As the growing season finishes it is a time for seed collecting, crop clearing and soil improvement. It is also a great time to reflect on the successes and failures of this growing year to help plan for the start of next year’s growing season.
I thought I would share some of the things I have learnt this year, my second year on the allotment. The reason I love growing is that every year is different and you never stop learning.....
- Instead of using peat pots or newspaper folded pots, toilet rolls work so much better for early indoor sowings of broad beans, runner beans and French climbing beans. Plant the whole toilet roll into the ground after the plants have been hardened off. The toilet roll will decompose in the soil.
- Keep rhubarb well watered, especially in dry spells during spring. My crop suffered this year through lack of water.
- You can overwater courgettes and summer squashes! If the fruit becomes squishy and falls to the ground when it is still quite small, then this is a sign of overwatering.
- My outdoor cucumber plants were an unexpected cash crop. For my first attempt at growing cucumbers I tried the variety Marketmore 76 purchased at Wilkinsons for £1.30. The plants were grown up pea/bean netting purchased at Poundland. I planted out 12 plants and these provided an on going supply of cucumbers until late September. I have saved a huge amount of money on supermarket bought cucumber. 12 plants were easily enough to feed 5 people and at one point I had so many cucumbers they were made into a soup! Despite the criticism some people give outdoor grown cucumbers I was really happy with the slightly nutty taste of the crop.
- I grow main season onions around the edges of all my allotment beds. This saves space and I hope also confuses carrot root fly.
- Using a seaweed extract when planting potato tubers greatly reduces damage from slugs and wireworm. In future I will never plant potatoes without it!
- It sounds obvious but I have learnt this year that it is essential to harden off plants before planting out. When planting out beans during the hot spell earlier this year I found that even if the weather was great my plants still sustained wind damage because I hadn’t acclimatised them well enough to outdoor conditions.
- When the summer petered out this year my large tomato crops were very slow to ripen. My cherry tomatoes though have cropped heavily all summer – I am loving the varieties ‘Sungold F1 Hybrid’ (Thompson & Morgan) and ‘Red Cherry Organic’ (Suttons).
The growing year is not over yet though and I’m still harvesting the following crops:
- Tomatoes – 7lbs of tomatoes just picked in 1 day!
- Hamburg parsley (root crop)
- Kohl rabi
- Runner beans
- Spring onion
- Parsley leaf
- Butternut Squash
- Ruby chard
Despite saving lots of seed and having more than 1 bulging seed tin I couldn’t resist the Thompson & Morgan seed sale! I have stocked up on my favourite beetroot variety Boro F1 Hybrid (great taste and reliable crop) and I’m trying two different tomato varieties which promise to give me supermarket quality fruits – ‘Tigerella’ and ‘Organic Falcorosso F1 Hybrid’.
Bring on 2012!