The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Review of the year 2016

I'm a bit late doing this but one of my rituals at this time of the year when everything in the garden has slowed down and I have more time, is to reflect on the previous growing year. To see what went well, any disasters and new things that I've learnt. I like to get out my garden diary and notes and just see what have been the stars of the year and the disappointments. There are always some things that fail and the more experienced I've got, the more I've learnt that sometimes you can do the correct things but in gardening you are a slave to the vaguaries of the weather, pests and diseases and sometimes just luck. Time is a really crucial thing, I know I don't get as much time at my plot or in my garden as I'd like and so have to accept that its never going to be perfect. If I could go to my plot every day I could keep an eye on watering, pests etc but thats just not possible so I've got to accept some losses and challenges!
I have a A3 diary with a page per day and usually like to jot down a bit about the weather when I remember! I've been very good the year past in noting down as I sow seeds and also if I try propagating plants. I've tried hard to make notes as I plant at the allotment though that didn't always happen, I'm hoping that will change now though as I've got a little notebook in the bag I take to the allotment and am trying to jot notes in there as I work which is really useful.
It was very wet start to the year with bad floods in the area, luckily I wasn't affected but there were problems in Hebden Bridge and Colne Valley close to me. So there was not much work done in January at the plot but lots of planning! I started some seed sowing at the end of January and I'd got some autumn sown hardy annuals that I potted on. These actually didn't really end up flowering much more ahead of the spring sown annuals so I've not sown too many this time. By the looks of it there wasn't much done in February as well and no blog posts, but I had managed to get manure on most beds before the end of the previous year so there wasn't that much to do. We had some more snow in March but then we had more settled weather and the spring frenzy began with the start of seed sowing and planting.
We were still getting quite hard frosts in mid-April and actually this turned out to be a cold April and so many things were slow to get going. We then had a very cold snap at the end of April into early May and unbelievably we had some snow. Thankfully May became warmer and plants got going at last. But you can see that wasn't a huge difference in the photo below taken in May with the one above taken in March. April was a slow month!!
Things moved much quicker into June.
The rest of the summer was a bit hit and miss, but all was lush in mid August.
But as we have had the last few years we had a long mild autumn with lovely weather in September and October into November.This is at the end of September.
On the veg side of things it was an OK year for me, not the best, but I had some good crops however I also had a few failures. The bigest failures was my Celeriac and Celery which was completely decimated by slugs, they were planted at a time when I didn't manage to get to the plot as much as usual. The problem with this crop is that you have to get them started so early that its not one that you can really start again with. So I had none of those this year. The same happened with my Kale, so again I've had none of that this year which has been greatly missed. The legume family was pretty successful, though my first sowing of many things failed but they got going in the end. I had lots of beans for eating fresh and freezing. The Brassicas, apart from the Kale, have been fine. The star of this bed has been the purple cauliflower 'Di Sicilia Violetta' which didn't start cropping till November but was a real success compared to my previous attempts of the white ones.
Onions and shallots cropped well and I had some leeks for winter, though not as many as I'd have liked, garlic did ok, not massive bulbs but enough for us. It was too cool a year for a good crop of squash and I had a poor year for that usual glut-forming crop, the courgette, slugs again, they have been a real pest on my plot this year. I planted good sized plants but the slugs got on them and ate the centre and so no flowers developed. So frustrating! In my garden I also had a different predator of my lettuces.

One developing crop on my plot is Asparagus which I've grown from seed, I got some spears coming up last year but it was still not possible to pick yet, will see how it goes this year and I may be able to pick a light harvest. How exciting.
I joined the Heritage seed library last year and so had some unusual veg varieties to try. I'll write a separate blog post about that at some point I think. So as you can see there have been some successes and some failures which is the usual with me. With everything that has been going on this year though I think its been fine, I've not been able to get to the allotment as much as usual and it helps to have regular visits to keep on top of pests and just generally keep an eye on things.

