Measuring success when growing fruit and veg

I thought it would be good to tackle this subject now as we are embarking on a new growing season with plenty to look forward to. It is shaping up to be a very busy year for me which should help with gaining experience and testing out new ways of doing things. This in turn will test how my measurements for success stand up to the experience and effort. A few of the things going on include:

  • 60+ varieties of veg to grow.

  • Flower beds to maintain before re-design over winter.

  • Fruit trees and bushes to maintain and improve.

  • Giant pumpkin attempt.

With these in mind and the other array of jobs to do in the garden there are no shortage of ways to decide if the year has been successful or not. Some of these can be very subjective while others are more broad in their scope. It has taken me a bit of thinking to narrow down the things I look to when it comes to my year having been successful or not. I’ll save the two that I consider the most relevant for me till last but cover a few of the others with some thoughts as well.

Quantity – whether you look at the overall weight of a crop, or the numbers produced, this can be a simple way to judge if it has been a successful year. While it is nice to lift up a root of potatoes and find tubers into double figures or to pick beans and fill a trug before it looks like you have even started, for me this only goes so far. It seems strange to look at quantity and not just say more is best, but we can only eat so much. Yes you can give away or sell excess of course, but what extra crop or variety could you have grown if that excess wasn’t taking up space?

Size – this is where the measure of success is more subjective, for me this year attempting a giant pumpkin can only be considered a success if I can produce a heavy specimen. My aim on this front will be to grow a pumpkin that I am unable to lift by myself – if I achieve that it is a success, if not then less so. It has been said that this kind of growing is a little wasteful as extra large crops are not always as pleasant to eat, if you would want to at all. I can’t entirely disagree with this view when you see food being thrown away in one country and short in another. That said, giant veg adds an element of fun for people that might well inspire some to pick up a spade or rake and start growing their own.

Appearance – to dig a carrot and find it nicely tapered and without the mark of root fly is a joy. Being able to look over your veg patch and see a weed free flush of green growth mixed with the colours of bean pods, beets or chard can put a certain smile on any face – that alone could be called success. Whether it be a blemish free crop or the visual enjoyment while it is growing the appearance can give a great deal of pleasure. Therefore it should be something that is considered when measuring how the year has gone. Of course appearance if you are aiming for a show bench is paramount and would probably be the primary factor – again a subjective element when judging success in that instance.

Variety – perhaps a strange one to consider but I think it is worth a thought at least. When I say variety for me I am talking about the numbers of different veg that can be grown; rather than to single-out favourite varieties. This year I am attempting over 60 different varieties of veg which will be a test, as a number are new to me. Being able to grow such an array will allow me to try a large range and hopefully find a new favourite or two to consider growing again in the future. There are very few veg varieties that I grow for more than a year or two – constantly looking for new varieties to try. Being able to grow a large variety is therefore for me a measure of success. Getting to try a large range of different veg or fruit allows the opportunity to make taste more and in turn hopefully have a better chance of finding a few repeat growers.

Taste – The first of my main two measures for success and probably the most obvious one for most of us? I doubt you will find anybody who grows their own veg who won’t agree that this gives you the best flavour. A big factor in this for me is the belief that getting it from the garden and onto the plate in minutes will preserve the best taste possible. That and knowing exactly what has been done to the veg during its growing add to the satisfaction and hopefully the taste. Taste has a two-fold importance to me, the first simply being enjoyment. The second ties in with the variety as mentioned above – it is only through comparing lots of varieties that you can make a taste judgement on what you believe is the best. This is very much down to personal preference so what could be one persons top of the pile for another could easily be awful. Making taste a very subjective measurement but also very important when it comes to judging the success. Finding a good number of new tasty veg adds no end to how successful I find the year.

Enjoyment – This one is perhaps a little less obvious – or is it? One thing that will keep you growing your own year on year is enjoying the process from start to finish. It is very important to me that I feel I want to go and garden rather than feel I should go and do it. If you tip away from the desire to keep doing this then it becomes just a function or a job. Not necessarily a bad thing if you keep going for the other physical and mental benefits but not what it is for me. This is sometimes difficult to maintain on a cold dreary day no doubt but the urge should at least still be there. At the moment this is a particularly opportune point to make – we are in spring and we have snow. This is making most of us put at least some of our garden plans on hold, probably feeding the desire to get started even more than a milder start to spring might. When it comes to summer and a nice clear day with a gentle breeze perhaps it is hard to find a better place than the garden to spend that time. Sometimes I would rather not go away on holiday and just grab a week or two in the garden as this is certain to relax me and give a distraction from the tribulations of work.

I can happily lose an entire day – 8am til post 6pm with barely a break in the garden, so as long as I feel that is what I want to do then the year has been a success – it’s that simple and important.

Ok – its time for a wrap on this as I have stretched the length I want to write to its max. How do you measure success? Is it using those above as described, perhaps from a different perspective or do you have entirely different methods. Feel free to share in the comments or find me on twitter (@Openspaces79) to have a conversation.

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