As October comes to an end it is time to reflect on the growing season which has just ended and think of the successes, failures and lessons learned during the year. It was a strange year with early Spring weather being warm and dry but soon changing to cold, wet weather with a chill Northerly or Easterly wind predominating until well into June. Here, in Fife on the North Sea coast, this spells trouble for tender plants. July continued wet but August and September were acceptable with a few good days. October has had some beautiful sunny days with cold nights and a touch of frost bringing the growing season for most plants to an end. Now it is mild again !!
Now the results of some of my crops
The apple tree was late in flowering this year but at the end of the day delivered the best crop for many years. The codling moth spoiled a few but they were still usable. Stewed apples and apple crumble have been regularly on the menu. In fact, when we had our Charity Golf Day on 29th September, we supplied the Golf Club with apples for the apple crumble which was served as part of the evening meal. It proved so popular they ran out of it on the night. No seconds for anyone !!
Broad beans did well with just a hint of that pest, black fly, at the end of the crop.
Dwarf French beans were punished by the weather and despite resowing in the gaps the crop was poor although it did improve late in the season when the weather improved.
Runner beans also suffered badly and I resowed them on 1st June and whilst late ( the first picking was 28th August) I did get a fairly good supply of beans.
I have taken a note to wait until into May before sowing French and Runner beans next year, but will I have the patience to wait I wonder ?
They were not affected too badly by the weather and I picked my first tender courgette on 4th July and cropping continued until 10th October. I comment on the weight produced later in this blog.
In the tree’s first year of being released from its pot and planted in the open garden it responded with an increased number of figs so that was pleasing.
This year all my leeks bolted and as they were not all in the same part of the plot I can only assume it was the erratic weather that caused this. They are no longer bulking up and are the worst I can remember.
Underestimating the growth of my potatoes meant onions were planted a little too close to them and were growing in their shadow. This did not seem to bother the onions too much as I dug up reasonably sized onions at the end of the day.
Planted late and grew well during the season but were affected by blight which meant digging them up before I felt they were ready. Despite this, I averaged 3.5 kilos per shaw which I was happy with.
A disaster!!! Whilst they grew reasonably well having been sheltered from the wind they did not deliver any fruit. I was given the seed by a friend and whilst he had good intentions I suspect the seed came from a shop bought squash? I have already bought seed for next year to be sure of a crop.
They grew better than expected until affected by blight which meant I had to remove them to the Council bin. You can read more of this here.
In the Greenhouse
Was cropping well until it fell foul of stem rot. It died quickly in the end!
My greenhouses are unheated and I picked my first tomato two weeks later than usual but despite this I have gathered a large quantity during the season, the last being this week. My small greenhouse will now revert to its winter role as a supplementary log store. Time to sharpen the chainsaw!!
During the summer I conducted an experiment feeding three tomato plants and a courgette with a Comfrey/ Nettle tea and the same number with Tomorite (with added seaweed). From what I heard I expected the Comfrey/Nettle fed plants to at least match the Tomorite fed ones but this did not turn out to be the case as these results show ;
Comfrey/Nettle fed Courgettes 3 Kilos Tomatoes 3.3 Kilos
Tomorite fed Courgettes 6.3 Kilos Tomatoes 8.2 Kilos
A clear win for Tomorite by over 2 times in each case !!
In addition the Comfrey/Nettle fed tomatoes suffered from magnesium deficiency and if I try this experiment again next year I will add liquid seaweed to the mix to prevent this.
I also used the Comfrey/Nettle feed on my outside pot plants and they certainly benefitted from this extra boost.
I tried growing vegetables in areas previously unused as another experiment with the following results;
Tomatoes grown between greenhouse and wall, 9 plants yielding 1.5 kilos of green tomatoes and half a dozen partly ripe Gardener’s Delight before blight struck. Verdict, a waste of time and effort. Although to be fair we now have 8 jars of green tomato chutney.
In a small area behind the house which gets a little sun late in the day I planted one courgette yielding 1.7 kilos and one squash which hardly grew and did not fruit. Verdict, courgette did better than expected.
In the area beside my compost bins, two tomatoes and squash. Verdict waste of time no tomatoes (affected by blight) and no squash.
My first runner beans had been battered by cold winds before I replaced them. Three of the plants were showing very slight signs of life and instead of putting them in the compost bin I planted them against the wall beside the bins. This resulted in 2.2 kilos of beans, an unexpected bonus and an example of how some plants can recover from severe conditions and provide some food.
At the end of the day these experiments added a bit of extra interest throughout the season but for me it is not about yield. It is about the marvel of seedlings emerging from the soil and the strength and energy they show while growing. It is about enjoying all aspects of gardening, keeping an open mind and not being afraid to try something new. In fact there are times when acting on instinct gives the best results. It is also about being at one with nature.
We used the glut of courgettes, runner beans and tomatoes to make delicious soups and the freezer is now well stocked to see us through the winter. Runner beans make a surprisingly tasty soup but our favourite is courgette and carrot soup which did not reach the freezer and we enjoyed it over a couple of weeks. Mind you, there are still some courgettes and carrots in the kitchen so I think they will disappear into the soup pot some time soon !!
Teabag Index UK
Three months ago I planted teabags to help with this experiment, for more details click here. I have now dug them up and they are drying before sending back for analysis. It will be interesting to find out the results of this research.
Now that the main growing season is over I intend to have a break from blogging unless something of special interest crops up. I will of course start again early next year and I hope you will join me then.
Thank you for reading and please leave your comments or email me at email@example.com.
In the meantime enjoy watching your overwintering vegetables grow!