Fruit-wise it was a good year starting very early with the rhubarb, I now have two big clumps of Timperley Early and its just the easiest of all fruits (sorry I know officially its a vegetable) it just needs a bit of a mulch late winter and it just gets on with things. I think I'm going to have to split it soon though. Strawberries did OK though was having a bit of a hectic time when they were fruiting and so didn't get as many as I'd have liked. The plants were getting a bit woody so I created a new patch at the end of last year with some of the young plants that have grown from the runners, this should be done every 3 years or so, so I may have a slightly reduced crop this year. My Blackcurrant bush was at its peak with lots of berries and the same for the redcurrant and gooseberries. At the end of the summer my raspberries arrived and these made for a very pleasant snack when I was up at the plot. I did take some home for Martin too but most were eaten in situ! Finally lots of Blackberries from my thornless blackberry. After many years of battling with a very thorny blackberry I dug this up and planted a thornless Loganberry, it was just settling last year and sending off new growth and I'm hoping I'll see some fruits this year. Once established fruit growing is simple and so rewarding.
My real passion on my plot though is my cutting patch which keeps expanding each year and now takes up multiple beds on my plot. I had a good year, though I did have a few unexpected failures. I had good success with my sweet peas and they seemed to grow well growing up the frame rather than the usual wigwam, I didn't get a long a crop as I normally do as at one point I struggled to get there to pick them and so they stopped flowering earlier than normal.
I had good pickings off the usual suspects, the Cosmos, Calendula, Clary, Cerinthe, Scabious, Nigella, Amberboa muricata, Daucus carota 'Dara', Panicum elegans 'Frosted explosion' and Cornflowers. New varieties that I tried were two trailing type larkspur, Consolida regalis 'Snowcloud' a white variety and 'Blue Cloud' a stunning deep blue variety both from Chiltern Seeds. I'd sown them in the autumn but they got a bit leggy so I cut then down quite hard when planting so probably didn't end up flowering that much earlier than if spring sown. They added an airy effect to bouquets and so I'd really recommend it. I tried to find some pictures I'd taken of it but I've not got any good ones apart from this one with 'Snowcloud' round the edge of the bouquet.
I'm already planning on sowing these again this year. Other new seed varieties include Orlaya grandiflora, which I have struggled from seed before. I've learnt that this needs to be sown in modules as the germination is a bit erratic and happens over time so if you sow in modules you can pot the ones germinated on while not disturbing the others. I think they also like fluctuating temperatures so germinated better in my greenhouse which can have extremes of temperatures, rather than inside on my windowsill where I have grown them in the past.
I had hardly any sunflowers on my plot this year and really missed their cheery presence, the slugs put paid to them and also to the Ammi visnaga. I'd had great success with 'Casablanca' last year with no interest in them by the slugs. This year I was trialing a couple of other varieties 'Green Mist' and 'Mystique' but almost every plant was completely eaten by the slugs.
I had success with my biennials this year with some lovely dark red wallflowers and mixed pink and whites of Sweet William, I had some sweet rocket which looked good with the chive flowers, Aquilegia's and Geum. I've got quite a few perennials on my plot which I cut from now too, though I have to be careful that the Aquilegias don't seed all over the place but I have a lovely dark red double variety and a pale blue one too. Actually they make a nice addition to a bouquet even after the flowers have finished as have quite unusual seedheads.
Other perennial plants that proved great for cutting were Sanguisorba, Feverfew, Campanula persicifolia, Sedum is great even before the pink flowers have developed, Veronica gentianoides, Gaura lindheimeri 'The Bride', Lysimachia 'Beaujolais', Lythrum salicaria, Linaria purpurea,  Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', I've used the architectural grey leaves of artichokes, and again Oregano was in nearly all my bouquets at one point its a great foil for other pink flowers. I planted some allium bulbs on my plot this year, the drumstick ones which aren't too big and look great in bouquets and they are quite cheap to buy. These look nice before and after they turn purple. Some plants don't just produce nice flowers but nice buds, such as Chives, Sedum and Scabious, or nice seed heads, again Scabious, Nigella, Aquilegia. So sometimes its worth thinking outside of the box when you are looking what to pick.
I grew a couple of Dahlia's which proved great for cutting a creamy white variety called 'Cafe au Lait' which has huge flowers and a more simple variety called 'Bright Eyes' which has a bright pink flower and yellow centre and went well with the Cosmos.
So its been a successful year overall I think, its certainly kept me busy, there were moments of despair on arriving at my plot and finding completely empty beds where there had previously been young plants. But the plot is my refuge and place to go to clear my mind and get some fresh air and for me the process is almost as important and the crops. So what kind of year will 2017 bring, I have already placed my seed orders and and looking forward to getting started. Looking forward to following everyones progress on your blogs. Here's to a good year of growing.



