I’ve written a reflection point about growing vegetables for the last two years (2020, 2021) so I’m going to keep going. It’s useful to plan ahead. And it’s nice to think about the spring and summer when it’s so cold and dark outside!
What did I set out to do this year?
My goals for this year were to:
- Rotate what I was growing across each of the vegetable patches
- Try out companion planting
- Look at ways to improve the soil
- Look into replacing my slowly rotting raised beds
- Grow more chillies
- Not get distracted by bees
As always, I did some but not all of these
What changes did I make?
Unlike last year I didn’t add any new growing areas or buy new pots. This year was mostly about using the space better.
For example, as shown in the photo above, I tried growing the cucumber plants up a raised frame rather than letting them sprawl all over the beds and path. This freed up a lot of space and I was even able to grow some spring onions and letters under the frame. They cropped before the frame was completely overgrown.
I rotated the crops through the beds
I planted more densely across all the beds, and interleaved smaller, faster growing crops (radishes, lettuce, spring onions) amongst slower growing veg (potatoes, sweetcorn). This isn’t quite companion planting, but worked well.
I gave up an entire bed to potatoes. And also tried growing some in pots.
Tried to plant up the peas more densely to fully fill the space under the frame.
I also made sure I planted up all the pots I have which meant getting some more soil and compost.
I didn’t replace any of the beds, I figured they’d got at least another year or so in them. I did repair one of them though.
I didn’t look into soil improvers. And I didn’t grow many more chillies but gave up on strawberries.
I continued to get distracted by bees.
What did we grow?
The final list for this year was (new things in bold).
Basil, Beans, Blueberries, Butternut Squash, Carrots (2 varieties), Cucumber, Jalapeños, Lettuce (2 varieties), Peas, Mint, Potato, Radish, Shallots, Scotch Bonnets, a “Snacking Pepper” (not sure of the variety), Spinach, Spring Onion, Sweetcorn, Swiss Chard, Thyme, Tomatoes (3 varieties)
Things I didn’t grow this year: Strawberries.
What didn’t go so well?
- We didn’t get any crop from the Blueberries last year, which I expected so was hoping we’d get some this year. They flowered, we had some berries but just as they got ripe enough to pick…the birds ate ’em all
- Just couldn’t get the peas to grow well this year. I did 2-3 plantings and only ended up with a few scrawny plants. Not sure if it’s the soil, the heat this year, or lack of water
- Tried a few different varieties of tomatoes and while they cropped, it was just a few tomatoes at a time. Meaning that we just had a handful occasionally. I’d kept them well fed and watered, pruned as advise, so not sure what we’re doing wrong here
- Butternut squash completely failed, as did a few of the cumber plants
- The Snacking Pepper only had a few fruits and they were disappointingly tasteless
- Sweetcorn crop wasn’t great. One good cob on each plant, rather than two
- Scotch Bonnets weren’t as feisty as I hoped. Maybe they needed more sun?
A bit frustrating this year, that so many things failed or produced a lack lustre crop.
Its was incredibly hot this year, so I’m putting at least some of these issues down to problems keeping everything well watered. Also I think investing in some soil improvement would be sensible now.
What went well?
- Decent crop of Jalapeños for the second year running. They seem to do well in pots. There were enough for me to freeze a bunch of them
- I tried growing some basil in a pot, as well as in the ground. They both grew well, and the basil in the pot is now on the window ledge in the kitchen. Still growing well
- We had a good crop of potatoes, although they were quite small
- Making better use of the space helped get more out of the ground. And the frame for the cucumber plants worked brilliantly
- In desperation after the peas almost completely failing, I tried planting some beans. Never grown them before and we don’t regularly eat them. They worked brilliantly. Had a huge crop and they were delicious. Used quite a few in stir-fries. Definitely one for next year.
What will I do differently?
- Look at some soil improvers
- It was good to have the basil, thyme and mint available. I want to look at growing more herbs next year
- I lost a few seedlings to frost. I need to either acclimate them more before planting out and/or put them in my small grow tunnel in pots before planting out. I think I’m rushing to get things into the ground, whereas in the first years of growing I was more cautious
- If summers are going to continue to be this warm, and we have more hose pipe bans I’ve got to think about water storage. Am not sure I can fit in another water butt, but need to look at options there, as well as maybe adding a second compost bin
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.
Looking forward to next year.