Garden Retro 2021

Last year I did some end of year reflection on my attempts to grow vegetables. Despite having done it for quick a few years now, it was a useful exercise that helped me plan for this year.

So I’m doing it again.

What did I set out to do this year?

Looking back at my 2020 post, I wanted to:

  • Get a greenhouse, to help me grow some tomatoes, chillies and peppers. And to help acclimatise the seedlings
  • Avoid rushing to get the seedlings out too early, as I keep losing plants
  • Apply slug killer more often
  • Thin seedlings more regularly
  • Water more regularly
  • Rotate plants through beds
  • Expand the growing area
  • Add more compost bins
  • Look at companion planting

I did some, but not all of these.

What changes did I make?

So what changes did I actually make?

  • I expanded the available growing area by using a couple of steel raised beds, planting up more of the pots we had and buying 5 x 35 litre pots, and 4 smaller pots.
  • Bought a tonne of earth to fill all the extra space
  • I didn’t get a greenhouse. I decided there wasn’t enough space. Instead I got a small grow tunnel
  • Used staggered planting of seeds to try and give a more continuous grow for some vegetables
  • Dug the beds over earlier in the year and recovered them until I was ready to plant
  • Used a riddle to remove more of the stones in the beds and to sieve my compost before digging in. This was fiddly, but satisfying
  • Grew some new things

What did we grow?

The final list for this year was (new things in bold):

Basil, Blueberries, Butternut Squash, Carrots (2 varieties), Cucumber, Jalapeño, Lettuce (4 varieties), Peas, Mint, Potato, Radish, Shallots, Scotch Bonnets, Spinach, Spring Onion, Strawberries (4 varieties), Sweetcorn, Swiss Chard, Thyme, Tomatoes (2 varieties, a yellow tumbler and a plum)

Things I didn’t grow this year: Coriander, Pak Choi.

What went well?

Not a bad year overall, but things worth remembering:

  • Spreading out the planting of the lettuce, spring onions, chard, carrots and peas helped extend the harvesting period. As did growing smaller sets across different beds, as there was less chance they’d all be damaged in one go
  • Harvesting more regularly and storing stuff in the fridge
  • The chillies were amazing. I’ve had mixed success in the past, but the grow tunnel and feeding them meant we got an amazing amount out of just 2 Jalapeño plants and a single Scotch Bonnet plant
  • Swiss Chard was a revelation. Grows like a nutter, tastes delicious at whatever size you eat it. I was still harvesting it up until the end of November. This Swiss Chard curry with potato and lentils is great. This is going into our regular rotation.
  • Washing and drying the potatoes and carrots, and storing them in a paper bag, meant we could keep them for much longer.
  • The lettuce was delicious. Over the summer I’d pick a baby lettuce and add it to my sandwich every day
  • Spring onions and shallots were very happy in pots
  • The tumbling tomato plant just kept on fruiting, the plum tomatoes were delicious but didn’t crop that well.

What didn’t go so well?

  • Only did one Nemaslug treatment so unsurprisingly I had a slug problem
  • I lost plants again after we had another cold snap early on. All of my first batch of sweetcorn, squash and cucumber died overnight. Heartbreaking. The second crop just didn’t really kick into gear
  • Peas didn’t grow so well
  • Didn’t get a good radish crop this year. I think my seeds are either too old or I need to improve the soil. They’ve been consistently good previously
  • WTF, strawberries?
  • One of my new beds is more shaded, attracted more critters and didn’t crop so well. Need to plan for that next year
  • No fruit off the blueberries, but I think that’s to be expected
  • I lost a row of carrots because of not watering and weeding regularly. I find that I get into gardening early in the year, then when it gets hot I’m inclined to loaf around rather than labour in the heat.

What will I do differently?

  • Actually rotate the crops next year
  • Actually look at companion planting
  • Look at ways to improve the soil. I’m digging in my compost, but maybe I need to consider other options?
  • I’ve got wooden raised beds. They’ve started to rot through, so I need to change them out. Need to decide whether to get wooden beds or something else.
  • Grow more chillies instead of strawberries
  • Not get distracted by bees.

Having the space to grow vegetables is a privilege and I’m very glad and very lucky to have the opportunity.

Gardening can be time consuming and frustrating, but I love being able to cook with what I’ve grown myself. Getting out into the garden, doing something physical, seeing things grown is also a nice balm given everything else that is going on.

Looking forward to next year.