cabbagesI know you don't want to hear this, not while you're up to your elbows in tomato puree, but as one who is up to her elbows in courgettes, I feel I can say this with authority: unless you particularly want a major surfeit of garden produce, don't grow so much of any one vegetable!

This hard-learned lesson was imprinted on me when, many years ago, in the hey-day of my hippy-hood, I once had so many cabbages maturing at Christmas that I had to cart them round the local camping ground in a wheelbarrow, extolling the virtues of coleslaw and leaving them outside the tents and caravans of unsuspecting holiday makers! Now, except for coriander, spinach, and gooseberries (which we adore, and consume year-round in large quantities), I seldom preserve any produce, choosing instead to grow not too much of any one thing and to pretty much always eat seasonally. I've consequently got a whole lot better at garden planning – which doesn't quite explain why we grew 16 courgette plants this year instead of 6. (I've been giving courgettes away to the point where my neighbours are starting to hide when they see me coming!).

The thing is, processing apron loads of peas, beans, cauliflowers or whatever it is you have a particular penchant for growing, isn't much fun, especially late at night or in the middle of trying to get away on holiday, and nor is waste. So although it's too late to rectify the summer-glut situation, let's give some thought to your winter garden. Your root crops are likely to be pretty much sorted by now, especially if you live in cooler climes, but how about the rest? Do you actually want three beds of silver beet simply because it's easy to grow? Will the kids really chew their way through a whole four rows of daikon radishes and a bed of autumn mesclun? Or would they (and you) be happier with a crisp flower-of-spring cabbage coleslaw around September, just as scurvy is rearing its ugly head?

If you fill your garden with too much of the same thing whenever you spot a vacant patch of soil, you're only making a headache for yourself (not to mention leaving no space for the next vegetable you want to grow). So just because the thirty broccoli seedlings you've raised have become like children to you, it doesn't mean you can't compost twenty of them (or give them away, or sell them on Trademe!). Enjoying the garden is all about pacing its growth (the formal term for this is "succession sowing"). It involves sowing just a pinch of seed here and there, planting out just a few seedlings of this and that, and then doing the same a month later. It's about growing what your family enjoys eating and not what you think they should be tucking into. It's about harvesting fresh food straight from the ground and dining on it immediately, and not about being burdened by over-production. As my dear old 95 year old neighbour says, "everything in moderation". And on that happy (and somewhat sanctimonious) note, I'll leave you to get back to your bottling while I go outside in the rain to pick another washing basket of courgettes.

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