Well, we’ve got to the end of October, the clocks have gone back and fireworks are beginning to sound in advance of Guy Fawkes Night. I tend to think about now as the end of the productive year and start to think about what should be done for next year.
Its been a funny old year, some things have done well and others badly. Always a good reason to grow a mix of things. So lets do a full review. First just to let you know how much space I’ve got. Having given up the allotment at the start of last year, I’ve now got: three raised beds (a total of about 30 sq yards); a polytunnel (20ft x 10ft); two 6ftx8ft greenhouses; 2 rhubarb crowns; 4ftx8ft raspberry canes; 2 apple trees (Discovery and one other that I’m not quite sure of). All in all not a vast space but enough for fun. So a summary of how things have done:
French Beans: (grown in the polytunnel) done well, they’re all over now and I’ve collected seeds to grow again next year. A total of about 10kg which were enough to make some chutney (probably not enough to last out the winter but enough to add flavour to sandwiches). I’ve also learned that sowing in succession works well and we picked the last beans only this week. Definitely to grow again next year. A mix of various varieties of dwarf and climbing means that they crop over a longer period of time and reduces the glut/starve that you get when they’re all the same variety.
Courgettes: (raised bed) also done well. Five plants has been enough to give us about 17kg and again the plants have been taken out this week with the very last fruit being added to a stir fry.
Broad Beans: (raised bed) they come early (I only sow them once at the end of the year – in fact I’ve just sown next year’s crop). They’re easy to deal with and come out early enough that another crop (usually courgettes) can be put into the space making good use of the land.
Lettuce: (Polytunnel & raised bed) – I try to fit lettuce in wherever there’s space and grow a mix of different varieties and colours perhaps to mix in with shop bought lettuce when there’s not enough. An awful lot of them go on the compost heap because they seem to bolt quite easily but compost is always useful and the lettuce fill the spaces and keep the ground productive.
Cabbage: (Raised bed & Polytunnel) – I grew eight cabbages from plants. I’ve always had difficulty getting seeds to the point where the plants are big enough to transplant so this year I decided to buy some plants and grow them. Too big for the raised beds, they interfered with most of the things I was trying to grow but the eight plants produced 6+kg which was pleasing. The issue (as ever) is that everything comes at the same time so these were coming when the French Beans were producing but they seemed to be OK and we didn’t end up throwing any away.
Cucumber: (Polytunnel & Greenhouse) – we grew four plants and got 12kg of cucumbers which I count as a success.
Fruit: We grow a mix of fruits. Autumn Raspberries, Alpine Strawberries, Rhubarb and Physalis. The Autumn Raspberries are from the allotment so this year was their second and we got enough for a handful with a cereal every morning from mid July until last week. Mixed with the physalis (which I like) and the alpine strawberries it adds flavour. A total of about 4kg, not enough to need to freeze them but still a success. I’m hoping that next year the raspberries will do even better. We also had about 5kg of rhubarb which has the benefit of two harvests neither of which seem to conflict with anything else.
Apples: we have two apple trees and this year both have done well. The eater (Discovery I think) is plundered by the squirrels and, no matter what I do, nothing seems to stop them. This year the magpies have joined in, damaging many of the apples. Despite this, we’ve had a good harvest of both types.
Beetroot & Swiss Chard: these are normally bankers, producing early and late crops. However, this year they were heavily infected with leaf miner and the first sowing had to be thrown out. As a result they neither did very well. The problem is I don’t know whether leaf miner live in the soil, in which case I should probably give them a miss next year, or if it was just a bad year. Decision to be made.
Carrots: the last of the things we grow outside and they are harvesting well now having been quite poor earlier in the year. The raised beds mean that the carrots are growing in decent soil so the individual carrots are a decent size.
Tomatoes: this is where I started years ago and what most of this site is about. However, this year has been the worst I can remember. I blame the weather but, I know I’m also to blame. I didn’t cut off any of the sideshoots so the plants were overproducing greenery and there was poor ventilation. From the 35 plants, we only harvested about 15kg of fruit. Even my normally guaranteed cultivars didn’t produce much. Need to look after them better next year.
Conclusion: a mixed year of good and not so good. I’m glad I gave up the allotment, the amount of time spent there wasn’t worth the effort (that’s not to say that I am against allotments per se, if there were some nearer to where we live, I would jump at the chance, but driving 20 minutes to the allotment seems wrong and walking is even worse). I’m learning what grows productively and what doesn’t but, as always, the answer is a mix. It both reduces the instantaneous glut and reduces the impact of an individual failure.