With a limited amount of space available, I therefore have to think very carefully about what to grow. I generally don't have a big quantity of any crop, because I like to have lots of different things. Just recently I have begun to reconsider this stance. This is the dilemma: is it best for me to have a tiny quantity of many different crops (Diversity), or would it be better to have a plentiful supply of a smaller number of crops (Volume)?
Points in favour of Diversity
- More variety of harvests for the kitchen
- Can concentrate on small volume but high value plants - such as herbs
- Smaller amounts are easier to fit into odd corners when space becomes available
- Less impact if one crop is attacked by pests (which may not attack the other plants)
- Weather conditions often suit one type of plant and not another
Points in favour of Volume:
- Viable amounts of each crop - enough to make "proper" meals with
- Possibly less work - fewer sowing, plantings and harvestings
- Probably easier (more uniform) when providing protection from pests and weather
- Easier to plan for crop rotation
- Best approach if you want to freeze produce for later use
As you can see, there are plenty of points in favour of either approach, so this is a tough choice!
The Broad Beans also did very well, though they cropped over only a short period.the Cucumbers got off to a slow start, but came good in the end., and the potatoes were as good as ever. But to be fair, I also had a few failures. The Squashes were a total washout, and the Sweet Corn was pathetic. I planted four Red Cabbages, but only one produced a decent heart (and the foxes ate another one!). Radishes were also very poor this year.
On the other hand, I did have small quantities of some really nice things that I had seldom, if ever, grown before. For instance Strawberries: I had only four plants which produced a minuscule harvest, but the fruits were just SO GOOD that I am already planning to have more next year.
Likewise, I put a few (was it six?) "Golden Ball" Turnips in a plastic container, just because I had a packet of seeds that came free with something, and a spare container. I wish I had sowed some more, because the one we ate the other day was perfect. Hopefully the others will be too.
My harvest of "Mechelse Tros" climbing beans (aka "Mushy Pea Bean") provided one solitary meal for us, but it was really nice, and it gave me a chance to try this unusual vegetable. I might even be persuaded to grow it in quantity on some future occasion.
In truth it would be hard for me to give up the pleasure of having such a variety of nice things to eat. I fear that my decision may well turn out to be a compromise. I think I will drop some of the things that didn't do well, and concentrate on producing a bit more of a smaller number of crops - but not too small a number. I think I'll perhaps forget the Peas (which have never done brilliantly), and the Celeriac (which was very hard work for a very small return), and have 3 varieties of Broad Bean instead of two, more climbing beans and no Sweet Corn; fewer varieties of Tomatoes, but still the same numer of pots; leave out the Cabbages (which are cheap to buy), and have more Cavolo Nero (which goes on cropping for ages), etc, etc...
Here's another thought: some plants crop once; others crop in succession. For instance Runner Beans continue producing new pods over a period of about three months, and Kale lasts all Winter if you pick a few leaves at a time, whereas Sweet Corn and Cabbages are "once only" crops. More of the former and fewer of the latter would be a good plan therefore. So, maybe we're back to the principles of VSR? [If you are not familiar with the concept of Value for Space Rating, have a look at this: VSR ]