Spring in the garden: growing salad in the chilligrow

There are always jobs that need doing, even small ones so we were up early (as normal) planting stuff. I still hadn’t quite got everything planted up that I had wanted to, so was getting that sorted today which gives me the chance to share some wee tricks you may find useful.

Trick 1: using your chilligrow to grow salad

The quadgrows and chilligrows are great and I use them for all sorts of stuff, I don’t always follow the rules though 🙂

We have two chilligrows and over the years we’ve realised we really don’t need 6 chilli plants. Usually what happens is we dry loads

or freeze bags of them and Kate usually takes 2 or 3 kgs into work for Andrew who is a chilli head. Either way, we grow way more than we need. So this year we are only going to grow a couple of plants and use the other chilligrow for… SALAD!

Now I can hear you all shouting, but Eli, surely you can just grow one plant in each pot! How will this work. Well let me show you our trick.

Trick 1: growing salad in the chilligrow

First thing I do, is I cut the wick that draws the water into the pot. I usually cut it into two maybe three.

This then lets me spread the wick around the pot a bit more, maximising the water dispersal. A bit like my bit quadgrow plus does with my herbs. I add soil as normal, making sure to remember and spread the wick about and give it a really good soak.

Then sow my salad seeds on top of the soil like normal.

Lastly, spread another layer of compost over the top to keep them safe and happy.

I’ll keep watering from the top until I think my little salad lovelies are strong and then switch to filling the chilligrow reservoir as we would normally. I did this last year and it worked great so it’s become part of my normal routine now.

Trick 2: drainage for your pots

You may recall the conversation we had a few months back about making sure to add little feet under your pots to allow water to get out and stop things from drowning? If not it’s below, but I also have another spring tip for you (well anytime of year to be honest) about using these little feet for drainage inside the pots.

I have to plant up some of our impatiens this morning. They are some of Kate’s favourite plants and we always have pots of them on the steps.

The little plants in the greenhouse were ready to move on now but oh no… I’d used the pots they normally live in so I had to find some new pots and the ones we have didn’t have any drainage holes. Uh oh!

Not to fear though, a few little feet inside the pot (I went two little feet high) which lets a plastic plant pot sit snug inside, off the bottom allowing space for water to drain. Hurrah!

They’ll stay in the greenhouse a little while longer until he weather heats up a bit more and the plants are a bit bigger, but looking lovely.

In the raised beds

I was also adding my beetroot to the raised beds this morning as I still hadn’t planted it, this year, I’m testing out something new, seed tape. We’ve never used this before and wondered if it would be useful. It means your seeds are all perfectly spaced apart when you plant them and given our beetroot somehow always ends up all over the place, we thought we’d give it a go.

Not sure if it will be a keeper as I usually plant a couple of seeds for each plant and take out the weaker one. That means I don’t have the risk of plants not germinating but we’ll give this a try and report back as always. I suppose I can always backfill seeds if needed.

So anyways, it’s spring time, shut down the computer and get out in the garden. There are lots of jobs to be doing this weekend :). I’m off to prune the hydrangeas.

Have fun folks!

Update!

We have lots of tomato seedlings, lots of carrot seedlings but still no peppers – boo!




It feels good to be back! Spring planting underway. 2019

Boy oh boy does it feels good to be back in the garden and getting things growing. We’re experiencing that sudden spring burst just now, which I love so much. Suddenly, it almost feels like it was overnight, there is colour in the garden again.

The sun is splitting the sky just now, although it is still cold., photos can be deceiving, but there was a day last week when the greenhouse was basking in 22C!!!!! I have to say, I am noticing a huge difference in having a proper, glass greenhouse, it builds and holds the heat so much better than my old polycarbonate one.

Speaking about the greenhouse, we have seeds planted, it’s great to see the greenhouse come alive, and I even rejoiced in the fact that it is now dirty!

So what do we have going, well… the usual. I’ve got my tomatoes planted. Going with Indigo Blue Cherry (my favourites), Sweet Millions (cause they give me sooooo many), San Marzano for flavour and Marmande because Kate has a soft spot for them. They are BIG, ugly beasts but taste fantastic on sandwiches and burgers etc.

