Monthly Archives: December 2012

The highs, lows and lessons learned in 2012

Well what a year it has been. Officially the wettest ever in the UK! However, even though I am relatively new to this gardening lark I have a sneaky feeling that it would not matter what the year brought, gardeners are a fickle breed and there will always be something to complain about…..too dry, too wet, wrong kind of sunshine etc etc.

As regards my own experience, this is how I would sum it up…..

The low points

  • Most recent has to be Christmas dinner. Brussel sprout seeds were planted on 24 February and the plants produced barely enough for me, Mr Mac and little sis for our Christmas dinner. As for the parsnips, the seeds never even germinated due to the rain.
  • The crazy weather in the spring resulted in me losing all my tomato plants and set me back 7 weeks.
  • Okra was something new I decided to try this year, along with aubergines. It was too cold for the okra and although the aubergine plants did eventually produce two fruits, it was not until October and the cold killed them before they had the chance to mature.
  • Other than the Earlies grown in tubs in the greenhouse, the potatoes were a total disaster – if the slugs did not get them, the blight did!
  • The early frost got the blossom and so there were virtually no plums, pears or apples. Only one apple crumble has been made and NO cider at all!
  • Losing all the tulips in one night. This was particularly upsetting as we had planted up loads of pots and protected them all winter. Then one night, just as they were all about to flower, something came along and ate them. The jury is still out on whether it was the deer, pigeons, pheasants or squirrels.
  • Slugs – they just ate everything.
  • I am going to be predictable here….the weather! It was just pants.

The high points

  • Some of the flowers were exceptional this year, especially the acquilegia, echinacea, alliums, lillies and sunflowers.
  • Growing things in pots – early peas, carrots, butternut squash, spring onions and sunflowers.
  • The start of the hard landscaping at the bottom of the garden and the beautiful new paths Mr Mac started to build.
  • The greenhouse made from a conservatory rescued from a skip in Edinburgh.
  • Mr Mac’s portable fruit cage (although the netting needs some fine tuning!).
  • Having tried for 3 years, finally getting a bumper crop of chillies.
  • It was a brilliant year for soft fruits which obviously loved the rain.
  • Free seeds courtesy of Amateur Gardening magazine. I grew things I would not have thought of growing before…so thank you AG!
  • Starting my Blog….and thank you for reading and keeping me company!

Ten Lessons learned

  1. Label, label, label! Even though when you plant something in the ground it is obvious where it is (and what it is) YOU WON’T REMEMBER! Stick a label in the ground.
  2. Don’t be in a hurry to get all seeds sown as early as you can. Seeds sown later will catch up and there is less risk of losing them to frost.
  3. Keep a note of what is annual, perennial, bi-annual etc. To my cost I discovered I had pulled out a whole load of plants I thought were annuals when they finished flowering and it turns out they were perennials…oops!
  4. A lesson learned from 2011 was to put lots of drainage in the bottom of tomatoes. I filled my specially made troughs with lots of stones but now we can’t move the troughs to get rid of the spent soil as they are too heavy. All the soil will have to be scooped out by hand!
  5. Take out subscriptions to gardening magazines. Look out for deals like 5 issues for £5 (to see you over the summer) or my best find was half price Amateur Gardening magazine with free seeds every week from March to September.
  6. Bubble wrap is excellent to stop pots cracking from frost.
  7. Use Freecycle to get rid of plants or gardening items you no longer want or to acquire things you need.
  8. There is no point being a control freak and fighting mother nature…you will only lose!
  9. Don’t be lazy. If it is dry and you have weeds to hoe or plants to get in the ground DO IT NOW. You don’t know when you will get another chance.
  10. Plant little and often. I am constantly tormented by the thought that nothing will germinate and then it will be too late to start again. I end up with gluts of everything that have to be used within a short period of time. There are only so many vegetables you can force upon your neighbours!

For 2013 I am creating a sister blog….ayearinmygarden2013…where I plan to photograph the garden transforming over the year. I’ll still be here though and hope you will join me for another gardening year.

For now though I would like to wish you all a very happy, dry, sunny new year!

Camera to 0912 466

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Control-freak gardening

This year I discovered I am a control-freak gardener. I realised this towards the end of the summer (I use the term loosely!) when I noticed one of the areas usually swamped with vegetables was only a quarter full with a teepee of peas, one of beans and a couple of rows of beetroot and swede. To be fair, there should also have been parsnips and fennel but neither of them came to anything.

In my quest to stop worms eating potatoes, they were all in bags, my carrots and peas were in pots, melons and tomatoes in troughs and lettuces and courgettes in growbags. The control-freak in me was determined to contain everything under the misconception that I would be able to control it. Did it make any difference ……what do you think?

The potatoes got eaten by slugs anyway, the carrots rebelled through lack of water and overcrowding and the courgettes got water-logged and turned to mush.

However, two experiments in control-freak gardening this year were a great success. Having had limited success with sunflowers and butternut squash in previous years – the former snapping in half from wind damage just as they were about to flower, the latter requiring a whole greenhouse to themselves – I was intrigued by the cover of Suttons Spring catalogue showing the most beautiful sunflowers in a pot.

The variety were Waooh! and promised “a multi-headed sunflower, producing a profusion of golden flowers with large, dark, central discs. The bushy plants are ideal for border or patio container…”. They germinated really well and I think you will agree the results were stunning.

Sunflower 1

sunflower 2

The added benefit of them being in pots was that they were portable and could be moved to a sheltered spot or placed at the front door so we could look at them from inside on the rainy days (of which there were many!), reminding us of sunnier times.

While perusing Suttons catologue I came across a similar solution for the butternut squash greenhouse hijackers – Squash F1 Butterbush. I was promised “a compact-growing variety which makes it possible to grow tasty butternut squashed on your patio.” And I was not disappointed. I grew two pots and they did have a fair spread but I was rewarded with many full size fruits.

Butternut 1Butternut 2butternut 3butternut 4

Now while these containment experiments were successful, it has become patently obvious that I don’t have room to grow everything in pots and I have a large garden with a selection of veggie patches lying empty. Something has to change.

So for 2013 I have decided to try to embrace the fact that it is impossible to control nature and give myself over to the green side; worms will eat my potatoes, slugs will eat everything, caterpillars will eat my brussels and aphids, flies, beetles, bugs, mice, birds, moles and deer will all try their best to scupper my hard work. To fight nature is futile and will only end in tears.

So my new mantra (provided by Monty Don) will be, “If a weed is no more than a plant in the wrong place, then a pest is only an animal eating the wrong food!”

However, my inner control-freak might need a wee bit of counselling first!

angry