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Daphne

So how is the season so far?

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At this moment I wish Ii had 'moreseeds', because I tried to finish old packets and they just didn't germinate. So the thing I have learned for next year is to discard opened seed packets, even though I know that sometimes they will be fine (like the beetroot).

I think we need a list of what seeds can be reliably sown from old open packets. My contributions; tomatoes and beetroot. Sorry I don't do flowers, but perhaps I will if the veg keep failing?

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A friend had a free tomato seed packet that was 10 years old and they all germinated. Our opened french beans had a 50% germination rate, so from now on I'll either collect and dry the previous year or buy a new packet every year. From our point of view only tomatoes and beetroot can be relied on.

Parsnips; can't even rely on them to germinate from a packet within date!

One thing we do miss is purple sprouting. Next time we have visitors from England I'll ask them to bring some seeds. At the moment that seems a long way off.

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I collect seeds from my early broad beans.  I have done it for maybe 5 years, however, this year the harvest was definitely smaller so I think its time to buy again.  I have been getting my Mum PSB as part of her grocery delivery, it makes me miss it!

I dug up the garlics just now, I planted maybe a dozen cloves just from shop bought garlics whenever I found one which was sprouting last year.  I have harvested some already, but now, because so many flowers/weeds have grown up I can only find 4 bulbs!  3 look good, the 4th didn't bulb up at all. I was looking at recipes for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, but I'm not sure I can rustle up enough!

I was given a couple of lettuce last week, it turns out in payment for the accidental beheading of one of my agapanthus, but they were a)huge and b)delicious.  Shop bought are good here, and I have given up sowing my own because of the water requirement, but these two brought it home to me just what I am missing.  

I have also sowed the last of my packet of rocket, which I think must have come from the UK as its in English, so thats also about 4 years old at least.  It has been very reliable and this year a very strong flavour - its T&M Speedy Rocket if anyone is interested.  The long lived beetroot seed is Boltardy.  I have found old basil seed to be very unreliable.  This year I am growing piri piri chili (as described in Portugeuse), and to my surprise they are purple, so I'm not sure what they are really.

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Our last beetroot was Boltardy, but the new packet bought here is Red Globe 2 I think, so perhaps that won't keep?

We have the same issues with water Daphne, which is why we rush to get the potatoes in very early. We are lifting our previously frost damaged Agata earlies, but they are rather more advanced than we expected, so despite the frost destroying the tops they must have continued growing below ground anyway?

Our first sowings were delayed for two weeks due to the terrible weather. Now due for the second sowing of beetroot and dwarf French beans (6 to 7 weeks later), but now it's far too hot. Checked the seed packets and the maximum germination temperature is 20C. It's 34C today and over 20C at night, so even with sun shading it will be too hot. Just hoping for a colder spell, which is pretty unlikely.

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My broad beans were looking amazing with loads of flowers (they are in pots as our soil is so horrible - heavy clay) however the bloody slugs have now eaten the flowers so there will be no beans. I have had enough and won't be growing again. Feeling totally fed up.

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Bumble bees are so big they break the flowers @Cat tails, so with some flowers they are bad news. The one I know they damage is beans. What you need is a distraction like courgettes, where the flowers are so big they just get swallowed up in them. But if you have some beans it's not so bad.

You will have to do what we do (I do) @soapdragon. Get up in the middle of the night with a torch and search for slugs and snails. All those captured are released in the dustbin to discover a new life amongst the rubbish. Takes a fair few weeks to get on top of the problem, in fact we're just about there after 4 years. But chemicals will never be an option here.

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7 minutes ago, Beantree said:

Bumble bees are so big they break the flowers @Cat tails, so with some flowers they are bad news. The one I know they damage is beans. What you need is a distraction like courgettes, where the flowers are so big they just get swallowed up in them. But if you have some beans it's not so bad.

