Sunday, January 21, 2018

2017.... A Review

Well we had weather that couldn't make up its mind with warm start then a cold/wet snap followed by hot and dry, which made things interesting.

We were fairly lucky with the pests this year, not a single slug pellet was needed, the pigeons didn't really get a look in and the carrot fly were kept away. The biggest disaster was the allium leaf miner which destroyed all the garlic, shallots and onions, and might be having a crack at the leeks which look, well a bit wimpy. The usual tomato blight hit hard, but I have an experiment for that one next year, and a bit of blackfly.

Crops wise everything was either really good, or an utter failure!

The good bits -

Courgettes - Obviously looking at the final count.
Sweetcorn - The best year ever, will definitely grow those this year
Beans - All 3 varieties got a bit carried away and we are still eating them from the freezer
Spaghetti squash  - which we are still working our way through
Potatoes - A good crop of both mains and earlies.
Carrots - A good crop and flavour from the carrot fly resistant varieties with less work covering and uncovering to pick and weed etc. some non resistant varieties got a small attack when left in t he ground a little late but still good.
Cucumbers - I'd always grown Marketmore, but the Burpless Tasty Green are now the way forward.
Rhubarb - A big crop from some older plants, which I'm thinking I must split the root at some point.

The bad bits:

Peas - Were not on the menu this year, several sowings all came to nothing
Summer PSB - Bolted as soon as you looked at it
Celery - Wasn't really worth the effort and arrived too late to be of much use.
Onions, shallots and Garlic - Totally destroyed by leaf miner. Which seems to a spreading problem reading the forums.
Kale - In fairness the only failure here was that the kale plants I bought, turned out to be cabbages.

At the beginning of the season I wrote an article on good intentions, so how did I do?

1. Thin out beetroot, radishes, turnips carrots etc -- We did  pretty well on this and the crops were better for it. they looked less squashed as well.

2. Use fleece or cloches more -- Cloches yes, and the early start to salads etc in Feb will be done again. fleece not so much as no frosts etc threatened us.

3. Use mulches -- I used all the grass cuttings I could get to mulch round squashes and onions and planted a lot through weed control fabrics. There was noticeable difference in weeding and watering requirements.

4. Not burying squashes -- Failed, I forgot to build my mounds. That said I didi put plastic bottles in the ground near the roots and water through those so that helped.

5. More regular feeding - A lot better this year, but some more organisation needed. Most things seemed to do ok with what was provided though.

6. Test the soil - Was done, using a probe tester, all within limits, I haven't checked for this year yet.

I feel I'm a little behind this year already as I haven't had a serious look at the seed catalogues yet. The planning for this season needs to get a serious move on. Sounds like the ideal job for a wet Sunday in Essex!!

Happy gardening folks!!

Monday, January 01, 2018

Winter Blues..

I must admit, we aren't really the winter gardening types.

I see all the pictures and Facebook posts of people working on their plots over winter and can only admire the dedication. Usually I just convince myself that it's ok for them as they have large sheds, stoves and are allowed fires etc, but secretly I know I'm kidding myself.

Apart from occasional visits to drop off compost from home, check for storm/vandal damage or pick some bits and pieces we don't really get down to the farm that much. The parsnips, leeks, sprouts and broccoli left from this seasons sowings are just doing their thing, even under the snow. Although I'm hearing reports of leaf miner affecting leeks locally.

Talking of snow I was relieved the brassica cage survived the covering we got in Essex. I'd seen pictures of collapsed fruit cages and the like on other sites and given the fine mesh I was a bit worried the weight of the snow would wreck it. Luckily there were only a few torn strands which were easily fixed. 

There was a visit on Christmas day to grab some sprouts and dig up the first parsnips (Countess) which proved to be a good size and lovely and straight. They were very sweet and I'm looking forward to more.

Thoughts are already turning to next year and the first seed catalogues have landed on the doorstep. I'll be doing a review of this year shortly and will be covering the outline plan for next season.

Happy gardening folks!!