How to Plan a Market Farm Garden – My First Year

When it comes to seeds, I’m like a kid in a sweet shop; ‘Ooh, I like that one‘, ‘Some of those‘, and ‘That one’s pretty‘. It’s an ad-hoc buying process that’s based on lust rather than sense. My planning and management on the allotment I formerly shared with my godmother wasn’t much better. I always tended to grow what everyone else was – that meant potatoes when I don’t really like them, vast quantities of onions and reams of runner beans that went stringy before I could eat them all. This year, I’m doing everything differently.

At the end of 2015 I stumbled upon Jean-Martin Fortier’s ‘The Market Gardener‘ and I’m basing my new plan off that. I’m going all in, and basically copying – if it works, I’m not going to try and change it, at least not for the first year. Of course, I can’t grow on JM’s scale. There they have hundreds of feet of beds. I have 18ft. It’s rather small scale. But I do have the greenhouse, and other veggie growing spots around the garden. For instance; last year I grew French beans up the garden trellising and it worked extremely well. Also, whilst JM sells only vegetables, I want to do cut flowers, plants, eggs and chickens too. So though I might not have as much raised bed space, I still have growing space.

For the first year, JM suggests trying no more than 20 easy crops. For those using the community-shared agriculture (CSA) model or producing veggie boxes (like Riverfood or Abel and Cole) you can then buy in the extras. I’m not doing that. I just want to grow enough produce to head out to a few Farmers Markets and also sell from my front door – though, unfortunately, I think any honesty box would get taken advantage of around here. Instead, I’m making up a sign and people will have to knock. It sucks that I’ll only be able to sell when I’m home, but I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of faith in some of the local thieves and scoundrels – especially having been a victim this past year. But with a clear sign and talking a lot with neighbours, I’m hoping people will realise I’ve got produce to sell. I’m hoping that, over time, there might be a demand for veg boxes from regular customers too.

 

A couple veg I’ll definitely be growing again this year.

 

So, with an onus for easy specimens and a few that are a little different to supermarket varieties, my planned crops for 2016 are as follows:

  1. Tomatoes (Greenhouse)
  2. Aubergine (Greenhouse)
  3. Cucumber (Greenhouse)
  4. Spinach
  5. Carrots
  6. Broad Beans
  7. Beans – Borlotti & French
  8. Onions
  9. Lettuce
  10. Sweet Peppers (Conservatory)
  11. Radishes
  12. Summer Squash/Courgettes
  13. Basil
  14. Parsley
  15. Coriander
  16. Beetroot
  17. Kale
  18. Leek

I’ll be trying to grow a couple of varieties for each vegetable; one a hardy staple, and another that’s a slightly different vegetable, either in size, shape, colour or even taste. It’s all a MASSIVE learning process and I can’t expect to be highly successful. However, the key to any market garden is to be extremely organised so I’m drawing up sowing calendars, transplanting times and a general plan for successional planting to keep crops going as fast as possible.

I’m yet to work out any kind of pricing – especially as I don’t live in a particularly affluent area and there’s  a very cheap Aldi just down the road. It remains to be seen whether people value homegrown local veg or just want a bargain. But if I don’t try, I’ll never know and I would just LOVE to make a living from growing.

Have you grown veggies for sale? Ever attempted a small scale market garden? Let me know!

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Hi,

I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.