Friday, September 28, 2007

2007 Growing Season Retrospective

We had big plans for the allotment in 2007. Early in the season we were given part of the plot next door, and I hoped to dig it all over and fill it with three times as many crops as we grew last year.

Sadly, the weather had other plans. Following a deliciously warm and dry spring, Britain had the wettest summer in recorded history. Throughout May, June and July it just rained, heavily, every day. The slugs and snails ate the crops we had already planted. The weeds grew unhindered. And even when the weather broke, we just didn't feel like going down to the allotment.

It wasn't all doom and gloom. The allotment was a patchwork of productive areas interspersed with weeds.
  • The potatoes and onions did well. They got a good start and out-competed the weeds. We got a good harvest and stored lots of spuds and onions in the shed.

  • Garlic was a failure. About three times now I have planted garlic cloves from the greengrocer in various spots. They put up lots of encouraging greenery, but when the leaves go yellow and fall down there are no bulbs underneath. Maybe it's because I'm using varieties grown for food, probably in a hot country whose climate is different from mine. This year I'm planting garlic from the garden centre, specially produced for growing. Wish me luck.

  • The strawberries and soft fruit we planted very early in the season did OK. Some of the raspberry canes didn't take, and I want to plant new ones to replace them, but some did fine. I didn't expect to harvest any fruit in their first season, and what few fruit grew were mostly eaten by birds. Netting will be essential next year.

  • I planted lots of herbs and they've grown wonderfully. They look really nice, and mostly crowd out the weeds. The allotment isn't the best place for herbs - I prefer to have them near the kitchen so I can go out and grab a handful of marjoram or whatever when I'm cooking. I don't know what to do with them now, either. Will they survive the winter? Will I need to plant new ones in spring? Should I cut them back?

  • I managed to keep a few spots clear and grew ruby chard, tomatoes, lettuce and radishes.

  • Beans were a great success - runner beans, broad beans, asparagus peas, french beans, dwarf beans. They grew up through the weeds and cropped well.

  • My peas keeled over and died. I don't think they like the wet. Or maybe snails got them.

  • Three sisters was a qualified success. My sweetcorn didn't grow very tall. Perhaps I used the wrong variety. It cropped OK and tasted wonderful, but it didn't provide much support for the beans. They seemed happy enough sprawling all over the floor instead, but it made harvesting them a pain. The squash seemed happy with the arrangement, though. I might try it again next year with different varieties. A taller variety of sweetcorn and a shorter variety of beans, perhaps.
What about next year? We've got to be really disciplined and get to the allotment more often, whatever the weather. When we've weeded an area, we need to plant something in it straight away. Crops are a great weed suppressant, especially leafy things like potatoes and squash, but bare earth is an invitation to weeds. But to look on the bright side, even in a terrible year as this has been, there's always something. There have been times when I've despaired of the allotment, and yet if you add together everything we've harvested, it's not bad at all. The shed has dozens of bags of spuds and ropes of onions hanging from hooks in the ceiling. I've got 20 gallons of wine fermenting from plants we foraged or grew. I think every meal I've eaten for the last week has been mainly or partly home-grown food. That's not too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

7 comments:

Nikki said...

Despite the failures, you sounds like you did really well! I'm hoping for the same sort of success - but who knows, I've already had a few knockbacks, but they're all good really and full of learning blah blah...haha.

Rete said...

I had the same issue with my garlic -- only one clove instead of a whole head of cloves. After doing a bit of research, it seems you need to plant them in fall, so they can overwinter, then grow come spring... the cold conditions tell the clove to separate into many cloves. Maybe next year we'll both have better luck!

Dora Renee' Wilkerson said...

Here over in the US (in Ohio) we had a bad drought. Hay prices here are REALLY high so feeding the animals this year isn't going to be a bill I want to see.

Dora Renee' Wilkerson

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