Monthly Archives: January 2007

2006 Crop Roundup

After the final harvest of our savoys last week, I thought I’d take the opportunity this week to review what we actually got around to producing through 2006.

I say “got around to producing” because, as usual, I’d come up with a hugely over-ambitious list of things I intended to grow (on the equally excessive assumption that I would manage to clear a lot more of the garden than I eventually did) so I only ended up growing half the things I had on my list!

Anyway, the ones that actually got into the ground where:

Savoy Cabbage

I’ve already talked about these; they were a big success in the sense that they took up a big chunk of space, looked very “agricultural” and certainly kept the weeds at bay.

However, they were also hugely successful in attracting a variety of wildlife that enjoyed my crop far more than me and that, combined with a total failure on my part to manage them, thin them out, or do anything to fight the wildlife meant that the actual volume of food we got out of them was pretty poor.

Still, they looked very pretty, covered with all these little white butterflies!

Sweetcorn

Something of a staple, these were the first things I planted when I started this a few years ago (indeed, 2006’s crop used up the last seeds from that original seed packet) and always very satisfying. They’re big, bold plants that shoot up good an tall, and reliably produce anything up to 3 corns each.

Ok, so in terms of volume not too great (compounded by the fact that I don’t actually like sweetcorn, so my wife has to eat it all) but very, very satisfying to grow and nicely low-impact too.

The other nice thing about sweetcorn is that there doesn’t seem to be any pest issues; almost every corn I pick has an earwig or two, but it doesn’t seem to affect the plant and they don’t seem to actually eat anything.

Leeks

I think my total lack of knowledge caused the most problems here. I planted the leek seeds, only for nothing to happen for weeks. I assumed that I’d messed up, and gave them up as a lost cause.

A few weeks later, a few tiny thin stalks were putting in an appearance but to be honest I didn’t pay very close attention. Not too long after that they were somewhat hidden by a combination of out-of-control savoys and looming sweetcorn, so they continued to get quite badly neglected.

Come winter, the sweetcorn was gone, the savoys were being pushed back and I realised there were some very normal looking leeks in the ground, which we duly dug up and ate – delicious!

Because I’d ignored them, and hadn’t read much about them, I didn’t do any of the earthing up that would have blanched more of the stalks but it wasn’t a big problem (and it meant there wasn’t loads of dirt in the layers); one to be remembered for next year though.

Tomatoes

Swings and roundabouts, this one. I bought 4 little plants from the garden center and rather foolishly just planted them in the ground and let them get on with it.

What I now know is that I should have pinched out their shoots at some point to discourage them from exploding into huge rambling bushes, which is of course exactly what they did. I’ve only grown tomatoes in containers before, so it’s never been such a problem. Still, it’s something I’ve learned.

The second problem was out of my control – the weather. We had a very hot, dry period right up to the point where the fruits were forming. Then we went through a period with lots and lots of rain, the fruit swelled and all the skins split. We probably lost half the (fairly heavy) crop of tomatoes to that, but we still had plenty to eat through.

In fact, we still have a bag of them in the freezer!

Next week, it will be time to draw up the list of 2007’s crop and hopefully stick to it!

Final Harvest

This weekend saw the final harvest of 2006’s crops – the last few stragglers from the disastrous Savoy cabbage experiment.

We added Savoy to the crop list last year because we both love them – especially my wife. However, they’re far too high maintenance for me to bother with this year, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, just as with the leeks I planted them in a ‘seed bed’ with good intentions of transplanting them according to instruction, only to never quite get around to it. I thinned them out a little but they did grow up too close to each other, which was probably one of the reasons they never really developed a decent heart.

However, they were by far the most pest-blighted thing I’ve ever grown in my life. Birds (my money is on pigeons, but I’m aware that this might be influenced by my generally low opinion of pigeons!) took delight in eating a lot; they’d take whole seedlings to start, and big lumps out of even more grown-up plants. Then of course the infamous Cabbage White butterfly (in it’s many variations) feasted almost continuously on them.

