It seems appropriate that I post the close-of-summer garden post today; last week, we had the first plant-killing frost. It didn't kill everything, but the bush beans have definitely had it, so it counts. And this morning, a harder frost; when I set out for work this morning, de-icer was called for (not my favourite thing in the world)
My gardening has been diverse and varied this year; I've had successes and failures in probably equal measure - and it's notable that last year's successes have been some of this year's disappointments, and vice versa. Most notable, though, is that I haven't actually followed through on a lot of my gardening commitments. If I'd committed to less, and invested the same total amount of effort into that smaller goal, I would have reaped a much larger harvest. This is something to think about, in the context of my life as a whole, not just the garden, and something to remember for next year. I'm probably not ready to take on that allotment just yet, eh?
- Peas - I grew dwarf hatif peas, green telephone peas and golden mange tout. The hatif I think have potential, but I planted them too late in the season for them to have a good chance. I'm not sure that it's worth trying to grow your own green peas (except to harvest the pods, which make excellent wine!), and this year the telephones were particularly disappointing. I planted two 'pyramids' of mange tout, but one would have been plenty - or two, but not at the same time
- Soy beans - Like the hatif peas, these went in too late and got swallowed by the one successful squash plant. I wasn't paying attention.
- Chick peas - These were fun! They were victims of my erratic attention span, though, and I missed the harvesting window. They went from 'green' to 'gone' in what seemed like a blink of the eye.
- Bush beans - I'm a total convert to these. They take up so little space, start producing quickly, and crop and crop and crop for aaages.
- Pole beans - Cherokee Trail of tears and Rhinegold (I think). The Cherokees were not bad, but given that I planted the others very early in the year, its sort of a shame they're just coming into their maximum productivity now - because they were badly affected by the (very mild) frost this week. I will probably grow the Cherokees or a similar variety for drying next year, but skip the others - the bush beans were so much better for a French/runner type
- Broad beans - I planted some of my Dad's seed for these, and they were delicious - but the third and onwards 'layers' of pods rotted off. I'm not sure why, but fungus seems to have been a recurring theme in my garden this year.
- Onions - unfortunately, a lot of my onions got crowded out by volunteer tomato plants, which I decided to let grow because hey, if it's a good year for tomatoes, then I want all I can get! Even more unfortunately, the tomatoes all succumbed to blight, so I got nothing from the onion bed.
- Garlic - one of this year's success stories! Albegensian wight, Chesnok wight, Lautrec wight, Picardy wight. The Albigensian Wight variety produced the biggest bulbs - but no scapes (we really enjoyed the scapes!) Planted late last year, we have enough garlic that, with care, we might manage to be self-sufficient in garlic next year.
- Leeks - another crop lost to my erratic attention span, early in the year. I'm sorry about this; I've had some pretty good success with leeks in the past, and I miss them.
- Beetroot has been a raging success this year, with much bigger roots than last year's efforts, and luscious, prolific greens. I've only grown one variety - the white ones from Real Seeds - which I picked specifically because the greens, as well as the roots, are supposed to be good to eat. I love the roots chopped and roasted in olive oil, with dried rosemary and salt. I'll definitely grow these again next year. Phased growing seems to work well with these, too, so you don't get all your crop at once (I still have a few in the ground!)
- Carrots have been pretty much a non-event this year. The first carrot bed was overrun by weeds due to neglect, and a downpour washed all the seeds in the second one to one side of the patch! We do have carrot fly in this area, but haven't suffered with it too badly this year.
- Potatoes - mixed success. Actually, we got quite a good crop, but I wasn't very interested in cooking when the best new ones were ready, so we sort of missed the best bit.
- Parsnips - slow to germinate, we got overgrown with weeds before the plants themselves were up. These definitely need a better prepared plot for next year.
- Tomatoes - a range of varieties, including a vast number of volunteers. Some were wonderful (especially the yellow centiflors):
But I lost a lot to blight:
The blight was such a problem that I plan not to grow any tomatoes next year, to give the land a rest.
- Peppers - One variety, Sweet Kaibi. I grew these in my little poly-greenhouse, and I'm really impressed. It's not as if I've come close to meeting our annual pepper requirements, but these have been sweet, crunchy and impressively thick-walled compared with shop bought ones. Definitely one to repeat for next year.
