I thought I'd write some tips about gluts after several posters asked Rhonda Jean of Down to Earth how she dealt with them. Now deliberate creation of a glut can be useful, if you like (or need) to preserve your own food. If all your cooking tomatoes are ripe at the same time, it's easy to make passata. But I can't spare the time to do preserving, nor is my vegie patch large enough to provide us with all the passata we'd need in a year. So I don't want gluts. Here is how I avoid them:
- Keep an eye out for long-cropping varieties. Some plants, especially tomatoes, have been bred to suit commercial growers; they produce their crop in a short space of time. For the home gardener, a tomato plant that gives you two tomatoes a week for eight weeks is an asset. One that gives you 16 tomatoes in a week and promptly carks it is... not quite so useful. Heirloom varieties tend to be longer croppers, but check the documentation before you buy.
- Stagger your plantings through the entire growing season. In Sydney, I can plant peas any time between March and July and they will crop in about two months. Now I could plant all my peas in March and be sick of them by June, or I could plant a section of trellis in March, a section in April, and so on, and have peas over the whole winter. Which sounds better to you? Of course this does mean that gastronomy beats aesthetics -- no serried ranks of uniform vines any more. Not a problem for me as I use guild planting anyway. An advantage is that early and late plantings tend to attract fewer pests; pest numbers aren't as high as at the peak of the season.
- Don't plant what you don't like. Zucchini grow easily here in summer and crop well. They can be cooked in many different ways. There's only one problem. My family aren't keen on zucchini. So I don't plant them... not even one. I have therefore saved myself a square metre of garden bed and that whole Sneaking Zucchini thing I've been hearing about.
- Don't plant more than you will eat. OK, there is no such thing as too much asparagus, or tomatoes, or cucumbers. But how many cabbages can you manage in a year? My family would probably only manage to eat through a cabbage a month. If we allow for some losses, that's all of 18 seedlings planted out in a year. I raise them from seed, so I'd only sow about three punnet-cells with cabbage seed a month. If you know you won't eat a lot, don't plant a lot, even if you don't want to calculate it as precisely as this.