We’ve also got our peppers and chillies. This year we are just going with two types of sweet peppers, California Wonder and Romano ( a longer, thinner style). I will still have the four plants going in the quadgrow though. Chillies, we are just doing Jalapeno this year. We’ve found that having more than a couple of chilli plants going is just too much and we are actually still eating frozen chillies form last year, even after we gave 4kg away. So just one plant this year.

Feel free to catch up on our adventures from previous years…

Lessons learned… I find carrots and beetroot take an age to get going for me, so this year I have sown them in root trainers in the greenhouse and I won’t actually put them out until they are a decent, strong looking seedling.

This also means I can do my secession planting this way, hopefully meaning I will get a better crop, but never fear we are sticking with our tried and trusted purple haze carrots. These have time and again been the best croppers for us.

Lastly, after the success of buying courgette plants last year and not growing from seed (they take up loads of space), we are doing this again, so come May, we should get some nice courgette plants in tthe mail and they can go in the beds. Hooray!!! Another wee change, last year was my first year with the enormous quadgrow plus and I struggled to find a use for it last year, so this year it will be my new herb planter 🙂 There are four large pots and a big salad bay, so can’t wait to get that planted up.

What’s that you say, you haven’t heard the story of the ENORMOUS box and the tiny gardener? Oh well let me up date you and you can have a good chuckle at me trying to do an unboxing of something which is bigger than me…

So all in all I am just a big ball of excitement just now, it feels so good to be back!

So now that I’ve given you all an update and even included some of the blogs and videos from the last few years to catch all our new readers up, I’ll eave you now to go out and get started on your own 2019 garden adventure with one last picture and one last thought…

I threw out a hole trug of seeds that were past their date. I know it is very tempting to buy loads, just in case… I have done this so I cannot judge, but just be aware of the wastage and cost. I threw away about ÂŁ40 worth of seeds, most of which were unopened. A complete waste because I bought too much, so be sensible, buy as much as you think you will need and remember you can always buy more.




Decoding garden seed packets & catalogues

Part 2 of information on your seed packets.

Right now it’s early morning, so it’s still dark outside. The wind is wiping hard enough around the garden that I can hear it quite clearly indoors. It’s cold and there are next to no leaves on the trees I can just about make out in the dark through the window. This time of year can be a bit miserable for a gardener like me who doesn’t actively grow over winter. I am really looking forward to spring. REALLY!

January, however, is seed catalogue month, so I have some glorious time to spend all cosy indoors with a mug of tea, and my gardening porn (see yesterday’s conversation about seed catalogues). Yesterday we spoke about hardiness zones, about knowing how to find out what seeds and plants would grow in your area. Today we are going to decode the information on your seed packets and catalogues so we can work out exactly what seeds and plants we might want to buy.

So let’s dive in and have a look at some of my seeds and discuss a few of the terms. Some are very specific and have standards or legislation behind them (like organic or GM) and others are more open to interpretation like heirloom.

F1 or hybrid varieties

I see F1 hybrid written on quite a lot of the seeds I have bought over the years, especially on my courgettes but exactly what does that mean and is there an F2? Would F2 be better?

The easiest way to understand an F1 hybrid is to think of it like this. Imagine a plant breeder sees something really desirable in a plant, but also something they don’t like, perhaps it grows really vigorously but the flowers aren’t a great colour. In one of their other plants it doesn’t grow as vigorously but the flowers are fantastic. They could take the best plant from each, and self-pollinate (in isolation from other plants) each year and, then each year, the seed is re-sown. Eventually, every time the seed is sown the same identical plants will appear. When they do, this is known as a ‘pure line’.

If the breeder now takes the pure line of each of the two plants he originally selected and cross-pollinates the two by hand the result is known as an F1 hybrid. Plants are grown from seed produced and the result of this cross-pollination should be vigorous and have awesome flowers.

Genetically Modified (GM)

These are seeds which have been created by manipulating the genes of the plants in laboratories. GM seeds aren’t licensed for sale to amateur gardeners in the EU.

Organic seed

This means the seeds have been grown from plants by certified organic means without pesticides, fertilisers or herbicides and must also be packaged without being treated with fungicides.

