We tried lots of new things in the garden this year.  Has it worked and what have we learned?

Water

We dug a pong to encourage wildlife.  We’ve not seen much of an increase yet and we mostly put it in to give the frogs somewhere to go when we dug up their existing environment.  The frogs do seem to like the pond but also seem to prefer covered ground – they seem to inhabit the strawberry patch more than the pond area.  I also unexpectedly came across (and injured) a slow worm in the long grass while mowing it.  To that end, we’re leaving some grass to grow wild now to ensure that such creatures have somewhere to go.

Beds

While plans for raised beds were over-ambitious and never realised, we did put a bedding system in place and this worked a treat.  Soil quality is much higher from not being trodden down all the time, and things seem to have grown more extensively – presumably because their roots aren’t having to penetrate dense, compacted clay soil.  Our potato crop was particularly good!

Pests

Slugs were less of a problem. Was this weather related? Part of some natural cycle? Or because we used nematodes?  No idea.  Let’s use nematodes again next year and see what happens.

Caterpillars were the new arch enemy and we must find a way to control those on the brassicas and raspberries next year.

The lawn was infested with ants.  There are nematodes for ants which we tried but this needs to be planned well in advance really and I wasn’t sure how effective it really was.  Hot water also seemed to do the trick.  We didn’t really have a flying ant day this year, which was weird.

Weeds

We seem to be getting the Creeping Cinquefoil under control, though I continue to be concerned by its presence in the lawn.  Bindweed was new but seemed to be contained and limited in its reach – so far.

Diseases

Blight continued to be a problem.  It kicked in later on the spuds but did kick in, and got a lot of the tomatoes too.

We also had white rot on onions, which is a more serious issue and very hard to get rid of from the soil.

Good Crops

Potatoes, chard, perpetual spinach, bulb fennel, cabbages (despite the caterpillars), french beans, sugar snap peas, onions and shallots all did particularly well.  We loved the taste of flashy butter oak lettuce, and were overwhelmed with the never ending supply of courgettes.

Bad Crops

Carrots and parsnips struggled and we got nothing (again) from any of our squash plants.  Squashes have been in pots so far so we’ll try them in the ground next year.  Tomatoes succumbed to blight and didn’t really ripen.  Lettuce was hit and miss.  We tried to grow calabrese from seed but the seedlings were demolished one night be slugs.  Grrr.

Next Year

One more bed to dig and we have a full complement of 4.5 beds.  There will be some rotation and re-stocking on seeds, but generally it’s looking in pretty good shape.  We looke forward to using what we’ve learned this year to make next year even better!