Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 - a review

The first full year of the suburban veg plot is now complete and it seems a good time to look back on this year's harvest to review the best and worst . Some things grew more successfully than others,either in spite of or despite my best efforts.
Top marks must go to the greenhouse plants - tomatoes (3 types) and chillies (5 types). They flourished and fruited from April to October providing us with a cupboard full of green tomato chutney, an airing cupboard full of dried chillies, a freezer full of frozen ones and one or two to-die-for passatas.
Bottom of the class goes to the squash family - pumpkin, outdoor melon and butternut squash. The former didn't last as far as planting out, the second died within weeks of being carefully placed in its own raised bed and the latter went rampant with leaves but not a single female flower was to be seen. But i shall attempt them all again in 2010!
I won't be bothering with runner beans again - we got bored of them after just one harvest, but despite being left to their own devices, the plants soldiered on determinedly. I've saved some beans from them before consigning the remainder to the compost heap, but these will be only for giving away if I can find a willing recipient.
Already my fingers are itching to get out there sowing and I can almost hear the new seed packets clamouring to be released from within their dark cupboard home. I'll ignore them for as long as I can...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The best laid plans...

Plan A this week was to fly to Amsterdam for a pre-Christmas break. Amsterdam is so lovely in the winter - twinkly lights over canal bridges and cosy cafes serving hot chocolate and spiced biscuits. But Jack Frost put paid to that plan on Friday by closing Luton Airport. So Plan B was to sow overwintering peas - Feltham First - which I received as part of a seed swap in November. It didn't take long to realise that 5 inches of snow on the raised beds isn't conducive to seed sowing. We then considered making leek and potato soup to cheer ourselves up before concluding that we'd need a flamethrower to get a leek out of the ground. So I then consoled myself by organising my seed box into chronological order of sowing times. And that all starts in a few weeks' time!

Now that the house work is all but finished, I've realised that a secondary advantage of the underfloor heating in the kitchen is that I now have the world's biggest heated propagator. Come January I'll be lining up my seed trays on the floor to give those tomatoes a head start. We've made a start on this years' green tomato chutney so will definitely be needing to replenish that come the autumn.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

winter prep

I'm finding that winter gardening is not so much about growing than about preparation for the upcoming season. My weekend potter around the garden is predominantly about checking on the small selection of crops in the ground - leeks, overwintering onions, garlic and broad beans - before tidying pots, cleaning tools and planning the veg plot for 2010. The leeks are really coming on well now and we're harvesting them regularly for heart-warming leek and potato soup, or griddled leeks with cheese sauce. Mmmmmm...
I'm also experimenting with sweet peas - again. I've not actually managed to grow these from seed yet. My mum donated first a whole pot of them (which are now residing in a border and grew well this summer) and now a bag full of saved seeds. I'm trying the loo roll method of sowing them, which has worked well for me with broad beans and peas - and also threw a handful of them in the border vacated when I pulled up the runner bean plants. I'll let you know what happens with all that in the springtime.
I need to find the time to give the greenhouse a good clean out sometime before Christmas - it's recommended to fully clean down the inside to get rid of any diseased leaves or lurking insects so as to reduce the risk of harbouring anything nasty for next year.
My seed box overfloweth and I really think my plans for next year exceed the space I have available, but only time will tell..