Thursday, September 12, 2013

Garden Notes 2013

So - Summer is over. The first of the Autumn gales have been forecast for the weekend, and it is time to batten down the hatches. But, before we do that, I want to have a look and see how 2013 went for this garden on the edge of Europe. It was a late starter for us, due to the very cold Spring, the diversion of the polytunnel construction and the fact that not all the raised beds were in situ until June. But, we got there in the end, and I can now share some of the results of our Summer labour.

Chard is always dependable. Such a good crop here - beautiful big glossy leaves - which taste sweet, even when they run to seed, and can last until next season's seedling are ready to go in!  I do find that the ruby chard seems to bolt much more than the yellow and pink, so when my (seemingly never-ending) packet of Rainbow mix is finished, I will order single colours.

The beetroot has been a great success this year too. In previous years I have always had trouble getting a crop at all, so these tennis ball size globes are such a bonus. This year I grew the Beetroot seed collection from Sarah Raven. Amazing result, and we have lately enjoyed several platters of 
incredibly trendy looking, three-beet salad. I would say though, that there were very few of the golden beet seeds, so I will need to order double of that variety for next time. Happily there were plenty of the red and pink, so saving a bit there.

In other veg news, the carrots (Autumn King) are fattening out and can really stay in the ground until the end of the year. I will cover them with fleece to keep the worst of the winds off them. The kales and cabbages are nice and snug under their enviromesh cover and we will harvest them as we go. Cauliflower and broccoli have been cut, eaten and some of it even frozen! I did leave the broccoli plants in the ground, and have been picking little shoots now and then - just enough to add to stirfries and salads.

Potatoes did well, considering how late they went in (end of June). I planted Accent, which was a first early, and Charlotte, a waxy salad. I am almost at the end of the Charlotte now, and as I worked through the bed, discovered a courgette plant and a large nest of hens eggs hidden beneath the foliage!
The Accent were large white potatoes - very easy to over-boil if you took your eye off the pot, and they were really soft in texture. I found them to be a bit bland, but the rest of the family seemed to like them. I thought they were tastier cold rather than hot, so better for salads. Charlottes are always good, and I will definitely grow them again. Next year, I will be more organised and get them in earlier and even try to grow a maincrop as well.

Beans were mixed. The broad beans did really well - a mixture of Super Aquadulce and Stereo. The Stereo grew really tall and suffered a lot in the windy conditions, but the beans were superb. Aquadulce are always good performers, and we like the big fat beans and the furry pods. I have several bags in the freezer, and we enjoyed them in a lot of meals over the last two or three months. Broad bean hummus is definitely  the taste of Summer for me.
I had also planted dwarf French beans ( Cantare and Aguillon) and climbing beans ( Borlotti and Blue Lake) but  - failure here. I never can grow dwarf beans - they are always tiny, shrivelled little specimens. Even in my previous garden, much further south, I only ever harvested enough for maybe one or two small portions. I just don't think it is warm enough here.  I am still going to try next year, but in the poly-tunnel. The climbers?  Well, Borlotti is very far from home up here on the Western Isles, so a few stumped empty pods and wind-scorched leaves were the result here. I had hoped for more from the Blue Lake, as I have had good harvests in the past from this variety. Again, though, it was those old South-westerlies that did them in. Sustained moderate breezes are just as drying as hot sun, without the growth promoting qualities.

Although -  look - right down there at the very bottom of the bean tower -  maybe half a dozen decent looking pods!  A lesson there then - more protection.

I am pleased with the bulb fennel, which I only planted last month, under fleece, and the stems are just beginning to swell. I have planted a comfrey bed, so that I can make my own liquid fertiliser. We are all waiting and hoping for a late strawberry bonus - just a couple of more sunny weeks - please! I had forgotten to sow any peas this year, so I bought some plants at the Crofter's market last month. Of course, the beds were all full and I had nowhere to plant them, so they went into the flower bed. We have had a fair few pods from them, but now they have been discovered by the hens. What I want to know is - why they can't peck at the creeping buttercup as well - then I might not mind so much. Ho hum... least there is still time to smell the flowers..

...oh yes - there should always be time for that. ♥


  1. I love seeing all your garden pics, especially the pretty flowers.
    Right now my fall garden is in the ground, but we are having to water, so hopefully everything will come up. I can't believe after such a wet summer that we are now so dry, just crazy weather.

  2. A lovely post. My beans weren't great this year - not many runners or borlotti beans, and I am in the balmy southwest of England. I've been picking some late peas as well. I love the idea of broad bean houmus, I shall definitely be trying that. Hope you have a good weekend.

  3. Hi Jackie
    Your garden looks amazing. We have already had the gales here in Norfolk and it's blown most of the sweetcorn down. Oh well, maybe next year. I have never had much luck with french beans here either, too windy and exposed. Although the dwarf beans have done alright in previous years. Definitely a crop for the tunnel if you've got room. My father-in-law just puts one plant at each supporting ring of the tunnel and uses string for them to climb up, seems to work really well.

  4. Make sure those wandering cows and sheep don't get into the comfrey!

  5. May I tell you again what a pleasure it is to see your posts.

    As I type this, a late summer thunderstorm is arriving in New York City. Earlier today, it was strangely hot and humid, and a long, strong show fell as I travelled downtown from The Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Fifth Avenue bus. The sky grew darker, and all of a sudden the rain fell. Would be bus passengers (some were tourists) jumped on the bus as the female driver expertly docked at designated stops.

    What good fortune for me that the very last stop on this route found the rain stopping and a bit of sun reflecting in the curbside puddles left by the fierce showers.

    Now...indoors at home, I hear rain joining the thunder just the other side of my windows.

    Perhaps you'll enjoy trading weather reporting across the broad Atlantic?


    1. dear frances, hannah said that it was a very strong rain today, this evening. and the thunder! i think she was a little frightened.

  6. i love the change of seasons jacqui, and the coming of cold weather is exciting to me. maybe a little less gardening and a little more knitting!

  7. Lovely post Jacqui,looks like you were quite productive all things considered. I agree, broad bean humous and tomato/basil/garlic bruschetta are my summer staples, especially the latter when the toms are still warm from the greenhouse, lovely...

  8. what a fabulous garden you have frances ♥
    love this time of year for so many reasons - enjoying garden veg roasted in the oven being one of them!

  9. Lovely post. I also find chard incredibly reliable, not to mention delicious to eat. THANK YOU for your observations about the ruby chard - it is the same here, always running to seed while the others are reliably plodding on. I shall consider copying your idea of ordering single colours in future.

  10. I have already started the 2013 de-brief mentally as well ... it provides me hope for the spring even though I know we have a bleak season ahead of us. I am so happy to have done better than ever with my veg patch, next year will be even better :) autumn love x x x

  11. I just want to say that I love your blog site, the photos as well as your' comments....I live in the US and love living your life through your' blog. Keep up the good work!


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