Season’s end

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

Apples

Gathering the Bramleys
Gathering the Bramleys

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 !!

Beans

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 ?

Courgettes

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.

Figs

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.

Leeks

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.

Onions

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.

Potatoes

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.

Squash

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.

Outdoor Tomatoes

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

Cucumber

Was cropping well until it fell foul of stem rot.  It died quickly in the end!

Tomatoes 

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!!

Other Matters

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.

Extra plants

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.

Soup

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.

Blog

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 summerhousetales@outlook.com.

In the meantime enjoy watching your overwintering vegetables grow!

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October days

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After a week of beautiful weather the rain and wind has returned making me a fireside gardener for a few days. Fortunately I can still spend time in the greenhouse but the only jobs there are picking tomatoes and also picking off dead or mouldy leaves.

The tomatoes I had growing, as a trial outside, between the greenhouse and garden wall were affected by blight and had to be removed to the bin. I did manage to salvage 1.5 kilos of  green Alicante which along with some apples were converted into delicious chutney from a recipe passed down by my late mother-in-law. We will allow the chutney to mature for a few weeks and then ENJOY.  I also harvested a handful of almost ripe Gardener’s Delight.

In all the experiment was hardly worth the time and effort but I will persevere with this space as being so sheltered and benefitting from the sun shining through the greenhouse it is worth trying another crop.  I have had very mixed results with sweet corn in the past so I will try a double row of them there next year.

Beans

Runner beans are still forming although at a slower rate than before but there are still plenty maturing.

I sowed my overwintering broad beans on 4th of October before the rain started and as the soil was fairly dry this will encourage them to germinate.

Beetroot

Has done well this year and there are still a few good sized globes to harvest. I will be trying beetroot and tomato soup later this week and I will let you know how it turns out as I have never made it before.

Courgettes 

Are running out of steam and I  see me removing them to the compost heap sometime soon.

Figs

Will they ripen?
Will they ripen?

Some of the remaining figs seem to have realised that summer is over and are ripening quickly. It is always a battle between the birds and me as to who gets them just as they are fully ripe. Lately I seem to have my timing just right. There are still a few left to ripen and I wonder if they will be ready for eating before the last leaf falls?

Onions

Surprisingly the Autumn planting onion sets I planted just over two weeks ago are already sprouting despite the attention of the local cat. I did not expect to see greenery so soon. The garlic and shallots are not showing any signs of growth but hopefully they are forming a good root system.

Other matters

Spring bulbs

were planted today so that is another job out of the way.

Borage

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Borage patch
Borage patch past its best

Has been a tremendous attraction for honey and bumble bees over the summer, being long flowering makes it especially suitable for the bees. It is however now past and I will remove it shortly before it starts dropping its seed as I don’t want countless seedlings appearing. I have seed which I harvested last year and I will sow this in the Spring.

I am always a little despondent at this time of year as cropping is finishing and the only work to be done is what I consider unproductive and don’t enjoy, like clearing the plot, general tidying and pruning . I hope I have cut the grass for the last time but with the weather being wet and mild I might be doing another cut later this month !!.

Autumn reading

I have plenty of seed catalogues to browse during these dark evenings and I am planning the crops and varieties to grow next year. I have a fairly small vegetable plot and crop rotation to minimise pests and diseases is always uppermost in my mind. I tend to stick to varieties of vegetables I know will be successful here but I also like to try something new every year.

In my next blog I will summarise my year of successes and failures. .

Please leave your comments or alternatively email me at summerhousetales@outlook.com. to let me know what you think of my blog.

Enjoy your garden and firm up your planting plan for next year.

Thanks for reading.

Autumn blues

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It is some time since my last blog as I have been kept busy having  decided to go it alone and set up my own site which I am still working on.  Secondly my wife and I organise a charity golf day every year and I am delighted  to say we raised over £10,000 all of which will be used to benefit families affected by cystic fibrosis. see our Facebook Page for pictures and more details.

