2016 – A review!

I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone! It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was sowing all my tomato seeds and here I am preparing to sow them for this year! It has been a roller-coaster year with some successes and some failures!

The weather this year has been strange, warm weather in April and then a relatively cold few summer months with it really heating up in August and the warm weather lasting all the way though til the end of October! It has thoroughly confused the vegetables.

Overall, I am rather happy with how this year has gone. As always I feel that I didn’t quite get as much done as I wanted to but then I always overestimate how much Sam and I can get done in a day.

Most of our focus this year has been plot 2. With plot 1’s structure being finished at the beginning of the year, we have only needed to pop over to sow, plant, water and harvest and as all the beds are raised we only needed to do some weeding once a month which has made for a pretty low maintenance plot! So we have moved onto plot 2 where we have worked at putting in the final structure. I have played around with where I want beds and what I have wanted to do but in the end it has come together relatively well. It still isn’t finished but there is only a few things left to do to get it together.

The wildlife pond was finished earlier in the year and we have been lucky that the frogs have moved in quickly. I am really proud of our pond and during the summer months it was absolutely beautiful! We finished off our orchard and have sown grass seed around the trees which took amazingly well. We did have to remove the old apple and cherry tree as they weren’t productive and the apple was diseased!

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The wildlife pond in the height of summer!

All the beds on plot 2 have now been marked out and we have constructed raised beds on half of them. The other half will hopefully be completed early in 2017. Not only do we find raised beds easier to manage but on plot 2, they will also help us keep nice clean lines where the grass meets the bed!

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Raised beds are being erected on plot 2

Plot 3 has started to come along nicely! We only took it on last January and I had quite a lot I wanted to accomplish. As those of you who follow this blog know, I wanted to get a polytunnel erected at the end of the plot but I didn’t get time to do that in the end so I am hoping that we can get the area cleared before the sowing and planting starts in earnest!

We did get our herb garden up and going, complete with bird feeding station, and we got one of the beds dug over and producing sweet potatoes! The shed was cleared out (twice) and we have set up a nice little stove so we can enjoy some nice hot cups of tea and coffee when we are working hard in the cold. All in all we got about half the plot dug over and productive.

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The herb garden was dug over and more herbs will be planted in 2017.

I thought that having the three plots would be too much to handle but in actual fact it hasn’t been too bad. As all the plots gradually come together I am finding I have much more time to concentrate on growing the plants instead of playing catch up. And in fact, this year is the first year where I have ended it feeling slightly ahead of the game (and slightly impatient for the next season to start!)

In terms of fruit and veg we as usual, have had successes and failures. Redcurrants, raspberries and strawberries have been fantastic this year. I have had half a freezer full of these lovely red berries as well as plenty to eat fresh with my breakfast in the morning! The strawberries were amazingly productive, so much so that I was finding that half the yield was rotting on the plant before I could get to them. I hope that the plants are as productive next year although they will becoming into their third season so I expect some decline in yield.

All other fruit I have tried to grow this year has not been very productive. Mostly I put this down to the weather as I don’t think I could have improved the situation much but I have been proactive this winter by making sure everything gets a good mulch so they will have a good start to 2017.

On the veg side of things, my proudest achievement would be the sweet potatoes! I am really happy with the harvest I got. There are many improvements to be made but for a first try it was a good start. Potatoes have also been good this year – I ended up with far more than I need so next year I will be planting less seed potato! Onions, garlic and shallots were also productive this year and I also managed to dry the onions properly so that, so far, we have had very little spoilage.

Beans that I have grown for drying were fantastic this year. I have plenty of borlotti and haricot beans which I have been using in soups, stews and will be using to make my own baked beans. Runners beans also produced a good yield, despite the plants toppling over as did the broad beans.

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The tower of runner beans collapsed but luckily the plants kept producing for a few more weeks!

The dwarf beans could have been better but I let them get crowded out by weeds which is something I will work to avoid next year. Peas were dreadful – most of them didn’t germinate properly or were eaten by pigeons. Some of you will know that I tried to do an experiment to combat the pea moth but due to the poor performance of the peas I din’t manage to complete it.

Brassicas have been relatively good. Cabbages have certainly grown well this year – my only problem is making sure I use them before its too late – better planning needed on my part. Squash and courgettes did not perform as well as last year but again I think this is partly due to the weather and partly due to a foot root that the plants seemed to suffer from. I wasn’t sure if it had come from my water butt as it was really dirty (and not a proper water butt) so I had my dad come up and install proper water butts which I will clean regularly to stop this from happening again.

Sweetcorn suffered from  similar problem to the squash and the few cobs I did get were eaten by rats before I could get to them – need to ensure that next year I keep the rats away!

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Rats ate my sweetcorn and ripped up all the plants.

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes seemed to be doing well until blight struck. However, I managed to save the fruits and got them to ripen on the windowsill by placing a banana next to them to encourage ripening. Peppers didn’t really produce anything and the aubergines, although produced fruit, were eaten by slugs before I could harvest them! The cucumber was semi-productive but not as much as I expect a cucumber to be.

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Using a banana to ripen my tomatoes after they were struck by blight!

Celeriac didn’t work again, it either bolted or was hollowed out by slugs although we did get a semi decent harvest of beetroot, chard and lettuce. Parsnips were good as usual but the carrots all got carrot root fly!

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Carrot root fly damage to all my carrots! Managed to save some of them to enjoy on Christmas Day!

All in all there has been ups and downs and some lessons learnt! I think that 2016 has been the best year so far for me and I hope that 2017 will be even better. I have lots of plans for the year ahead and I hope that the majority of them work out!

I hope you have all had a good year and I wish you every success in 2017! Also a big thank you to all those who have helped me in the allotment over this year and to those of you who have followed this blog!

new-year-2017

 

 

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