Secret Garden

Review of the first season, 2011


Here is my review of what has grown well, and what we might want to do differently next year!

The Big Dig clearance of my garden was a great success, and I am very grateful to everyone who came and helped.

I was not present at the planting on 9th April, so in what follows am not entirely sure that all the details of varieties etc are correct!

This is what has happened to the crops, starting from the back of the garden (N corner):

SPUDS – were planted in two tire towers, one in full sunshine, the other with its feet in the shade of the wall. The seeds were from my Riverford vegbox, ones that had gone green or sprouted before i could eat them. I planted about 6 in each potato tower, and in September we got a generous washing-up bowl full from each tower! They tasted delicious. There seemed to be little difference in yield between the ones grown in full sun, and the ones in partial shade. There were also several rogue plants which sprung up in various spots, and most of which did not get earthed up or watered particularly: but each rogue gave about one adult’s serving of spuds, in some cases enough for 2. Spuds seem to do well in this garden.

BEANS Siggy planned well, with a row of tall canes at the back for the runners (Scarlet Runner), shorter canes in front for the French beans and the dwarf beans (Sansoucy). Unfortunately the whole lot were slow to germinate, so both Siggy and Sue started some off under glass and then brought them to plant out in late May/early June. In the end the dwarf beans did quite well, but the others were very mixed. The runners did not fruit until September, and the others fruited reasonably. I did not harvest them as keenly as I could have, as I was a bit confused as to which bean was which, waiting for them to turn into runners or green beans when they weren’t! If they had been pcked more assiduously – if the weather had been warmer in August – they might have done better.
But then everyone I know who grows things had trouble with their beans this year!
I have saved lots of bean seeds . There seem to be two different kinds of green beans.

RAINBOW CHARD (variety?)has done very well, planted from seed in April and still being harvested. it would have done better if weeded and thinned more carefully, but has given a satisfactory yield.

RED KALE – (variety?) – has done really well from seed, especially after thinning and transplanting. It is still being harvested. The main problem with it is that snails love it, and tiny ones cling to its curly leaves. I even found one in my wok as I was cooking it on one occasion! Whenever I harvest it I always find a few snails in odd places in my kitchen afterwards, no matter how vigilant I am.

ONIONS (variety?) – one row of sets was sown in April and did well, being harvested in early September. Another row was sown in June from seed , and got lost between the beans and the chard. We will replant today (early November) and see how they do over the winter.

CARROTS (variety?)- 2 rows were sown in April, and did quite well. We were eating thinnings in the summer, and dug most of them up in September. They tended to be short and fat, or to divide – maybe the soil is too heavy for them. There are still a few in the ground, under stray chard plants. They were tasty! The seed came from a giveawy from Boden, 2008 (!)

PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI – (variety?) – planted from plugs in April, started to yield in late May and stil have some edible leaves. They have been a great success. I let them go to seed, which has taken a long time, but the flowers have attracted lots of bees to the garden. They are delicious, and I have saved lots of seeds, some of which I might start off to overwinter.

RADISHES – (variety?) – sown from seed in April and early June. The first sowing was a great success, with plentiful and tasty roots – I think everyone had some and liked them. The second sowing did not do well at all. I have saved some seed. Maybe next year a better plan would be to sow a second lot about 3 weeks after the first to ensure succession, but not after that. It took much longer than I had expected for the first lot to form mature seed.

PARSNIPS – (White Gem) – were slow to start but did well. The last ones are going in today’s soup! V tasty.

SALAD – not so much of a success. The sowing was a bit random, and judging from the packets what was sown was: Pak Choy, Rocket (Runway), Salad Leaves (Red Cos, Green Cos, Catalogna, Endive, Romanesco; and some seed tapes – Lettuce (Ice King), onion (Ramrod) and radishes (Saka 2). Weeding was impossible as nobody knew what was supposed to be there; and then when the lettuces were beginning to be recognisable and we had begun harvesting a few leaves, the weather turned v hot and they all bolted, in spite of regular watering.
So what I have learned from this is to be more planned about what we sow, to sow in succession and choose a few varieties that we like! For example I don’t particularly like Pak Choy – does anyone else?
At the end of the summer we discovered a CUCUMBER plant, which must be the variety Adam – “gherkin type”, (thank you Jan!), according to a packet I have just found. It was very prolific and I have saved some seeds. The fruit were short and rather hairy, but v tasty inside.

COURGETTES (variety?) were planted as plugs in April, and did well over the summer, though a bit prone to rot. The slugs loved them. They were in the partial shade of the wall, and would I think do better in full sun. They needed a lot of water, showing signs of drought stress even when watered daily. They also seem to harbour viciously-biting insects! There were green ones and yellow ones. The green ones were more prolific, the yellow ones more prone to rot.

TOMATOES – Outdoor Girl. Grown from plugs, planted out in early April. Very prolific in making fruits, but disapppointing in the end. The first fruits were a bit tasteless; then there was about a week when they were much better, but then the weather got cold again and they did not swell or ripen, and the few that did were tasteless again. So most of the fruits ended up in green tomato chutney in September; they made only a couple of pounds. I suggest that next year we try a different variety, perhaps Gardeners’ Delight? I like growing them outdoors, even it if does make us more dependent on the weather.

I have also just found the following packets of things that have been sown but as far as I know have not come up! Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean; courgettes ( packet so eaten by snails not clear what variety); Night Scented Stock (Starlight Scentsation); and tulips – Rose’s special ones which have not come up, alas.