Apologies for the long time silence on the blog. Late spring and summer are the busiest times for gardeners, so not a particularly helpful time for a so-called garden blogger to go quiet.
However, it’s been a busy few months. In July my fiance and I got married! We only planned the wedding from June, and there was a lot to be done in a short time. We had a wonderful day with close family; we celebrated with a nuptial mass in my parent’s church in Dorset, and had an old fashioned tea at my parent’s house before heading to a beautiful Sandbanks hotel for a meal overlooking Poole harbour and Purbeck. A big traditional wedding reception will follow for wider family and friends next year in central London.
What with the wedding, a mini-moon in the Cotswolds, a holiday in Cornwall with my sister and nephew, and a belated engagement party at home (don’t ask) there hasn’t been as much time for gardening this summer as I had planned. I thought therefore that I would share with you some reflections on my successes and disappointments in the garden this year. Please do share your gardening stories with me in the comments below.
My first surprise, having lovingly over-wintered some broad bean plants, and raised more from spring sown plants, was finding out how few beans one plant would actually produce. I’ll caveat this; some of them were sown in pots and I didn’t give any of them a feed, which may have yielded better results had I done so. Having had great success with runner beans in 2014 however I had assumed broad beans would give me a similar glut. Although the beans I had were delicious, there weren’t a lot of them. Overwintering indoors on window sills (no big greenhouse here) took up a lot of space, and for the number of beans we got I would say isn’t worth it in our case. I’ll try again next year but will sow in late winter outdoors, sowing more to bring about a bigger harvest.
I also sowed French beans, the few I got were delicious, but of the plants I started off indoors and transplanted out, none survived. Of the ones I sowed directly in to the veg patch only one produced any beans! I had mulched with some bark from a well known homeware and DIY chain (rather late for mulching) not long before sowing them out, and can only assume the bean plants didn’t like the conditions. If anyone has any ideas here they will be gratefully received.
I sowed a row of beetroot seeds which never emerged, and of the four courgette plants I grew from seed and planted out, two perished and only one has produced a tiny number of courgettes. On this last point I think under-watering due to a late hot summer and a busy schedule is probably the culprit, but it has undoubtedly been a disappointing year, veg patch wise, and very different from 2014 when we were very successful.
Herbs were a better story, with parsley, coriander and basil in pots for several weeks through summer. Again, I will pursue this next year successionally and in greater numbers. New potatoes in pots did well and tasted lovely, though they all went in to potato salad at our engagement party. A previous post of mine refers to false economy, and I would say that for the money spent on compost for earthing up, potatoes in pots probably aren’t worth it for us, but we’ll continue them in the veg patch.
We currently have late varieties of potatoes in the patch ready to dig up through autumn, and had our first ever crop from our blackcurrant bush, which I turned in to half a jar of delicious, if slightly over-set, jam. Our raspberry bush continues to bear fruit, and the strawberry plants we bought from the garden centre did well. As yet, no sign of fruit from the two year old redcurrant bush, but that may be due to my late pruning. Tomatoes got off to a roaring start, but I over-enthusiastically gave away too many of my tomato plants to friends and neighbours (my Mum reports hers has been fantastic), of the two I kept for myself I didn’t look after them properly and ended up with just a small amount of fruit after a few months of neglect due to being busy at work and elsewhere at home. I’ll definitely try these again next year and give them a great deal more nurturing. Having been too busy to sow runner beans I remembered I had some seeds, so sowed some in pots last month (a bit of wishful thinking in case we had a late, hot summer), alas, none of them came up, so I’ll try again next year. Lettuces, planted from plugs given to us by neighbours, did very well in pots, and I’ll sow more in 2017.
It was a nice year for foraging, picking-your-own and jam making however. Last week in Dorset I picked plenty of blackberries in the hedgerows near my parent’s home, in June we took my nephew on our annual family strawberry picking expedition and made six jars of jam, and in January I made my usual batch of marmalade, though alas, not as yet with my own oranges! Making jam with our own blackcurrants was particularly enjoyable too.
On flowers, the early gladiolus were spectacular; great spikes of cream and burgundy. Sweet peas (old fashioned mix) have done well, and a few are still going; they provided colour, glorious scent and lovely cut flowers for the house all summer. I must learn to train them properly however to get the most out of them and ensure I don’t end up with a tangled mess at the bottom of the canes. Again, despite sowing a high number in pots, only a few of the plants were truly successful; luckily it was still enough to fill vases in our sitting room.
The spring bulbs did well, with a beautiful showing of daffodils and tulips over six weeks in pots and the borders. I’ll repeat this in bigger numbers this year, and add in iris and crocuses as I did two years ago. A dahlia I had forgotten about in the veg patch came up un-aided this spring and has become huge, producing vibrant red and yellow spiky flowers. Leaving it alone clearly worked last year, so I will de-head the flowers as and when and allow it to keep going until the first frosts, after which I’ll let the foliage die down before mulching the bed and leaving the tubers to slumber through the winter. Our garden never gets too cold, surrounded as it is by two high brick walls and in clement south east London.
Although a disappointing year on the veg patch, I’m not going to get too down about it. We had some success in some areas, and the fruiting of the blackcurrant bush was a real highlight. Gardening is work, and there is only so much you can neglect it before it starts to have an impact on your yield. I’ll plant more beans etc next year and make better use of the patch and will remember to keep up the successional sowing. Although life sometimes gets in the way of gardening, it isn’t the end of the world, and the regularly changing seasons in the UK mean there’s always another step to plan and look forward to. I think getting married is a pretty good excuse for being busy too!
I love autumn, and all it brings. I’m looking forward to planning and planting my bulbs for 2017, both here and in my Granny’s garden in Sussex. I love passing on my gardening tips, and planted broad beans and peas for my nephew earlier this year, these all did well in his Dorset garden, and I hope in some small way I’m helping him understand the pleasure of growing your own. Learning from mistakes is part of the nature of being a beginner and budget gardener, and I’m hoping for better things for 2017.
Happy autumn, everyone.