Before I do my inevitable ‘end of the summer round up,’ I wanted to spend a bit of time reflecting on my year of growing. This year was the first time in a long time I have had any land to grow on and it has been interesting to get back into the growing game. This has been my year of observation and I have been observing/growing annuals in my garden and on my allotment. I got the allotment in March after spending a whole week on the waiting list. I expected to spend much longer on the waiting list and signed up early and so I ended up being an allotment newbie during what turned out to be one of the busiest summers of my life.
So, how did growing go? Well, it went as it has gone in the past – fraught, disorganised, guilt-inducing. Now that I have designed and permacultured my whole life, growing in this fashion really grates on me. My allotment especially has caused me a lot of anxiety this summer and that is an enormous indicator that I am not doing it the right way. I did the four questions a few weeks ago, where I concluded hysterically that nothing went right, everything was crap, I am awful at this growing malarky. I have since got over myself quite a bit, so let’s try again.
What went well?
I harvested stuff! Not loads and loads, but a harvest none the less. This is a definite win given that growing was very much an afterthought this year. We harvested 16kg of potatoes, about 8kg of onions, about a million courgettes (or something close to that number), 15 squashes, many runner beans, some chillis, some tomatoes and a few fruits – black currants, red currants, strawberries and raspberries.
I also did a much better job of keeping on top of the allotment than I ever have before. Not a brilliant job, it has to be said, but an ok job. I have also done well at observing microclimates and moving plants to more appropriate spaces. My house, which is made of brick, raises the temperature of the areas surrounding it. I have learned that plants that the books say do best in full sun do well in my garden in partial sun if they are next to a wall. Plants that are supposed to like partial sun need to be moved to cooler spaces.
In general, observing and learning has gone really well this year. I’ve put some posts about what I have learned on my other blog here. I do seem to be the sort of person that needs to learn by doing (and possibly failing). For example, I left all of my tomato plants except for one in pots that were far too small for them. Guess which one is still lush and green and producing tomatoes…
What was challenging?
What was challenging can basically be summed up in one phrase ‘lack of time’. I knew this summer would be insane because I was teaching more scythe courses than I ever have and I was also trying to progress three (secret) projects. I was about to write ‘I’m not quite sure how I got through it,’ but I do know – I just stopped doing growing and blog related things and concentrated on my priorities. I’m not sorry about that, but when I come to do my garden design, it needs to reflect the fact that I struggled this year and might again in the future.
I was mostly growing annuals because it was my year of observation and I really did quite well during the seedling stage. I made some hanging seed shelves for the south-facing bedroom, I got most of the seeds I planted to good sized plants (a couple got squashed by the cat, but they were the only casualties) then June started and things went awry. I didn’t put my tomatoes in big enough pots or tie them up. I didn’t net my brassicas. You can imagine what happened. There was ‘officially’ time to do this stuff. I was quite often at home but I found that after spending days outside teaching scything in hot sun, I just wanted to lie down in a darkened room.
So I learned a few important things. The most important is that the core part of my garden needs to be perennial and not need a whole lot of input from me. That will mean that even if I am not really able to do anything at all, there will still be a harvest. If I am going to grow annuals (and frankly, I am), then I need to spend this winter preparing myself – buy brassica netting, make sure I know what pots various things are going to go into, get ready… I also need to make sure that I don’t grow anything that needs lots of attention after the end of May. That’s my cut off. Everything needs to be in its final resting place and ready for the summer by then. After that I can water and I can harvest but I can’t do anything else.
What’e the vision?
The vision is as it has always been – to replace my veg box with things from the garden, throughout the year.
I need to finish my garden design. I am nearly there. Watch this space…