They don’t break the flowers, they just go round the back and chew them open. The bees and bumblebees I have around have too short tongues to reach in from the normal opening. They also do this with my aquilegia.

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Yes, it is how some bees operate, I have to admit I haven't noticed which types pollinate broad beans.  Your plants look pretty healthy, so I hope you get some germination and beans, they will taste all the sweeter for the obstacles you will have overcome.

Soapdragon, please don't lose all heart, I would do something like Beantree suggests, in previous gardens I have been out nightly and collected literally hundreds of slugs/snails over the years, but I just put them in a bucket of salt, which kills them quickly.  I have found chickens and toads to be uninterested in the nightly banquet on offer to them, so it was either taking drastic action or starving myself.  There is too much pleasure to be had from a potter in the veg patch to give it up easily.  The other thing maybe we could help with, is what plants are more slug proof?  I can't think of any offhand as its a while since I had to outwit the foe, but maybe rhubarb? And I courgettes have a sort of hairy unpleasant leaf, so they might be effective as well.  Raspberries? Tree fruit? Asparagus?  Tomatoes have that hairy leaf thing as well.  Herbs such as rosemary, fennel, thyme and maybe sage, tough woody ones in the main.

 

 

 

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I thought we were on top of the snail problem, but after a lot of damage to the onions I once again went out in the dark with a torch. Collected about 50 snails.

Things have stopped growing it is so cold and dark. Haven't had weather like this before. Everything is about a month late, but with all the rain the butts haven't emptied. All the tomatoes are still green.

We have tomatoes growing on the compost heap but have no idea where the seeds came from? Our courgettes uprooted by the wild boar have been saved, but are at least 6 weeks behind the one plant that survived.

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With all the wet, can you buy land cress (as opposed to watercress) seeds?  If so, they might do well.  

I think we have been very lucky here this year, growing conditions have been perfect.  Given most years are not like this I am just luxuriating in it, knowing it won't last.  Just today I have had to go and buy fruit, the first time in a couple of months (apart from bananas) and it really sticks in the throat, although I have loads of frozen and dried cherries/ peaches/ nectarines/ plums and we have also had apricots, strawbs and a breba crop of figs (ie an early crop, which only occurs in certain years and only with certain varieties, ahead of the main Sept crop).  We have had so many plums (our own and other peoples) that we are trying an experiment which is to distill some plum hard liquor (I think its called slivovitz in some countries).  We have a mix of sour purple ones, huge sweet purple ones, purple ones which taste like pears, small yellow ones and larger yellow ones which are sweeter.  And this is just the early crop, there will be another wave in September!  I have also made jam with the tart fruit.  I feel a bit like some American frontierswoman in an apron.

I wouldn't worry on the tomato front, Beantree, my cherry toms are now edible, but all the others are still green.  I have tried to plan for early/mid/late toms this year so its not such a glut.   I would imagine your rogue ones came from a stray bit of tomato thrown on the compost heap?  I have acquired potato plants and broad beans like this, although they are never very marvellous, and I once grew a butternut squash in the same way, which was good.

I have to say the beetroot, planted next to the strawbs, has been stellar this year, and I've managed to eat all the leaves as well, both as salad and cooked.  If anybody likes beetroot sliced in vinegar I have made some using vinegar which has had chili in it, so there is some residual heat, if you add a touch of sugar its delicious.  The strawbs were first year runners, and tiny, but they fruited quite well and have already grown 'daughter' runners, and one even has a 'grand-daughter'.  Its not my skill, its my new new bed, full of ordinary soil, but with a hefty dose of guano and some super-charged fertilised compost (which I don't approve of, and wouldn't have bought had I realised).  However, the proof is clearly there, as the other half of my strawberry plants in another bed, are about 1/2 the size and 1/4 productivity of my new bed.

