The Time and Space Conundrum
I am sure that it is possible to devise a mathematical formula to resolve my problem, however just thinking about it makes me want to lie down in a darkened room. So this post is about juggling and not mathematics.
At 57°N the growing season is very short and relatively cool, on average we get very few days when the temperature exceeds 20°C. However, during the summer months we have very long days, so our peak growing season is between May and August or sometimes just June or July. So I have to juggle light levels, germination time, growth rate, temperature and space so that I can work out what to sow when, and how many plants, and modules I can accommodate. I also have to hope that the weather in April and May will be good or at least without too many force 8 gales (40-46 mph).
Ideally most of my vegetable plants, those which are not sown in situ, need to be ready for planting in May. I usually gamble that the weather in April will be good and plant some of the hardier vegetables early, but to be on the safe side I have the rolls of fleece on hand (and fencing posts to hold it down) and some replacement plants just incase the weather defeats me. In general I find that raising vegetables plants in modules gives me a head start, but it can be a risky strategy and therefore I have to grow lots of plants in succession as part of my insurance plan.
I have not yet mastered the art of growing tomatoes, it is either the aphids, lack of pollinators or sunshine or trace elements that results in gallons of green tomato chutney. So I keep experimenting and this year I’m staring my tomato, aubergine and sweet pepper plants early to maximise the growing period. However my heated propagator is small, so as soon as the seeds germinate they have to come into the house and sit on the window sill until it is warm enough in the polytunnel at night to move them back. This is not too much of a problem at the seedling stage, but gets more interesting as the pots and plants get bigger.
Somehow I also have to fit in the flowering plants, plant apartheid I’m afraid, priority has to be given to the edibles! However they’re a pushy lot and tend to jostle the herbs for space. I’ve learnt the hard way, that if the plants are not big enough for putting out by the end June, it’s better to grow them in containers, overwinter and plant the following spring. A tough protocol when you’ve empty borders to fill and a tendency to be impatient.
Working all this out is like multi-dimensional chess involving various high risk strategies which results in a chaotic movement of seed trays, plants, seed packets, labels, lists, rolls of fleece, bags of compost and pencils. If I am honest I know that if I bought fewer packets of seed, grew one variety of lettuce and not a dozen or more, was less ambitious, grew fewer plants, was more organised and spent less time day dreaming; the weather would still leave me juggling time and space!
If I ever solve this gardening dilemma, I think it would be time to hang up the trowel and shut the garden gate forever.