Michael’s Small But Mighty Plot | Plotter of the Month September 2023

Last year we launched a competition to find 12 readers and their plots that would appear in Kitchen Garden magazine this year. Meet Michael, another of our creative and talented winners.

Want to be a Plotter of the Month in 2024? We’re currently taking applications – simply answer our ten questions, share some pics, and be in with the chance of winning some fantastic prizes!

Michael Buxton from Sheffield

Michael has proved that even in smaller spaces you can adapt and grow great vegetables.

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Do you have an allotment or a veg patch in your garden?

I have a small plot at the side of my driveway which was covered in ivy, laurel and conifers and that prevented sunlight getting to the grass so looked a bit of a mess. After I cleared it, the sun is now on the plot all day and having walls on three sides helps prevent wind damage and also helps to retain heat. I also have a greenhouse at the side of the house, but it is in the shade most of the summer as it is on a north-easterly facing wall. However, it does help to get seeds started earlier than planting them directly into the ground as it keeps the frost off them. It is also very useful for overwintering my wife’s flower tubs.

Michael’s plot has walls on three sides which helps to give some protection to the veggies
How long have you been growing veg?

I started growing vegetables in large pots and tubs about 10 years ago and was surprised by what you can produce. That prompted me to clear the plot at the side of the drive so that I could grow more varieties of vegetables and larger quantities.

Why did you start growing your own produce?

I was amazed at the difference in the taste of home-grown vegetables compared with shop-bought produce. I try to grow as organically as possible, and I think that is why home-grown vegetables taste far better than shop-bought because they are not sprayed with chemicals.

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Do you share your plot with other people?

No, it’s only a small plot so I can manage it by myself. I do however have a supervisor! My wife likes to come and inspect the plot and makes suggestions on what to grow.

Did you learn anything new last year from tending your plot?

Yes, never be tempted to get started too early when we get an unexpected spell of warm weather early in the year. I have learned the hard way by thinking the sun is shining, it’s warm, so it must be time to sow the seeds. Living in the north I tend to work on the principle of sowing seeds at the beginning of May and plant out at the end of May around Spring Bank Holiday weekend.

Have you a top tip you could pass on to other readers?

I only have a small plot and I do tend to plant things closer together than the recommended planting distances. What I have found is that crops will still grow but will produce smaller quantities. This is particularly good for brassicas as a smaller cabbage head is better than something larger when you’re only growing to feed two of us.

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A wide variety of veg is grown
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who has never grown their own fruit and veg before, what would it be?

Never give up once you have started. Some years may be good or even excellent and other years can be awful. With global warming creating very wet and very hot spells, every year is different from the next. Even the farming community are finding it difficult to predict how each year will be.

Can you name one of your favourite fruit/vegetables and how you grow it?
Peas are one of Michael’s favourite crops

Peas are a favourite of mine, which I usually plant in the greenhouse in redundant plastic gutters. When they are ready to plant out on the plot, I simply slide them into the trench, which helps to stop any root disturbance. I particularly like to grow them because when they are ready for picking they are a welcome snack while I’m working on the plot.

Do you recycle things on your plot?

Unfortunately, only having the small plot I do not have space for a compost heap, but we do have a council green bin collection which I use. One thing that I have found very useful is using toilet and kitchen roll cardboard inners for starting my seeds off. I have found that by using these I do not have to disturb the roots as I can just plant the seedlings out in the veg plot and the cardboard rots down. I also use large plastic food pots with the bottoms cut off to start things off like broad and runner beans. Then plant them out in the pots which help to keep slugs and snails from nibbling the young plants. And of course, the redundant plastic gutter for the peas.

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Do you include anything on your plot to help local wildlife?

On the side wall I have some troughs attached to the fence in which my wife plants flowers to attract the bees and insects and she also plants a small flower border at the front of the plot. I also have a small bug hotel hanging on the fence for winter vacations.

Why do you like growing your own fruit and veg?

It’s the sense of satisfaction of seeing the fruits of your labour. Planting seeds, some as small as carrots and watching them grow into something you put on your dinner plate. Going out to the plot to pick something for dinner, preparing it, cooking it and eating it, all within an hour.

One of the keys to growing great veg is to inspect the crops regularly, checking for any issues

Thanks to Michael for telling us all about his plot! We’d love to hear about yours too.

Don’t miss your chance to appear in the pages of Kitchen Garden and win over £177 worth of great prizes – be sure to submit your entry before the end of November to !

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About the Author

Alex Bestwick