We went to a local market today for the first time in about 18 months, we have stayed away because of covid.  The sellers are largely little old ladies with the contents of their allotments.  I bought some stripey courgettes and aubergines which are about a foot long, but only about an inch in diameter.  Some of them are so bright (purple) they look spray painted!  I have no idea what variety they are, and must look them up. Having looked them up, they are some sort of Chinese Aubergine. I have also bought some local toms, which are a slight pinkish tone, rather than orangey/red.

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We have squashes on the compost heaps every year @Daphne, so now we are taking the seeds and putting them in the dustbin. Where the tomatoes have come from remains a mystery; they are everywhere and we don't throw them on the compost. Sounds like you are having a great year.

New plan for the squashes on the old heaps. We are now only allowing one fruit per feeder and are cutting all the side shoots off. The reason is the fruit we have had previously carries little flesh so is worthless and gets composted. If that works to produce decent fruit we'll carry on letting one grow on the heaps. Last year we had one plant cover 20m2 and none of the fruit were eaten. Because it is so wet this year the nodes where the fruit form have also produced roots, so they are somewhat separate plants feeding themselves?

So far every year has been different.

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Snails galore here too Beantree. I attempted runner beans grown in pots first and planted out - they got eaten. Then I direct sowed some - they got eaten. Then I bought some plants - they nearly all got eaten. I was only attempting a small wigwam of 9 canes but have ended up with just 4 climbing. All but 2 of my dwarf beans have been munched - I’ve now made a small planter out of some wood off cuts and have put some bought dwarf bean plants in it - last attempt. I’ve never had this problem on such a scale before.

On the other hand my carrots, which have always disappeared before when they got to about an inch tall, seem to be doing OK (I also very successfully grew an early crop in the greenhouse which we’re just about to finish).

New potatoes are great - should’ve planted more. Brassicas are looking good but the butterflies haven’t arrived yet. Onions and shallots look quite healthy but don’t look to have bulbs on at all.

The few peas that escaped the snails are now doing well and giving me enough peas for lunchtime salads. 

Raspberries which I mulched are the best ever.

 

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Given up on pumpkins. Have one butternut squash coming and a 7 inch cucumber in greenhouse. Snails aplenty. Blooming things. Hate them. Had blackfly on broad beans. Strawberries good. Potatoes look healthy but not sure if anything underneath.  The plum tree is a pear tree with 3 pears on cos muggins here got her trees confused.  All trees in pots. Retirement has caused addled brain🤣

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Been a great season really, particularly because it has been a lot cooler with far more rain than normal meaning we can work outside all day when dry. The squash experiment seems to have worked, because they are far bigger than previous years. The courgettes have gone crazy. Very little watering required so far so we have only used 800 litres of tap water compared to 7000 litres last year. All the early potatoes have been lifted and eaten; a bumper crop of Agata. The main crop potatoes are ready for lifting and based on the amount of foliage I expect a very heavy crop, perhaps 200 Kg.

Second crop of French dwarf beans will start to be picked tomorrow; unlike the first crop every single one came up and there were no ants eating them. Second crop of beetroot is still a long way off. The only things needing water now are the beans, tomatoes, beetroot and the raspberries, which have been cropping for two months now and are still going. Huge crop of tomatoes on some plants, but we ran out of compost and 3 of 12 have produced very little. Onions are being lifted and dried under cover on frames (old chicken run panels).

It's now a typical Summer, so very hot and dry and back to daily watering for a while. Might be 40C on Sunday!

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Very pleased for you Beantree, your experience mirrors my own.  OH was given a bucket of toms from a neighbour and has made a gallon of tomato soup and a gallon of tom sauce!  You sound as though you have a lovely mixture of things, tell us what the Agata is like as a spud, I'm not familiar with it.  Do you have somewhere nice and cool to store your crops long term?

I am currently in UK, in self isolation as somebody tested positive on the flight. GRRRR.  Anyway, I am not impressed with this bit of British Summer, and the soft top fruit in the shops, although I must have eaten my own bodyweight in raspberries!  I'd be a lot less happy if I was in Italy/Greece/Spain with the fires and record temps.  Be careful all of you in southern mainland Europe.

