Autumn is on its way so I’ve been clearing the garden and picking the last of our crops for cooking or preserving. I’ve got the potatoes stored in sacks in the pantry where they’ll last for a couple of months but softer veggies need to be cooked, pickled or made into chutney so I’ll be doing that over the next week.
Even by great British weather standards this summer’s weather has been pretty odd. Grey days, dry days, soggy days and very few sunny days have confused our crops. Some of our veggies survived these unpredictable conditions but others just said “Oh, for goodness’ sake” and gave up the ghost. Here’s a round-up of which crops thrived and which died over the summer.
The potatoes were a great success this year. I forgot to note down the variety I planted so it was just trial and error as to when to pull them. The plants flowered, which doesn’t always happen, due to heavy rain followed by intense sun. I don’t know if this affected the haul but I was really pleased with the result. I picked them all at the end of August, cleaned over the dirt with a dry cloth (don’t wash them) then stored them in clean pillow cases or hessian sacks in a cool, dark place.
The green beans have been far and away the best value for money this year. My lovely neighbour gave me a seedling to plant and within a couple of weeks it had grown up the 6ft pole and we’ve been harvesting beans since early July and it’s still going. I haven’t had chance to parboil then freeze any because Evelynne devours them before I have a chance.
The mini cucumbers have been a bit hit and miss. Last year we planted a spreading variety and this year was a climbing plant. I think they struggled with the inconsistent heat which meant they couldn’t produce the volume we got last year. One of the two plants is still going and actually the latest fruits have been the best so far.
I picked the peas too late this year so they’d got a bit big. This made them tougher than I would like but otherwise they were still a decent harvest. From two 6-foot plants I got about a kilo of peas.
I wait with baited breath for broad bean season because I love this legume. I planted three stakes but got a very small harvest. The beans themselves were delicious there just weren’t enough of them. I think they suffered from overcrowding as they were planted close to the peas which can be nutrient hogs.
I planted a blackcurrant bush and loganberry plant last year so this year was their first chance to bear fruit. Not surprisingly we didn’t get many fruits off either as it takes time for fruiting bushes to establish. But what we got was so good. The strawberries were from second year plants and we were able to pick a consistent harvest from May into July. They grow in window boxes so I don’t know if they may already be exhausted. I’ll plant a back up in case they can’t produce for a third year.
The rainbow beetroot did well. They’re a pretty reliable crop that could cope with the erratic weather. I’m pulling the last of them this week and will share my roasted beetroot recipe with you. It’s a simple and delicious recipe.
The sunflowers were resplendent this summer but there were fewer heads and they didn’t grow as tall as last year’s. I’ve collected the seeds which are drying then I’ll roast and salt them for Paul to have as snacks.
There were successes and hilarious disasters for the carrots this year. The ones that made it into the ground did brilliantly but I had more seedlings than space in the ground so I put about 30 into pots and they became the gnarly mess you see on the left. I still managed to salvage some flesh and made stock. Waste not want not.
The tomatoes were equally hit and miss. The cherry toms in the green house have done well and I’m still harvesting them but the three larger varieties that are planted in full sun are yet to redden. The skins have already split as the water and sunlight exposure has been so erratic. I’ll pick them this weekend and let them ripen in the house then turn them into salsa and passata.
There have been some straight up disasters this year. Both my yellow and green courgettes came to nothing. The flowers came, a small fruit grew then almost immediately rotted and died. I had one late seedling which is still in the ground and amazingly it looks like it might bear fruit; I’ll update this later if it comes to anything. The fennel was all frond and no action. The fronds were lovely in salads but the bulbs failed to mature. I didn’t have any planting ground left so these were grown in pots and I wonder if they got too dry between watering.