How did your garden grow?

Posted on: 23 August 2011 by Gareth Hargreaves

The wet summer hit the fruit and veg patch, but what was your biggest success?

vegetablesThis year was the first year that I have really given growing veg a try, and I've absolutely loved it.  It has been immensely rewarding, calming and satisfying; at times frustrating, and a lot of hard work, but I can’t wait to see how far into the winter I can prolong the growing season (hopefully all of it!) and find myself already planning for next year.

I have inevitably learnt many things; my turnips weren’t very good because I didn’t thin them out, so they grew long and thin and by the time I thoroughly investigated, had turned woody.  The up-side was that they were good fodder for the cabage butterfly caterpillars which attacked my purple sprouting broccoli in droves, but moved onto the turnip greens rather than chomp on the adjacent purple kale, so every cloud and all that.  

The aubergines planted outside did not do very well at all, probably because of our wet sun-less summer, but I think, in future I will always grow these in the green house. I do have one aubergine plant growing in an old compost bag in the green house which produced a couple of fruits and is doing very well indeed, so that is where they will all live next year.  My potatoes got a bit of blight too so we've cut off the stems and are now nearing the end of the ten day wait, before we tip the bag upside down and empty it, so fingers crossed for a reasonable crop.

Blight attacked the tomatoes

My biggest disappointment though has been my tomatoes which were also attacked by blight which devasted the tweleve or so plants.  Apart from the fruits that had ripened before it took hold, the whole crop was spoilt with the green fruit turning a bronze colour and all the leaves yellowing.   I have to admit, it did take me a couple of weeks to get over the fact that my plans for a freezer full of tomato puree and home-made ketchup had been scuppered!   

The courgettes did very well at the beginning of the season, and are still producing one or two a week.  The cucumbers which were planted outside have done really well and gave a lovely harvested last weekend, and will hopefully squeeze a few more fruits out before the frosts set in.  Their prickly dark green skins concealing succulent juicy melon-like fresh, compelte with seeds in the middle are delicious, and just how I remember cucumbers used to be when I was a child and well-worth the wait.  I only wish I had enough to pickle for Christmas, although I have made some basil oil, thyme oil and garlic and rosemary oil. 

The cucumbers grew really well this yearThe carrots and beetroot are ready to be pulled and stored and the hopefully the kale, spinach, chard and winter salad will supply us with greens right up until December.

The other crops I am still waiting for are the Jerusalem artichokes and the purple sprouting broccoli, neither of which I have ever grown before – so if anyone has any advice on the best time to harvest these, or how to prolong the cropping period, please get in touch. 

I have also decided to experiment and see if I can still get another crop of beetroot and carrots before Christmas. I planted the seeds in trays in mid-August, and they are now seedlings in the ground.  I doubt very much they will work, but I thought it was worth a try because, with this wayward weather, you just never know!     

So over the next few months I will be concentrating on making plenty of compost, because although I haven’t ordered a weekly fruit and veg box since June, I have spent plenty on compost – the best of which I have found is Homebase's organic at three bags for a tenner.  It smells of a farmyard, and all the crops seem to be quite happy in it, but I would love to hear what your best compost find was this year.

I would also love to hear about the highs and lows of your gardening year.  The wet weather has certainly shaped it, especially after we got off to such a promising start in June when the weather was glorious, but did you notice an effect?   Did many of your tomatoes ripen and what other crops did especially well in spite of the climate?

Leave a comment in the box below or email with all your success and failures, and advice.

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