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The Agata potatoes we bought for salads. They were ready to harvest in the 60 days stated on the packet, but they were not the small waxy textured potatoes we expected. Some of them were so big we tried them for chips and they were OK. Boiled well though with good taste and texture. Not sure if we'll grow them next year. Maincrop is Desiree; planted just about all of the 5Kg we bought.

Bad luck with the isolation though @Daphne. You are probably better off with the cooler temperatures though I think.

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Well done to all.  We had a poor year here.  Weather wasn't kind and the voles, pheasants and crows have been a pain!  Crows pulled up all the onions and I had to replant.  Pheasants dust bathed and crushed plants.  Voles just burrowed and nibbled everywhere.  Weeds grew and when the weather was kinder, all I did was weeeeeeeed!  But did have broad beans, the onions that survived grew huge and they will last us well into the new year and then the leeks take over.  Spuds didn't do too badly, courgettes late planted and have given us a few - better than none!  Didn't do much else as the beds were too weedy.  But for the last couple of months we have made deep beds and added corners much taller so that I can set up canes for runners or climbing beans etc without worrying about them being blown down.  So gradually sorting ourselves out and catching up.  

In the greenhouse the toms started off super even with the late frosts, but it was the rain and the dark clouds that seemed to interfere with their progress.  They did catch up eventually and I still have some Sun Dried ones growing.  We've started to dehydrate the toms - we have loads of passata and sauces!  The dried toms are great to nibble on!  Some we have turned into powder so that we can use that instead of wasting jars of tomato puree.  More room in the freezer too!  Mice have been a problem lately in the greenhouse - I guess the recent monsoons have driven them to find s omewhere dry - with food on tap!  Slugs also been an issue because the constant wet has been ideal for the slimy creatures to squash themselves under the flooring.  Peppers didn't do too well but I do have some enormous green ones.  I'm hoping the current weather won't affect them as we are due some nice sunshine - otherwise they'll just go in the freezer green.  Mice even ate the chillies!

But I have elephant garlic making nice root systems so they are going into the veg beds this week.  The normal garlic is a little tardier.  Rescued some uprooted shallots that actually started to root where they'd been pulled up.  They are now in the greenhouse and doing well.  If they don't turn into yum shallots then perhaps I'll use them for seed.  I have new shallots on order but won't get them until spring.  Winter onions have arrived so I'll be popping them in the greenhouse this week too.  All to thwart the voles!  Popping netting over the top to keep the birds off and hopefully we will have a better year.  I have saved seed from onions and leeks (and broad beans).

This week I've sown a fair few cabbage, some Romanesco, salady things and I have cauliflower seedlings that are coming up strong.  Fingers crossed!

Indoors I have planted turmeric and I have a lot of ginger roots to go in.  Turmeric is already sending up spikes nearly 3 inches tall while others are still a bit behind.  Ginger has nodules so that will be planted soon.  Just for something different.

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Worth mentioning that the mysterious tomatoes on the compost heap tasted bitter and the whole lot was composted; filled two wheelbarrows. The assumption is they were a hybrid cross? Next lot that appear will be removed immediately.

Trying to reduce the labour next year so we have put weed membrane on all the beds. Expensive stuff and needed 200 ground pegs to hold it down firmly, so really hope it makes a significant difference. Plenty of other jobs need doing, particularly repointing the house walls which haven't been touched for decades.

Plan is to stick with what we grew this year, but no second sowings; the french beans were all deformed and the beetroot didn't grow; french beans and beetroot freeze well. Our 5Kg of desiree produced about 150Kg as two beds were not as fertile as the others. No tilling of the soil next year, firstly because the Stihl seized solid and will be scrapped, secondly the beds are all now in good condition (were solid clay 4 years ago) and a little forking after a surface dressing of compost and potash should suffice.

