Success, learning and excitement

This week I am going to discuss what has worked well so far and also consider what could have gone better, with the hope of learning something. I also have some exciting news!

So let’s start with the most successful crops. This includes chard, garlic, cucumbers, lettuce, field beans, oca, yacon, cucumbers, basil, blackberries, parsley and more cucumbers! Pictured above is the weekly haul of cucumbers from four plants. Every time I think I have picked them all, I lift a leaf and find one of the four horsemen of the cucopalypse has delivered yet another present. I can put the success mainly down to the variety, ‘National Pickling’ which is always prolific, rather than my growing expertise. This has led to some creative cooking – stir-fried cucumber is very tasty, as is stuffing them with nuts, mushrooms and garlic and baking them.

I would put courgettes, French beans, callaloo, peppers, tomatoes and aubergines in the 'could try harder' category. A bit of sunshine to help things ripen will help, and the Indigo Rose tomatoes are turning a lovely deep black colour, so hopefully, things are on their way.

Outside in the raised beds, success is generally measured as the inverse of the distance from the huge oak tree next door. The French beans have been slow to get going. The bed that they went in, was full of tree roots, in spring, so I think digging everything out to remove the mass of roots didn’t do the soil structure or biological life any favours at all. It felt like vandalism of the soil, as, ironically, I was listening to a ‘No Dig’ podcast interview with Charles Dowding at the same time. To demonstrate this, the beans have spent about 6 weeks sulking, not growing and producing very little – but they have perked up considerably over the last week, so perhaps there is hope for them yet. The three beds closest to the tree consistently perform badly, whatever crop is grown there, so a rethink is required. Perhaps taller raised beds will help.

The dismal failure of the season has been potatoes. It is generally considered quite difficult to fail with potatoes, and I even have a PhD on growing them, so obviously qualifications haven’t served me well in this case. Earlier in the season, all the leaves down one side of the plant started dying, rapidly followed by the rest of the plants. This symptom can be a sign of fungal wilt disease, but I can’t be certain. I certainly need to be careful of my crop rotation for next season though.

Finally, the exciting news, the karela (bitter gourd) plants grown from seeds stored at work from a project in 2016, are starting to flower and produce small fruits. Plant nerd excitement level 11! Karela is not to everybody’s taste, as it is very bitter, but I am hooked on them. There will be further updates to come!