Sunday, August 31, 2014

Autumn already?!

It may still be August (just) but Autumn has definitely arrived in Devon! So time for a garden review, methinks. 
I started off well back in March, clearing the veg patch, digging in manure and getting the tomato seedlings started nice and early. Of course, I had help... 

It's actually slightly depressing seeing how great it looked, but anyway. 

We went to Israel for Pesach, which was great, but did make me very late planting everything else (in hindsight I should have done it all before we went but had too many other things to think about). At least the tomato seedlings did well and there were enough of them (deliberately) that I could put one in each of the party bags for Daniel's birthday - went down very well and I've enjoyed getting Facebook updates on the progress of some of them! They all got the usual crayons, stickers etc too, but I like to try and find at least one thing which is a bit different. 
So...crop report:
Tomatoes (since we're already on the subject)
Six plants grew well but I totally failed to prop them up or pinch out the extra shoots or anything so they have ended up a nasty sprawling mess on the patio (that weird 1960s DIY concrete dais thing in the picture!) The leaves have turned yellow since the rain started a week or so ago but the tomatoes are still going red, so I can't say I'm that bothered. If all else fails I'll make green tomato chutney. 

Despite my neglect, we have two rather unhealthy-looking plants in our conservatory, each with a pepper on it. Not a roaring success but not a total failure either. 

In the veg patch, a large crop of leeks are doing well and should be ready to eat early in the new year. Second year in a row those have worked for us, so I'll probably carry on with them next year. The gherkins, which could apparently be planted directly, failed to appear, so I stuck in a courgette and a pumpkin. I suspect a bit late for them to do anything, though, as summer seems to have done a bunk. Garlic didn't do anything and the onions, which had been behaving well, suddenly all died at the top, so I harvested them early. They're shallot-sized but still taste like onions, so I'll chalk that up as a partial success. Dwarf French beans, on the other hand, never had a chance against the slugs. I was too slow with the coffee grounds and should have started them indoors, plus probably planted them with a decoy like nasturtiums. You live and learn!

In the fruit patch, we got a small handful each of redcurrants and blackcurrants, and nothing at all on the gooseberry bush. I'm not too fussed about those as I only put them in last summer so they're probably still settling down. I also planted some rhubarb this year which will need a year or two to mature. 
The pear tree was looking very promising but then suddenly developed some sort of fungus on the fruit (blackspot?) so we've had nothing there. The apples have coddling moth and a lot of the fruit has just rotted on the tree. We've had a few edible apples and some fallers which could be chopped up for the freezer, but less than a dozen all told. Once it's properly finished we'll get both trees pruned properly - we should have done it last year but left it too late. 
In the main garden I cleared about 2/3 of the back bed, with grand plans about shrubs and flowers and things...yeah. That didn't happen. I cleared part of the bed alongside the garage and made a strawberry patch, which gave us enough fruit for one meal - not bad for the first year. I also cleared the bed between the lawn and the patio, which was full of wild flowers but getting increasingly difficult to keep clear of weeds. I sowed alternating rows of salad and edible flowers. The slugs (I assume) got ALL the salad but we do now have a not-unattractive bed full of borage and nasturtiums. I think next year I'll turn that into a herb patch and do salad in tubs, which are easier to protect from the ravenous slime-monsters. 

So why all these good starts and then zero maintenance? Well, I've been a bit busy growing something else... 

This small person is due some time mid to late February! There will, no doubt, be many more posts about him/her, so nuff said for now :-) 
As the timing means I probably won't get much in the garden next spring, I'm thinking of putting in some overwintering vegetables in the hope that they might do something. I've been soooo tired for the last nearly-4 months but I'm gradually feeling a lot better now. We'll see if that happens. 

On the other hand, Daniel has really enjoyed getting involved in the garden this year. We got the free Grow Your Own Potatoes pack from the Potato Council (supposed to be for schools but the website has the option of choosing "home educated" and it doesn't specify an age anywhere). The registration process is a bit hit-and-miss but the pack is brilliant: two grow bags, two types of seed potatoes, a box you can use for 'chitting' them (hardening off before planting - inconvenient word to use in conversation!!) and detailed instructions. Next time we'll just do it ourselves but as a beginners' introduction it was fab. We harvested the last of the spuds a week or so ago and have made a big thing about them being Daniel's that HE grew - he seems quite proud! Obviously, the amount of water play involved in scrubbing the potatoes has also been a hit!

For his birthday the Dude got his own small fork and spade and a packet of baby carrot seeds. He planted those in a container on the patio and a few actually survived his enthusiastic attentions! He loved being able to go and pull up a carrot, bring it to us for a quick rinse and then nosh on it - he's still talking about it! I was hoping we could do more with the tools this year but morning/all-day-sickness got in the way.

So that's how our gardening year has gone! Must run, off for dinner at my parents' :-)