The last year has flown and after spending winter caring for my youngest I have not really sat and looked at the achievements of last years growing season, which if I compare to year one we had a huge leap in growing success and structural development. Our cloche beds work fantastically for all crops requiring protection from pests, and have ensured the brassica plants have not been devoured by caterpillar armies.(see – The Cloche Apex!)
2017; Year one I had focussed on ensuring at least three quarters of the spaces ground was ready for planting, potatoes and pumpkins taking centre stage, mainly due to the poor germination of brassica plants and the late season we eventually had. I managed a small shop bought crop of everything in 2017 as poor compost and irregular weather put a halt to most things until around June. What we had grown was adequate to the freshly dug site and we enjoyed homegrown carrots, tomatoes and potatoes in autumn filling our punnets every week with something fresh. My primary focus was on ensuring our site could recycle the waste products we were producing while removing weeds completely from our growing spaces. (see – Allotment Ecology!, )
2018, I focussed on expanding our plot by adding raised beds, somewhere the children could plant directly, and to date we have four large beds currently filled with Early Purple sprouting Broccoli, multi coloured Brussels and broad beans which will present a small harvest over the next few months. These crops are all home sown as with a selection of cabbages and lettuce I planted later in the season and I look forward to seeing their progress on my return.(see – The Broccoli Bed)
Additionally we purchased a roll of wire to make arches between the fixed beds, an idea inspired by Roots and Refuge on you tube, the wire allows extra space which I intend to rotate spaces between beans ad small gourds and pumpkins. To date the beans I trialled in September grew well so hopefully this year with the addition of wooden supports I will be able to grow a wider variety of climbers. I am looking forward to experimenting with these upright supports as the season commences, as I test out my new types of cucurbit crops for the first year! (see –Harvest – 21 October 2018)
The fence we put in has allowed our children a space to work and play in safely on site, we have enjoyed walking and harvesting regularly through summer, without this we would not enjoy our space without constant interruption.
The water system is now in full flow and a month ago was at 500l, I am hopeful that this will now be well on its way to being full. this will ensure a good water supply throughout the dry months and hopefully reduce the need for using the mains supply. I will still need to engineer a watering attachment so for now my watering can will be in full use.(see –Resourcing Water)
Our Harvests 2018;
- 30 Cobs of corn
- 4 cabbages
- 8 courgettes
- 4 cauliflowers
- 6 pumpkins
- 20 punnets of beans
- 40 tomatoes
- 4 kale plants
- 6 cabbages
- 6 sunflower heads
- calendula seed – 500g
- nasturtium seeds
- Rhubarb – 10 stems
- strawberries and brambles – eaten on site
- 6 celery plants
- 16 beetroot plants
It may not seem a lot but it has allowed me to add to our meals throughout the week with produce I enjoy but would not buy as part of our weekly shop. I still have carrots, beans and broccoli growing but for a year were half of my first sowings were taken we did well.
I have altered my sowing techniques as previous years cell sowings seem prone to damping off despite under watering, that method was less productive than those hand sown and separated from trays, troughs and cups. I also find that I have a lot of spares as my thinning’s, I pot individually taking the largest seedlings, which allows the stragglers to boost in size with the added space and nutrients. I use every seedling, hopefully I can share a few if I manage to prevent the first sowings being moved by pests!
First Homegrown successes;
- Early purple Broccoli
- Bell Peppers
So to review 2018 was a step towards ensuring we could grow a variety of crops, each requiring different structures for support and protection. 2019 sets out to be an experimental season as I try out new crops within these structures and ensuring that staple crops are planted such as onions and potatoes to ensure the ground is productive all year.(See – Crop Rotation!)
So when I finally get round to planting my garlic sets, I will be one step closer to starting the New Year growing season!