Monday, 13 September 2010

Annual Review

I've just been reading last year's review to see how things compare this year. Well there haven't been any particularly noteworthy improvements, but not too many failures either. Overall performance: satisfactory.
Starting with what I would normally grow in the greenhouse, except I am without one at the moment, tomatoes and chillis.
have been a bit disappointing. They haven't had ideal conditions, and have been moved from pillar to post all summer. I should have grown them in bigger pots, and fed them more. Yields quite low. 'Atomic' varieties not atomic at all. Tomatoes all grown outside, Ferline F1 and Legend, both blight resistant, have done well, but one or two are just beginning to show signs of blight. I wish I had labelled them properly, because now I can't remember which are which. Half of them are very short, the rest grew up to the top of the canes. They were the better ones. If I knew which ones they were I would probably stick to them next year.

Summer cabbages were fine until I went on holiday, when I came back they had all exploded. We only managed to eat about four of them. Winter ones doing well. Purple sprouting brocolli- had a huge setback when I was away, from a severe attack of aphids. Ditto Brussells sprouts, which I have never grown before. I have lavished them both with tlc and the ladybirds have really helped with the aphid problem. They have responded well but I think they are behind. I think I can just make out the beginnings of sprouts forming. Kale - never grown it before and I don't think I will bother again. We haven't really been eating it, and it's covered with whitefly now.

Lettuces and spinach both did really well in spring and early summer, but I just don't seem to be able to grow them after midsummer. Next year I will try some in pots in the garden [by which time of course my garden will have been redesigned and redeveloped and will be looking beautiful. At the moment it's a building site]

Carrots have done well, have kept them covered and carrot-fly free. The second sowing I did around June I didn't think had come up, but I can see some of them now. Still quite small though, hope they will grow before winter. Celeriac - haven't had any yet so don't know how big they've got. Somebody told me to remove all the outer leaves regularly, which I have been doing, so we'll see if that makes any difference to their size. Parsnips - another first for me. Again haven't sampled one yet but the signs are promising.

Earlies were a bit disappointing, I put this down to the very dry late spring/early summer weather, just when they needed the water most. Maincrops have produced much better yields. These are Rooster potatoes - good for mashing and wedges. I always find the skins of baked potatoes very tough and hard, compared to shop-bought ones, I don't know if this is something to do with being freshly dug?

Squashes etc:

Courgettes have been disappointing. I did a new variety plus the same ones as last years. But only the new variety came up so I had four of them but they have not done very well. Maybe one courgette a week between them. Pathetic really. Won't bother with that variety next year. Top prize has to go to this butternut squash, which I estimate to be about 10" long. There is one other of good size, but the rest are very small and I don't know if they will come to anything. Out of about 6 plants it's not great.

Two fairly respectable pumpkins, and a selection of small Blue Ballets, Crown Princes and Potimarrons. No more than one per plant though.

As I have already mentioned the sweetcorn did not do well, which I put down to the toilet rolls. Lesson learnt.

Peas - the usual story, not much return for all that effort. Next year I will try dwarf ones under enviromesh, and if that doesn't come up with the goods it's goodbye to peas for good.
Runner beans - better than last year, plenty without being too many, and there are some in the freezer as well. French beans - did quite well, but we missed most of them due to being on holiday. My second sowing is only just starting to produce beans, so I hope there will still be enough good weather for them to produce a decent yield.

Garlic - best so far. I am going to replant a couple of the bulbs for next year's crop. Overwintering onions suffered from the very cold winter, and didn't do very well. They certainly didn't crop any earlier than the spring planted ones, and were smaller. I don't think I'll do them this autumn, just spring ones. Leeks are doing really well, but we haven't eaten any yet, although some look ready.

Strawberries - dismal. Either the plants are coming to the end of their lives, or it was down to the very dry period when they're normally ready, but I only got a couple of pickings out of them, certainly not enough for jam or anything like that. I haven't had the late summer crop I got last year either. Loganberries got attacked by raspberry beetles, and I had very few currants. On the plus side, we did get the unexpected bonus of plums in our new garden, a few blueberries and the bowl of cherries in June.

I wonder if anyone has ever had a year when everything has been a success? But isn't it great that there's always next year to try again?

Monday, 6 September 2010


The allotment has been very neglected lately. It was all I could manage just to get there and keep harvesting things. However I have managed to do a bit of preserving and storing. I have been rather confined to the house because the children are still on holiday and we also have builders in, but this is what I have managed to do:

The onions are hanging inside the legs of tights, strung up in the shed. When I want some I just cut below a knot and out they come. It as a bit less fiddly that making strings, besides, they hardly had any stalks left for tieing to the string.

The sum total of my loganberry, blackcurrant and blueberry crops was made into just three jars of jam! It hasn't been a very good year for my fruit. I went out blackberrying, but somebody had beaten me to it and all the good ones had gone. But there were masses of elderberries, so I have made elderberry jelly in quantity. It does contain a couple of handfuls of blackberries, some spice and cinnamon, and the juice of two lemons and pectin sugar, as it seems elderberries are pretty low in pectin. It has set well and is surprisingly tasty.

Finally I have blanched and frozen several bagfuls of runner beans.

This week I am back to work and it's forecast to rain all week, but maybe the weekend will be a good opportunity to catch up a bit at the allotment.