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I’ve just this week eaten the last tomatoes that will still growing (in fact still flowering) in my little lean-to greenhouse. I’ve still got some sweet peppers that I’m going to have to pick even thought they’re still green.

I’ve got leeks and parsnips to harvest through the winter, unfortunately no brassicas this year as the caterpillars ate them all.

I’ve planted some red onion sets to overwinter for the first time.

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Good luck with the winter veg MT, I am so looking forward to proper root veg when I get back to the UK.  I want celeriac and parsnips most, plus sprouts which I think have probably been outlawed here in favour of the compulsory cabbage.  If its any consolation, I nearly always have to pick my peppers green, they take far too long to turn red and many just don't.  In fact, this year I saw plug plants described as red peppers so I bought some, but I can't remember what colour they were!

Beantree - it sounds as though you have really put the work in, and now you can begin to reap the rewards, good luck with 2022.  I wonder if your second sowings met the same problem I face which is extreme heat before they have done enough growing?  What a joy it will be to just tickle the tilth and plant straight in.

Val - Poor weather is such a downer, but we have to learn to live with it I guess, are gardener's more philosophical and resilient than other people? Discuss!  I know my problems are more solvable here (ie extreme heat and lack of water), and I have to say I look back on my time growing in England as a time of mud, although obviously that's not really true.  Anyway, you always grow so many things, I am sure your successes vastly outweighed any weather related failures, I always enjoy reading about your experiences, I think you are far more advanced than me!  I made a fabulous ginger liqueur this year - an online recipe involving grated ginger/spirit/sugar.  Dead easy, quick and delicious, a bit like Stone's/Crabbe's Ginger Wine if you like that sort of thing.

I feel this is the end of the year, because we finished the olive harvest last week (and have ended up with 27 litres of oil!) and had a bonfire yesterday of the year's prunings and dead wood.  OH made me a 2nd raised bed, which is full of cabbage seedlings and plug plants, plus spinach, rocket and cavalo nero.  Annoyingly I have bought hearting cabbages, which I don't much like, but given none of the varieties were familiar, its just one of those things.  This is my green bed, as the original bed is the red bed, currently half full of strawbs (still harvesting some, they are an odd shape, long) plus a few struggling toms, but I will pull them up shortly.  I sowed my peas in a different very raised bed, which seems to protect them from mice, and they are poking up, but I haven't got round to sowing the broad beans, I need to clear a bed of mint first, and am waiting for more rain to loosen the soil.

I had my first properly ripe clementine yesterday.  Perfection.  Very cold, very juicy and sweet/tart. We are so lucky that most of the varieties of fruit planted before we arrived are very good, although our oranges are pretty ordinary, except for one tree which is very sweet.  The olives we planted 5 years ago had their first reasonable crop this year, so that's another milestone.  Note to anyone moving to the South - olives are usefully productive way before grape vines!

Overall, I have had a very good year.  Its mostly the weather (cold winter, wet Spring, hot but not overhot summer, sunny autumn) and partly the raised beds with supercharged bought compost/fertiliser and bought-in plug plants which give a flying start.  I've lost an apple tree (the one which got poisoned by the neighbour) and a fig (disease) but have kept the wood.  The other apple tree had a good crop, with a superb flavour (pineapple crossed with liquorice) and a lot of 'visitors' so you had to eat the apples with a knife.  

On the exotics front, I was given some chuchu (pronounced shoo-shoo) a week ago.  These are large, pale green veg, that you can buy easily here, but I didn't know what to do with them.  The grower said to boil them like a potato, but I sliced them and cooked them in the oven in a little olive oil.  Delicious, like a fragrant, very slightly sweet delicate cross between a potato and something lighter.

My OH gave me a heated propagator for my birthday, and 20 packets of seed!  The thing I am most looking forward to growing (or trying to) are very long, thin purple aubergines.  They are super sweet and melting when cooked.

So, everyone - what are you most looking forward to growing in 2022?

 

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