Now to gardening matters

With Autumn well and truly with us the colours in the garden are changing from green to brown, yellow and red. While the annual flowers start to fade the dahlias still give a brilliant splash of colour in the border. This will last until the first frost blackens the foliage and it will be time to lift the tubers again.

What of the vegetable garden?

Beans

Beans still surviving the colder nights
Runner beans still surviving the colder nights

Runner beans are in full stride and the glut is being dealt with by sharing with friends and making runner bean soup which is a lot more delicious than it sounds. I never think frozen beans are as nice as when fresh so we freeze them as soup.

Leeks

Nearly all my leeks have bolted and I have been busy cutting the heads off to prevent them flowering but I don’t think they will bulk up any more so the prospects for a long season of harvesting is very bleak.  I can only assume the topsy turvy weather in Spring and Summer upset their time clocks !!

Onions

These were dried off on the soil surface and are now hung up in nets in the garage.  I will check them regularly in case any go soft and start to rot.  Over all  I am happy with the crop .

I recently planted my Autumn planting onions, shallots and garlic cloves, they should overwinter nicely in a sheltered part of the garden and mature in late spring and early summer. I applied an onion fertiliser and planted them in shallow drills just covering the bulbs with the tips just showing on the surface. Special varieties are required for this time of year and the ones I am using are;   Garlic – Provence Wight,  Onions – Shakespeare and  shallots – Yellow Moon. Despite having a nice area of bare earth where I lifted my potatoes a local cat decided to ignore it and scrape up my onions instead!!  Once I cleared up the mess I noticed substantial roots had formed on the sets in just a week which suggests they will be well established by winter. I lightly pruned the holly tree and as I replanted  the sets I spread the prickly holly leaves throughout the bed. To date the fear of pricked paws seems to be keeping the cats away.

Courgettes
Are still growing and supplying a plentiful supply of fruit and courgette and potato soup has been a regular part of our diet. It is noticeable that they are not bulking up now.

Apples

Gathering the Bramleys
Gathering the Bramleys

Bramley started dropping two weeks ago and as strong winds were forecast I decided it was time to pick them.  I managed to get most of them using a pair of steps but there were others out of reach.  Reverting to childhood I had some fun climbing among the branches to pick the rest.  This was not without mishap as I got my foot jammed between two branches and it took a fair bit of tugging to set it free.  My wife was standing fussing below and an apple slipped from my hand and struck her on the head.  I was most concerned when I saw the bruising on the Apple, it won’t keep!!! There was no need to go to A&E but I wonder why my wife has put a camp bed at the summerhouse door ?
At the end of the day we had the biggest crop for years. Some had been damaged by codling moth but still usable.

Inspecting the apple crop
Inspecting the apple crop

Figs

Are ripening slowly and we have enjoyed  only three so far. Hoping he rest ripen before the frost comes !

In the greenhouse

Tomatoes

My tomatoes continue to ripen nicely but botrytis (mould) is now appearing on the plants.  I keep removing affected leaves but the cooler nights mean so much more condensation which encourages it. Still I am happy with the crop. Feeding has been stopped and watering much reduced. This sunny weather we are enjoying is speeding up the ripening.

OTHER MATTERS

The affected tomatoes
The affected tomatoes

Some tomato plants outside were showing signs of blight so I immediately lifted them and threw them in the Council bin.  I’m keeping a close eye on the rest of the plants to make sure the blight has not affected them as I want to use them for green tomato chutney.

Jobs for next week

I must sow my overwintering beans. I will put them where the potatoes were and give the ground a light sprinkling of organic chicken manure pellets to sustain them through the winter. The variety I use is Aquadulce Claudia and i will look forward to picking my first beans in late Spring.

Another job will  be to plant Spring flowering like crocus, daffodil and tulip amongst others, in containers. I will leave them behind the summerhouse in a sheltered spot until they emerge when I will move them into the garden. I will place a couple of containers of bulbs in the greenhouse for an earlier display of colour.

Although shorter than usual my tale is over and I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Please feel free to leave your comments, I welcome them.

If you have a question you wish answered in depth please contact me by email at summerhousetales@outlook.com.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your garden.