Monday, 22 September 2008

Vegetable Patch 2008

I have a small, standard back garden in a standard house in suburbia in the UK. It is mainly a lawn with a flower border around the edges. About 2 years ago I decided to make one section of the border that was a bit more out of the way into a vegetable patch to experiment with, just to see what growing vegetables was like and what I could achieve. The main vegetable patch is about 2 metres by 1 m, with another smaller one of 1m by 1m, and various pots (probably about 8 in total, one way or another).

This year was a mixed year, as I wanted to grow more than before, both in terms of quantity and variety. Some things worked, but some did not at all, which was a disappointment. So here is the summary for the year.

Good
  • Potato. I grew 2 varieties - Pentland Javelin (a second early) and Desiree (a main crop), and both did well. I grew them in pots (actually bags) and earthed them up as they sprouted. Apart from the earthing up and some watering, I left them to it, and got good crops from both. Of the two Desiree gave a larger crop of larger potatoes, and really impressed me. However we have had to wait until August before we could crop them. While the Pentland Javelin cropped much earlier - June / July.
  • Sweetcorn. A new one for me, but it worked well as an experiment. Used Swift and sowed in starter trays before planting out. Only one corn per plant - about 4 in total - but really, really tasty. It is true what they say about sweetcorn being so much better when freshly picked. Next year I will sow this earlier, and do a lot more of them. They like to be planted in a block or grid, and not a row.
  • Strawberries. I managed to carry over some plants from last year of Cambridge Favourite, and they produced again this year. Again, as for sweetcorn, the taste of it straight from the plant is incredible. I planted some in a hanging basket, and that worked well. I have taken some runners off these, and so have more for next year. I could probably do with another variety too to get some earlier or later crops during the year.
  • Tomato. Another new one for me. I bought a small plant from the garden centre labeled as a tumbler suitable for hanging baskets. It grew well and set lots of fruit, which ripened over time. Really tasty, not bitter at all, but relatively small - more like cherry tomatoes. I will try this again, and I have a packet of Gardeners Delight seed which I will try a few of too next year in the garden itself.

Okay
  • Peas. Got some going and they grew and set pods. But I probably should have done a lot more of these, and kept sowing as the year went on. I think I will try a lot more together next year, for greater density and higher crops. Generally everyone eats these straight from the pod, and they never see a dinner plate.
  • Leeks. I've grown these before, and they germinate well from seed and start off nice and straight upright. But for some reason mine never bulk out into the large leeks I see elsewhere. So I still have them in the ground, but they are probably only about finger thickness or so, rather than larger. With autumn now here I do not expect much further growth from them. I think I need to get them into a seed bed earlier in the year, so they get more growth while in the garden. Up to now I transplant them out in July, but I think that is too late for them.

Bad
  • Broccoli. This was a disaster in two ways. The seeds germinated well and grew really strongly, putting on lots of leaves. But the heads were quite small, and then most of them bolted and produced heads of yellow flowers. The ones I cut pack to put out side shoots then suffered from caterpillar attack later one, and some had all their leaves eaten. And those I saved from that, bolted and produced heads of yellow flowers too. So while I had plants I never got to harvest any broccoli. Given the space these things occupy with their large leaves, I don't think they are worth it for a small crop.
  • Carrots. Last year I got some medium sized carrots, one way or another. This year, almost all small ones. Too small to do anything with, so they went straight onto the compost heap. I probably got about 10 large ones, which were worth the effort of peeling, cutting and cooking. I had lots of carrots in the ground, with lots of top growth, but very little underneath to show for it. I think I used the wrong varieties, and used the early, quick ones too late in the year. I think next year I will mainly be doing Autumn King everywhere, as this is the one that gave the largest ones I am sure.
  • Lettuce. While this seems to sprout easily, it never gets to a size for me to pick and have a full plate of salad leaves. I generally sow mixtures for loose leaves, rather than the single headed lettuce. This year I got various combinations of no germination from some sowings, initial growth but nothing large, slug attack, and not sowing enough often enough. I think next year I will go for some named varieties, rather than the mixtures, as I will have more control over what I grow and when, and can see individually which ones grow better in my garden.
That's the report on the veg patch this year. We still have lots of potatoes - some in the cupboard, and one more set of Desiree to be dug up in the next couple of weeks (the leaves are still green on it) - but everything else has gone. Either eaten as soon as it could be - strawberries, peas and sweetcorn - or not much of a crop to speak of anyway - carrots, lettuce and broccoli. But I've tried some new things this year, learnt a few more things, and have a few more ideas to try next year. Personally I am looking forward to some more sweetcorn, and tomatoes.

1 comment:

Dom said...

John,

What's stopping you from walking away?