four blocks of paired root and salad crops

A Roots and Salads Crop-Growing Experiment

The essence of Back Yard Kitchen Gardening is attempting to grow as much useful, edible food as you can in whatever limited space you have available. This doesn’t mean (as I’ve learned to my cost in the past), cramming as many plants as will fit into every single patch of ground – poor yield is the most likely result.

It does mean being creative and trying to grow things a little differently to the norm. And having watched various gardening programmes in the past – notably Alys Fowler’s series a year or two ago – I’ve realised that if you’re not growing crops for their prize-winning size or quality, just to eat, then it’s not absolutely necessary to stick to the spacings on the seed packets.

Last year I had some small success growing root crops in semi-neat, reasonably orderly rows. But the suggested gaps between the rows just seemed to end up as breeding ground for weeds. This year I’ve decided to conduct an experiment – knowing full well that experiments sometimes fail, and that’s part of the discovery process – by pairing up a root crop with a salad leaf crop in the same area.

The basic idea is that the roots will grow mostly downwards whereas salads will mostly grow upwards, so they shouldn’t compete with each other too horribly. And, sown in blocks rather than rows, they’ll hopefully produce enough foliage to keep the weeds under control.

So yesterday I took advantage of the warmest day of the year so far and divided up my second raised bed as follows:

Here’s what’s what and where:

Section A : beetroot, Boltardy and basil, Sweet
Section B : radish, Candela di Fuoco and spinach beet, Perpetual
Section C : swede, Ruby and rocket
Section D : kohl rabi, Green Delicacy and spinach, El Grinta

Everything was reasonably thinly scatter-sown, then lightly raked in and well watered.

‘E’ is the slug-pub that I’ve installed to help keep the beasties at bay. The raised bed is hopefully reasonably slug proof anyhow – they’d have to clamber up two feet of rough timber just to get to the top, which ought to be off-putting. But there’s always a risk of slug eggs in the garden compost that I used to improve the soil. (And it’s just occurred to me that the trap should be at the edge of the bed, rather than the centre, otherwise the slugs will just crawl through the crops, eating as they go, to get to the beer trap. I’ll have to re-position that).

‘F’ is the half of the bed that currently contains last year’s kale plants, plus a couple of rows of beet, Bulls Blood and two varieties of spring onion, which I’m attempting to grow on a bit before the kale comes out (once it’s bolted, which seems likely in this weather) and the bed is then prepared for this year’s runner beans (which are germinating in the greenhouse at the moment, all being well).

The experiment might be doomed to failure, or it might result in a decent crop of assorted salad greens, plus beetroot and radish for the summer while the larger roots develop for the winter.

I’ll update with progress as and when any occurs.

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Darren Turpin

Gardener at Backyard Kitchen Garden
A passionate gardener with a speciality in growing fruit and vegetables on a budget!

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