User guide for my fruit and vegetable gardening database (part 2)

User guide for my fruit and vegetable gardening database (part 2)

This is the second of two videos on the new version of my gardening planning tools and my allotment management tools. They are all free and available to customise and share with others.

For more details please see this blog post:

If you have questions, we have a FAQ document and video, which you can find here:

If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We live in the north west of England, in Lytham St Annes, which I believe is the equivalent of USA Zone 8. Fairly mild, but very windy.

For more details on the databases that I use to manage my allotment, check out these two blog posts

We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and my middle daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot. I do most of the planning and seed starting. We each have our own plots, but we all help each other out.

Jennie’s plot has been designed as a traditional allotment, but we put a lot of focus on minimising the work we do there. It’s basically a plant and forget it plot, full of garlic, leeks, onions, beetroot, brassicas, squash, beans and fruit trees. It’s heavily mulched to reduce weeds and to reduce the need water.

Debbie’s plot is mostly full of perennials, it’s an ornemental plot. Again we did a lot of work to keep the weeds down and Debbie’s approach is inspired by the TV programme The Ornamental Kitchen garden.

My plot is all about experimental growing, maximum productivity and year round abundance. As with all of the other plots I did a lot of work to control the weeds, but it’s a high maintenance plot. I’m always planting, harvesting, experimenting and generally having a great time.

Collectively the plots deliver an amazing abundance of fruit and veg all year round. Debbie, Jennie, Jon and I are effectively self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit for much of the year. During winter we sometimes have enough surplus to feed our local family. During the rest of the year when the surplus from our house garden comes on stream we have surpluses in some crops for quite a few friends as well.

This video provides an overview:

I do an update of the allotments, roughly twice a month, you can find the tours here:

Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in season, to give away our surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible. For more on self sufficiency check out these videos:

We are not slaves to gardening though, I spend about 14 hours a week on the plots (on average) Debbie and Jennie a lot less. We keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.

I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease.

I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat as much organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them when I flare up.


  1. Idaho Garden Girl on December 29, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Thank you for the video!
    Full of good information. I look forward to using these new databases!

  2. QuietGamingDad on December 29, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Hi Steve, loving these videos (I know, a bit late to the party). I’ve been messing around with the AirTable databases and I’m very impressed. I’ve got a quick question that I’m not sure if I should ask here about the AirTables, but here goes anyway. Am I correct in thinking that the Number of Seeds within the "Seeds Packet" section of the database do not automatically update after you’ve logged them in the "Sowing Log" section? It just retains the original number of seeds from the packet and you currently update this manually if needed?

    I’ve been able to get the remaining seeds by setting up a 3 new fields on the "Seeds Packet" section. The first field, which I called "Used In Sowing", links the sowings to the seed packet (so when you enter sowing, you can link which Seed Packet your actually using). Then I’ve setup a rollup field on "Used In Sowing" to sum together all the "Total # of seeds", thus giving me all the seeds I’m planning to use from that packet. Then a final field to simply sum the total # of seeds in the packet, less seeds already marked for use on the sowings table.

    The reason I’m asking is I’m only a part time fun gardener, so it’s more useful for me to know exactly how many seeds I have left in each packet. I’m just making sure this isn’t already in the current AirTable database and that I’m perhaps missing something obvious and therefore missing out on other intended benefits of the current setup?

    Thanks again and keep up the good work from a new subscriber in York, UK!

  3. Dormousey on December 29, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    Just starting so hopefully a helpful tip. I’m adding Nigella as my first variety. (I copied Steve’s fields but not data) I go to the hungry field and go to add an option. Na for Not applicable isn’t there. Type NA and it will ask if you want this as an option. Click yes. It worked for me also in the ‘type’ column as Steve does not have an option for ‘Flower – annual’. Please appreciate Steve is feeding family and community, not playing around like me.

  4. Dormousey on December 29, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    Steve, would you mind giving some extra light on any previous database management you may have? I have an advanced BTEC cert in practical computing, spec in word. excel and access. I feel sure a tweak is needed here somewhere but my brain can’t place it, (RHS Gen Hort cert too) Please appreciate no professional experience but I just feel a tweak some where would make it better. May be me posting this will answer, after a sleep? Let’s hope so.

  5. La Horteta de Bussy on December 29, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks men nice information.😊

  6. James Smith on December 29, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    Steve, I fear that you have just become unpaid IT support for 7.2 thousand people….. and counting!

  7. Ulrika Ström on December 29, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    Absolutly fantastic! So nice uppgrade, you´r a genius Steve =) Just entered airtable and made a copy and filled in while watching your exellent explanations. It just tok 2 hours to see 44 minutes 😉 I have a q about inches (spacing). Can you advice on how to convert the numbers in the tables to cm without messing with formulas etc? Guess we also will dive in to the lengt of the beds as well. Thank you! Take care and be safe. Greetings from Sweden.

  8. Dormousey on December 29, 2020 at 10:46 pm

    Thank you. I think this will definitely help me. I asked Charles Dowding if he could produce a book to help with successional sowings/plantings depending on when you sowed/planted xyz and what could be planted underneath and when to sow – giving multiple choice of veg! Hopefully this can help me in the mean time, he did say it wouldn’t be this year and now I think maybe he doesn’t need to?! I’m starting small so going with flowers first whilst I work it out. Regarding nutrient density, how can we know? It has to be better than shop brought , surely? My health rating will likely differ to yours so I shall work that out, maybe next winter!

  9. Philip Payne on December 29, 2020 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Steve, i’m having a lot of fun playing with your database, i’ve made my own copy and i’m trying to create a view in the sowing log which will lookup from the varieties table those entries which have this year ticked and display them in a view in the sowing log which i’ve created which is not sown yet. However it won’t show them it only shows them if a record has already been created in the sowing log, have you any comments. is there any way to automatically create an entry in the sowing log when this year is ticked in the Varieties table?

  10. What I grow, NL allotment on December 29, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    Hello Steve
    stumbled upon this video and I’m hooked. Made a copy and now I can replace most of your seeds with mine. and if I have those seeds too, maybe change some information. Lots of work but once I het the hang of it it will be worth the effort. Thank you for this. Take care Joyce 💚👩🏻‍🌾🍀

  11. pete T. on December 29, 2020 at 11:03 pm


  12. Dormousey on December 29, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    Hi Steve, just checking I’m not missing any link from your original data …. There is not a link to minus total seed sown (sowing log) from (manually entered) figure added in the seeds field in the (seed packet) log, correct? I have added one and plan to create a database for all seeds sown to link back; just don’t want to miss a potential trick that may have already been performed!

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