily toward ‘giving peas a chance’ – or growing peas. Lots of peas. And even more peas.  There is nothing better than picking them and eating most of them before you get back to the house.  Adam Alexander, aka the Seed Detective, recommends ‘10 rare and delicious Heritage and Heirloom pea varieties to grow for maximum flavour’ on his ‘generously-informative’ website, so it made sense to order from him.

So now I’m looking forward to receiving Hangman’s Door, Tom Thumb and a mystery substitute for Cockpit.  It may sound a bit like a new board game but you can find out more about these varieties – and much more - on Adam’s website. www.theseeddetective.co.uk