One of the principals I’ve always worked on crop-wise is that I don’t want to be using chemicals on them; not so much from a fanatical ‘organic’ perspective – I happily weed-killed the lawn, for example – but because it seems a waste to be pouring expensive chemicals on what is, essentially, a very cheap foodstuff. I’m happy to share my harvest with the local beasties, and if I find them taking the majority (like with these Savoys) then I just remember not to bother with them again. Yes, I could use nets but frankly I’m far, far too lazy.

By the time they should have been cropping, the cabbages had failed to heart up and the leaves were riddled with holes courtesy of the various beasties that had taken their share. I’d already surrendered to be honest, so I didn’t pay them much attention. However, come the end of the year the surviving plants had shot up and produced some small, relatively unblighted hearts which made excellent eating, and kept us fed for a good few meals.

Certainly nowhere near the volume that we should have harvested from that number of plants, but better than nothing. And very tasty, of course!

Once the last few plants were harvested, and mindful of the predicted frost and snow coming in this week, I forked over all the ground we grew in last year (fighting back the grass trying to reclaim the old sweetcorn patch!) – if I’m feeling strong I’ll try to dig some fresh land, and drive the crop area right back to the far end of the garden for this year. The only trouble with that plan is that the far end has just been a bramble and ivy den for the last 20 years, so it’s damn hard work.

Still, it’s more fun than going to the gym.

The only food remaining from last year now is a bagful of tomatoes lurking in the freezer; next time I’ll try and account for everything that was grown, although I didn’t record it in any particular depth. Now we need to sit down and figure out what’s getting grown in 2007…

Last of the Leeks

Well, last week saw the last of the leeks from last year harvested.

The leeks (in common with the cabbages; more on those next time) were a bit of a surprise crop. I’d never grown them before, so in my typical spring-fueled enthusiasm last year I bought some seeds and put them in what I’d decided to call my ‘seed bed’, full of good intentions to follow the instructions and transplant them to their final location once they’d grown a little.

Then nothing happened, for a considerable time, and I just sort of assumed that they’d been eaten by birds, slugs, ants, or possibly abducted by aliens. In true ‘lazy gardener’ style, I just sort of accepted their fate and stopped worrying about them.

Some time later I noticed that finally these grass-like stalks were appearing. This posed something of a problem for me, because by this time I didn’t actually have anywhere to put them. My master plan had been to expand them out into the other half of the ‘seed bed’, but that was now filled to overflowing with the cabbage that I’d also not transplanted.

So, long story short I adopted my standard policy of ‘ignoring them’.

Fast forward to last autumn, and I find that I’ve got two or three rows of reasonable size leeks; they’ve had a hard year what with being under giant cabbages and sweetcorn, and because I’ve ignored them I haven’t done any of the blanching that I was supposed to do (apparently if you bank up the soil around them – sort of like potatoes I guess – the lack of light extends the white section) but I wasn’t too bothered as I quite like the green bit anyway!

So over winter we’ve had a reasonable supply of delicious leeks – certainly not a big crop, but a total bonus considering I’d given them up for dead very early on.

The last couple were pulled up last week (and disappeared into a very tasty blue cheese risotto), marking almost the end of the crops from last year. There’s still a meals-worth of savoy cabbage lurking out there, though…!

Introduction

Welcome to this diary of mine!

This is my attempt to keep a record of my continuing efforts to use our little garden to produce something useful in the form of food. It’s something that I’ve done (on a very small scale!) for the last few years, and that I’ve always intended to try and keep better track of.

Being a geek at heart, a blog seemed like the ideal way to do that, so here we are!

I’m a seriously lazy, fair-weather gardener, which explains why after living in this house for over 12 years the decrepit sheds are still at the bottom of the garden, and I’ve only cultivated about 4 square yards. Still, progress has been slow but steady and my target for this year is to reclaim one entire side of the garden from the weeds.

I’m also a fairly lazy blogger, but my intention is to make sure that I update this diary at least once a week to keep track of what’s planned, what’s growing and (ultimately!) what’s being harvested!