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…

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