- Chillis - two varieties, Rotoco and Lemon Drop. The Rotocos haven't fruited yet, but the Lemon Drop have done pretty well. We ate one in a stir fry last night, and it was pleasantly hot, with a distinct lemon scent (not sure about flavour, though).
- Aubergines - Two beautiful plants grew from seed, but didn't set a single fruit. Next year, I break out the tiny paintbrushes and give them a helping hand.
- Lettuce has been a washout. I tried red iceberg for the second year in a row, but I find it very slow growing, and a couple of heads rotted off, seemingly from the inside out, before I got to eat them this year. I think successional sowing of 'baby' greens might work better for my work lunches, at least.
- Rocket needs to be sown more often and in window-box style pots, not in the raised beds
- Chard - Swiss chard, aka perpetual spinach, has been another real win this year. J's favourite pizza topping has been sauteed 'spinach' with blue cheese and walnuts, with an egg on top. This is a major coup, since a) it contains no meat, and b) he's been a lifelong greens-hater thus far. We've had three chard plants, and they've cropped all season long; a fourth would mean we have some to freeze, too, if I was diligent about it.
- Herbs - eh. So many herbs (basil and coriander, I'm looking at you!) seem to need diligent succesional sowing in order to give a useful crop without killing the plants. I'm working on it, but it's another thing I either need to really, really commit to, or just don't bother.
- Amaranth - I grew some!! I've been trying to grow this from seed for years, and the seedlings have just been dying off. This year, I succeeded - but I've not done anything with it. Heh.
All the brassicas have been impossible to grow to eating stage in previous years, due to intense predation by butterflies and snails. This year, I got the better (mostly) of the butterflies by growing under mesh, and picking off the caterpillars that got in anyway. Next year, I need to do something about the molluscs.
- Broccoli - for the first year, I got some that was worth eating! We had five plants (I think), but still, most of our broccoli was bought in. Is this one worth it in a small garden?
- Cauliflower - all lost at the seedling stage, this year
- Kohl Rabi - we love this in coleslaw, but haven't eaten much this year.
- Swede - lost the whole crop to various insects. Bah.
- Rapa senza testa - this one cropped well, but I was having a lazy spell, and didn't actually get around to harvesting it. Wasted effort!
- Broccoli raab - we tried this as a quick-to-crop alternative to broccoli; it 'works' just fine, but even I found it bitter. Not a favourite with J.
- Brussels sprouts - still in the ground, and, since we've had the first frost, I could technically consider them ready! I hope to have some at Christmas.
- Cabbages - I have a head!! This is a major win, given my past experiences. Now to make sure I actually harvest the thing, instead of letting it go to waste...
Squashes and curcubits
- Cucumber ('Parisian Pickling' variety, another dual-purpose plant, with fruit good for pickling and for salads) has been an oddly mixed success. I gave up on these plants after the general squash-failure early in teh year - only to find that they'd struggled on regardless. With absolutely zero attention from me, these little plants have straggled their way through the beds, in the shade, and have produced about as many fruit per plant as they have leaves. I have no idea how they managed it:
I'll definitely plant these again next year - I'm really keen to find out how well they do if they're actually tended.
- Melons and summer squash - all my seedlings died after I planted them out just before the last cold snap of spring. I re-sowed seed, but the second crop of seedlings failed to thrive, and I didn't have a single plant. Not to worry, though - Geodyne has provided us with more courgettes, patty pans and other summer squas than I can count!
- Winter squash - one vine (a Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato) survived the tragedy that took all the summer squash and melon plants. It has multiple fruit, and I must pick them.
- Strawberries - I planted 10 plants from my parents' place this year. We got some fruit, though it was a race between us, the snails and the birds; not bad, for year 1.
- Raspberries - Again, this was their first year in the ground, so I didn't expect any - and I wasn't disappointed. Maybe a scant handful of fruit; a very promising 'watch this space'.
- Blueberries - enough to keep me in breakfasts for a month or so! I only bought these bushes last year, so I was very pleasantly surprised here.
If you're still with me, you deserve a prize! But sorry not today - come back later in the week. ;)