16 comments:

  1. You had some beautiful flowers. We have never managed to grow any harvestable celery or celeriac. We always take photos of everything we do on the plot or in the garden. Some are of basically nothing eg a bed dug over but it does serve as a diary.
    One of your photos looks as though something is beaming down from above to teletransport something.

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    1. I'm going to keep trying with the celeriac and celery. Maybe one year! Yes photos are a good way of following your progress too. Yes I think that photo was taken on my phone!

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  2. A really enjoyable, and interesting, post, and lovely pictures. I think that many people found it a particularly difficult growing year thanks to the weather but the good autumn was welcome. It's good to see that overall you felt that you did reasonably well.
    My notes and records are always sparse despite my good intentions so I have to look back through my blog posts to check anything.
    As you say here's to a good year of growing. Flighty xx

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    1. Yes the autumn made up for the cold spring. It often happens that way!
      Yes another reason to keep up with my blog, its a good memory tool
      Thanks

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  3. I've enjoyed your review of the year. It all looks so colourful. All the best with your gardening in 2017. karen.gimson@wordpress.com

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  4. Sounds like your year suffered for the same reason mine did - no spare time! It was lovely to read how well you did, especially with your cut flowers, despite sporadic gardening and, as Flighty says, the weather wasn't always helpful. Let's hope for better in 2017 - and you've inspired me with some of your cut flower choices, that dahlia is wonderful!

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    1. Yes time was a real issue last year, some things are more important than gardening. Am pleased with the cut flowers glad you got some ideas of Dahlias

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  5. Your cutting patch is inspiring - my garden is much too new to let me think about a bit just for cutting, but perhaps that day will come... Happy 2017 :)

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    1. Thanks Amy, Happy 2017 to you too

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  6. Good to read your yearly review, and hear of what worked out and what didn't. I enjoyed seeing the progression too, just love your cut flower patch.xxx

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    1. Thanks Dina, my cut flower patch brings me such joy.

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  7. Such a good idea. I will copy if I may and try to take photos of the same bed for twelve months of the year. Your cutting flowers are delightful. At our gardening group we make gardening resolutions each year .... sometimes repeating last year's.
    http://gardenersfridayforum.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/normal-0-false-false-false-en-gb-x-none.html

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    1. Thanks, yes happy for you to use that idea, its a good way to follow the progress of your plot.

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  8. I loved seeing the photos from the same angle as your plot developed through the year. Celeriac was disappointing here too, although I can't blame slugs, I think it was just that lack of time and the resulting lack of water that did for them. I always start the year with great intentions diarywise, and then by about the third week in January, I stop writing. I have about two decades of gardening diaries with comments in January only! Here's to a bountiful, pest-free year ahead!

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    1. Thanks Sarah, Celeriac does seem a tricky crop to grow well, they do need a lot of water. I'm pretty good at keeping up my diary when I'm sowing and potting on, less so when planting out so lose that trail. But hoping to be better this year!

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