2018: Success and Failure

No monthly roundup for December, instead I thought I’d take a brief look back at the first year of my tiny vegetable garden experiment.

First, a big thank you to those who have followed this blog, liked and commented on my posts, and allowed me a glimpse of your own gardens – which are all fantastic and make me very jealous.  I look forward to meeting more of you in 2019 and wish you a Happy New Gardening Year!

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Extreme cold and extreme heat marked my first year as a vegetable grower.  Nothing got going until May and I was still digging out bricks and stones from my two new raised beds in June.  And in July, we were fortunate to be visited – briefly – by a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.

My two greatest successes were sunflowers and sweetcorn – both of which were given to me by my brother as smallish seedlings.  They obviously liked their positions as the sunflowers grew extremely tall and the sweetcorn produced four cobs, though only two were edible.  I don’t know if this is usual with corn.

Salad bowl lettuce provided a constant supply which saw us through until September, while the multi-coloured climbing beans regularly provided just enough for a side vegetable at least once a week.

Beetroots were a disaster.  I lost the first (indoor) sowings to overwatering, the second sowings weren’t much better.  Then I confused my radishes with beetroot and left them to grow on, which made them too woody to eat.

Dwarf peas Kelvedon Wonder needed to be sown in far greater quantities than I anticipated as only one or two pods appeared at any one time.

My early potatoes, grown from seed potatoes in a plastic growbag, produced 12 potatoes of various sizes – but tasted lovely, despite a cost of 52p each!  So next year – staggered sowings in three bags.

Tomatoes were a mixed bag.  Four Moneymaker plants from my brother, shared one large pot.  I won’t make that mistake again, and I found them quite bland to eat.  By the end of October, the green tomatoes were still ripening indoors.

And the Tumbling Tom yellow cherry tomatoes I grew from seed got too leggy sharing a spot with Cosmos and had to be moved into individual growbags – during a heatwave.  Then it turned out that three out of the four were an upright red variety, though they were very tasty

It was late July before I’d fully prepared my second raised bed, sowing some Red Clover as green manure to enrich it for next year.  I daren’t plant root vegetables as there are still plenty of stones just waiting to split the roots.

Swiss Chard was a waste of time, with a couple of small seedlings which didn’t do anything.  I tried sowing them in pots indoors and sowing directly into the soil, but neither method was successful.

Leeks did quite well, considering I bought a tray of twenty-four from the Rescue Shelf at my local garden centre.  I’ve made a considerable amount of soup with them, and they were a tasty addition to steamed greens as an accompaniment to our Boxing Day lunch.

Onions and garlic didn’t do well, mainly because I sowed pot marigolds and nasturtiums in the same squares.  But I planted more garlic cloves at the beginning of October, some in a raised bed, some in pots.  By the end of that month, most had already sprouted, even through a four-inch layer of grass clippings.  I can’t wait until next summer when they’ll be ready to harvest.

I’ve decided that herbs are best bought in as I struggled to get a decent crop from a packet of chive seeds, and both parsley and basil failed to take.

I didn’t try fruit this year; I have alpine strawberries but couldn’t get at them because of the old bricks.  I have no room for fruit trees or bushes though I might try something in pots.

I bought the Grow all you can eat in 3 square feet book which is very useful for small spaces.  By the time you read this post, I’ll already have started planning and buying in seeds.

In 2019, any ‘companion’ plants will be grown in pots, freeing up valuable growing space in the raised beds.  Potatoes and carrots will be grown in bags or buckets until I have a sufficient depth of compost in the raised beds that the stony sub-soil is hidden.

Exciting though it was to watch the sunflowers and sweetcorn growing, four plants (two of each) took up almost half of one raised bed, and created too much shade at times, so I’ve asked my brother not to give me any more, unless I get my allotment plot in the community garden early on.  Then I might experiment with growing corn, beans and squashes in the ‘three sisters’ method.

More climbing beans, more peas, a wider variety of salads.  Another attempt with Chard, and the addition of spinach are all on my wish list.

And keeping more accurate records of what grow best where, and what likes to be crammed together and what likes its own space.

Shady Border 2




And many, many more pots on that half step on the patio to maximise the growing area.