Every year since I have had the allotment plots I have tried to do something new, whether that was try a new variety of a particular vegetable or a completely new vegetable altogether. Last year, some of the new vegetables I tried were Sweet potato, Oca and Jerusalem artichokes. The Oca failed miserably, the Jerusalem artichokes were hollowed out by slugs but fortunately, the sweet potatoes were a success!
More often than not, I end up trying too much in one go which leads to abject failure so I am going to try and curb my enthusiasm and only try a few new things this year.
From my trip to the Eden project two years ago, I have some lentil and chick pea seeds which I have been meaning to sow. I have decided that this year is the year I will sow them. As I have had them for two years, they may not germinate as well as I would like but I still think it would be good to give them a go. I have also picked up some seeds for Samphire which will be interesting to try this year too if not slightly complicated!
Lessons learnt from 2016!
Last year I tried too many new varieties of vegetables at once and this mainly led to them failing as I didn’t have the time to devote to so many plants! I realised that, for me, I only need to grow one or two varieties, and that it would be best to find the ones that I like the most and stick with them.
For example, last year I tried to grow four different types of Brussels sprouts. Not sure why I did that but suffice to say, that because I was trying too much, they all ended up dying and had to be replaced with plants from my local Wyevale Garden Centre! So this year I am sticking with two varieties; and early season and a late season, which will give me six months (hopefully) of Brussels sprouts – much more logical! The list of vegetables I am growing is on a previous post and for most veg there are only one or two varieties I am growing with the exception of carrots, lettuce and cabbage where I am trying to get an almost year round supply. I also will be growing quite a few varieties of winter squash – I have some room spare on plot 3 and squash is a good space filler so thought I would have a go a trying ‘Turks Turban’ again (last year it failed) along with ‘uchiki kuri’ and butternut ‘ sweetmax’ which both performed well last year!
So this year, as well as limiting the amount of varieties I am trying, I have identified a number of varieties that are tried and tested that I will mostly stick with every year. They have proven to be reliable, easy to grow, good croppers and taste delicious! These are:
- Parsnip ‘Countess’
- Butternut Squash ‘Sweetmax’
- Shallot ‘Jermor’
- Garlic ‘Provence Wight’
- Drying beans ‘Blue Lake’
- Dwarf Beans ‘safari’ and ‘Ferrari’
- Red Cabbage ‘Rodeo’
- Kale ‘Nero di Toscana’
Most of the seeds I have tend to come from the magazines ‘Grow Your Own’ and ‘Kitchen Garden’ and because I am not one to waste money I use these varieties before buying anymore or trying new ones. However, there were some new varieties that I have decided to buy this year despite having plentiful seed.
Carrots – because of my problems with carrot root fly in 2015 and 2016, I have decided to try a carrot fly resistant variety ‘flyaway’ as I hope that in conjunction with Nemasys Fruit and Vegetable protection, I can solve my carrot root fly problem. I will let you know the result of this!
Sweetcorn – I am trying two new, as yet unnamed (they have some long numerical code name – its on my previous post), varieties of sweetcorn which apparently have a gene which will help to get the plants off to a good start even in cooler summers. This would be a great advantage to me as my sweetcorn always seem to suffer when the weather takes a chilly turn.
Calabrese – I am trying a new variety called ‘Aquiles F1’ which can be sown in the Autumn for early crops next year. I love eating Calabrese and think this may be a good way of extending the season.
Broad beans – ‘Valencia’ is a hardy autumn sown variety of broad bean which I will be trying in October/November. The ‘Super Aquadulce Claudia’ variety I have sown back in November 2016 have all germinated but are showing signs of frost damage (even though they are covered with fleece) so I am hoping ‘Valencia’ will prove to be a bit more hardy!
There are two vegetables which I have not yet been able to master growing from seed; Aubergine and Celeriac. Because of this I have decided to save my time and am instead buying the plants direct from D.T. Browns so am trying Aubergine ‘Elisa’ and Celeriac ‘Ilona’.
I have also learnt that there are some vegetables that I really don’t like and therefore don’t want to grow so I have decided not to continue to grow the following things:
- Globe artichokes; I don’t like them at all. I tried to move my existing plant to the herb garden so that it would attract bees but the root went very deep and I ended up hacking it to pieces to get it out of the ground!
- Tenderstem broccoli; I didn’t really enjoy this and the harvesting window is very small as the spears flower very quickly. I am happy to eat Calabrese instead although I will probably give purple sprouting broccoli one more go.
- Ball and yellow courgettes; I think I prefer the more traditional longer courgette shape and I find the yellow courgettes don’t keep as long as the green ones.
- Red-coloured broad beans; they loose their colour when you cook them and are green inside anyway once you take the skin off (if they are older beans) so thought it would be best not to spend extra money on a different colour when the green ones are cheaper.
- Borlotti beans; I prefer to use the haricot beans over the borlotti in cooking so will probably discontinue using borlotti for the time being
- Climbing beans; I much prefer the ‘Kenyan/filet style’ beans which are more frequently found as dwarf varieties so will concentrate on growing those instead. The only climbing beans I will grow will be for drying beans.
- Chinese greens and winter radish; I have had some difficulty growing them and I don’t particularly use them in cooking so it is a bit pointless wasting my time growing them!
- Cherries; I currently have two cherry trees, one on plot 1 and one on plot 2 but since planting them I have realised that it is far too much effort to get a decent crop out of them. You have to protect them from birds and frost and every other pest. I will just let nature take its course and if I get a crop then great but otherwise no effort will be spent on my part for this fruit. They may be useful for hanging a bird or bat box in.
- Small squashes; varieties such as sweet dumpling, honey bear and butternut ‘hawk’ produce quite small fruits which are very nice for cutting in half and stuffing but not if you want to chop it up and add it to a risotto or curry. I tend to eat more risotto and curry than I do stuffed squash and they require quite a bit of room so for now I won’t bother with them. I think I rather just swap a larger squash for two smaller ones from my neighbour if I am in the mood for a stuffed squash!
I hope your all having fun looking through the seed catalogues and deciding what to grow this year!