2019: Success and Failure

A look back over the year to see what worked – and what didn’t – for me. Was it me? Was it the weather? Or a combination of both?

Climbing Beans

Climbing Beans Mixed

I grew the same variety – from the same packet – as in 2018.  I direct-sowed them in the same space below the arch in Raised Bed A, after replenishing the compost.  The first sowing was indoors on 24 February.  Not a single bean germinated.  The second sowing was made directly into the soil.  I planted 18 beans, 2 came up but didn’t grow beyond a couple of inches.  In the end I pulled them out, dug over that patch (no other beans in sight) and replanted using a different variety, Blauhilde, which is a dark purple bean (cooks as dark green).  These are not generally available in garden centres; mine came free with a magazine.

It was the middle of August before we started to see flowers appearing and the first beans appeared in the final week of August – a mixture of pale yellow (from the original mixed seeds) and the dark purple Blauhilde.

Swiss Chard and Spinach

Both bought as plant strips from a local garden centre.  I grew the chard in troughs until the middle of June then transplanted into sections of the raised beds – some in the sunny bed and some in the partial shade bed.  The spinach plants were used around the edges when I put my tomatoes into large pots, thinking the spinach would be over before the tomatoes were ready.  We started harvesting in June, but the spinach ran out before August and the Chard had no flavour, and later attracted caterpillars (if the holes in the leaves were any indication).  I sowed more spinach, but it didn’t grow. But as November ended ONE Swiss chard plant was still growing strong. OK. it had holes in the leaves, but after a good wash – and checking for slugs – it tasted great.

Runner Beans

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Again, these were bought in a strip from the garden centre.  I grew some up strings fixed to the arch in Raised Bed B, one up a cane tripod, also in Raised Bed B, and eight in large pots, up 6 foot canes but with the ends tucked into a 7 foot trellis.  By the end of June, one bean was making its way across the patio on a piece of string! By the end of August, we were fed up picking, freezing, salting, and giving them away.

Note: SALTING does not work – all four of the jars I filled with layers of runner beans and salt went mouldy.  Freezing is the best way to preserve these and French Beans.

Climbing Annuals

This year I sowed seeds for Morning Glory, Cobaea (cup and saucer plant) and Perennial Sweet Peas.  Not one single seed germinated.

 Beetroot

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I bought these mixed beetroot as seedling from the garden centre, and sowed red beetroot seeds too.  By the middle of July, neither type were doing very well.  I’m not sure I’ll bother trying to grow beetroot again, unless I try them in my raised bed at the Community Garden.

At the beginning of August, I’d ditched the beetroot growing (or not) in the trough. In the middle of August, I pulled three small beetroot from Raised Bed B (shady) – the day after I’d bought a bunch of beetroot so I could see if I preferred them boiled or baked instead of pickled.

I didn’t!

Beetroot are off my list!

Courgettes and Squashes

I tried to grow butternut squash from seeds I saved.  When it appeared none had germinated, I threw the compost (and ‘dead’ seeds) onto one of my raised beds.  Then three courgette-type plants appeared over the summer. By the end of August, these were growing very well, while the courgettes I actually grew from seed and planted out have not been a success as the fruit either falls before it reaches a decent size, or they were ‘invaded’ before I can get to them. I planted more butternut squash seeds in a pot.

Four germinated and were planted out mid-September. ONE WEEK LATER and the two plants at the front had disappeared – either eaten or dried out in the sun (the two at the back had some shade from the beans).

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But by early November, only the three ‘rogue’ plants were still growing. By the middle of the month we had had so much rain that they rotted. So no squashes this year for me.

Tomatoes

Slow to get going.  I only started getting fruits at the end of July.  By the middle of August I had lots of green tomatoes, but none ready to eat. Until on the last day of the month, one Yellow Delight had ripened and was ready to eat. Come September and many tomatoes were still green but were easy to remove. I made the decision to take off as many as I could and take them into the house to ripen (heat not sunlight is the thing).

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But they rotted before they ripened and I threw most of them away. I will grow Marmande beef tomatoes again but not Yellow Pear. I found they didn’t have a lot of flavour.

Potatoes

Very pleased with the four large pots of Swift. Enough for the two of us spread over several weeks. A mixture of sizes and some did get stuck in the corner of a pot (note to self, DON’T USE SQUARE POTS).

I started growing Charlotte in bags on 23 August so I have new potatoes for Christmas. By the end of August, they had already started sending up shoots.

This was how they looked at the end of September.

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As of early December, I still have one pot of Desiree  potatoes (grown in pots which were lifted into the greenhouse in October and the compost allowed to dry out. Whether they’ve been eaten or have rotted remains to be seen – when I tip them out!

Salads

Grew the same as last year Lollo Rossabut they took a long time to get going from seed, and again when transplanted into the garden. They grew very long and leggy in a very short time. Little Gem were a late planting and did reasonable well, but neither leaf had much flavour this year and both had either bolted or rotted before the end of August.

Tried Rocket and Lamb’s Lettuce this time. Better flavour from these two, but again the Rocket bolted and was already flowering by the middle of August. With quite a wet summer through July and August, salads didn’t feature much on our menu, otherwise I might have made more sowings.

On the whole, it would seem better to go with spinach as both a salad leaf and cooked – more flavour and a nicer texture.

Radish

Another failure.  Two sowings – at different times and with different varieties. Hardly any root growth, and those that did manage to look vaguely like an actual radish had usually been nibbled before I got to them.

Carrots/Parsnips

I grew some carrots in pots and some in the garden. Next year, I’ll be growing carrots in my raised bed at the Community Garden, so won’t have the problem of stones stunting their growth. I also grew parsnips in a pot, though I planned on not harvesting them until Christmas.

The carrots in the raised bed were twisted and stunted as, no matter how many times I dig through the soil, stones and old mortar keep coming up to the surface (I thought they would sink). The carrots in the pots were much better; small because I’d put too many in, but a good strong taste. Two on a plate with other vegetables were enough.

Brassicas

This year I tried Brussels Sprouts and Purple Sprouting Broccoli – from seedlings bought in. Both grew well then . . .

I hadn’t truly appreciated just how many eggs one cabbage white butterfly can lay.  While I was sitting there drinking a coffee and watching the pretty butterflies flitting around, they were hell bent on destruction.

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But at the end of August, the broccoli appeared to be fighting back.

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But midway through September, I ditched the whole lot and put them on the compost – and there wasn’t a single caterpillar in evidence. However I did keep one Brussels Sprout plant when I saw the tops regenerating. By the end of October, tiny sprouts were forming on the stems.

Note to self: don’t be so quick to write something off AND cover the plants with netting!

Other Jobs

We finished demolishing the raised bed in the Very Shady Border, and I have two compost bins on the go.

We persuaded our neighbour to cut down one overhanging tree, allowing more light into the front garden, so I bought some autumn flowering plants – heucheras and hellbores.

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So that’s my year in a nutshell. Still learning, still experimenting and – come 2020 – I’ll have a raised bed in the Community Garden to take care of too.

 

3 thoughts on “2019: Success and Failure

  1. I didn’t have the best year with climbing beans either in 2019. I think growing achocha so close to them didn’t help as it’s a beast.

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    1. Mine were overshadowed by the runner beans, which were a great success but have not frozen well. Next year I will grow less of them and eat them fresh. I had to look up achocha – as I didn’t have any success with courgettes or squashes, it’s not something I’ll be trying in 2020 😦

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