Annual, Biennial or Perennial

Annual plants grow, set seed, and die in a single season. Biennials take two seasons to set seed. Perennials, however, live year after year.

Determinate and Indeterminate

This is something I see a lot as I grow tomatoes and this relates specifically to them.

Determinate tomatoes (which you may also see labelled as patio or bush tomatoes) reach a certain height and then stop growing. The have multiple stems, hence being called bush, and can give high yeilds. I grow Sweet Million tomatoes which are this variety.

Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and can get very tall, it’s not uncommon for these plants to reach over 10 feet in height, so they require sturdy support or regular pruning to tame the vines. You will also hear these refered to as cordon tomatoes.

Heirloom and open pollinated

An heirloom variety is just an open pollinated variety which has a lineage that can be reliably traced back for a number of generations; it is a case of historical record rather than any difference in the genetics.

Open Pollinated or F1?
Theoretically, open-pollinated varieties are more genetically diverse so will thrive in a wider range of growing conditions and will, over the years, become more suited to growing in your garden. Flavour in open-pollinated varieties can also be better because F1 varieties tend to be grown for commercial growers where traits like uniform ripening and long shelf life may be chosen over taste. Not always but it’s something to consider.

F1 seeds, however, may be a better choice for disease resistance. For me, the conditions in Scotland are damp and cold so I see mildews and mosaic. F1 varieties allow me to choose plants which are resistant to this.

Sow and Grow

You will also find some useful info on the back of your seed packets about when to sow your seeds and if they should be started off indoors before planting out. This is a rough guide, it’s good to think about this in terms of the weather in your area. For example, living in Scotland, I know we tend to be a bout a month behind other areas of the UK before I can get seeds germinating outdoors.

OK so you are now armed with some information on the various things you’ll read, time to get the kettle on and go look at some seed catalogues.




Hardiness zones, what can I grow?

January is the perfect time for sitting with a mug of tea, a couple of biscuits (ok, ok a plate) and a pile of seed catalogues (or as Kate calls them, garden porn). Just browsing those wonderful blasts of colour and potential beauty is enough to keep me going all through the beginning of the year, but… I remember the first time I picked up the seed catalogues and I remember feeling lost in the jargon and abbreviations. So let’s make this part 1 about all the different pieces of information you’ll find in your seed catalogues, seed packets and in garden centres. Let’s start with hardiness zones.

When it’s time to decide what you’ll be ordering this year

Seed catalogues are full of options, wonderful varieties of plants you’ve never heard of with pictures that almost make you drool thinking of them in your garden. The thing is, not everything is going to grow well in your garden and working out what will and what types you want to buy is a bit of a labyrinth for any new gardener.

Hardiness zones

If you are a new gardener then hardiness zones might be a new term for you, but it’s something that’s really useful to know. It essentially gives you a rough way of looking at plants and knowing if they will thrive in your area, for example, there really isn’t much chance of tropical plants growing outdoors here in Scotland. It’s a wet and cold climate but would a palm tree? Well, let’s look at the hardiness zones and information that the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) publish. This gives us the USDA Zones and some info about the temperatures in them but more importantly, the RHS hardiness rating which you are likely to see in catalogues and garden centres in the UK.

The zones

RHS Rating Temperature Hardiness USDA Zones Notes
H1a >15C Tropical 13 To be grown under glass or as a house plant
H1b 10C to 15C Subtropical 12 Can be grown outdoors in summer in warm, sunny and sheltered locations, but will generally perform indoors
H1c 5C to 10C Warm temperate 11 Can be grown outdoors in summer throughout most of the UK.
H2 1C to 5C Tender cool 10 Tolerant of low temperatures, but will not survive being frozen.
H3 -5C to 1C Half-hardy 9 Hardy in coastal/mild areas, except in hard winters. Likely to be damaged or killed in cold winters, particularly with no snow cover or if potted.
H4 -10C to -5C Hardy 8,9 Hardy through most of the UK apart from inland valleys, at altitude and central/northerly locations.
H5 -15C to -10C Hardy 7,8 Hardy in most places throughout the UK even in severe winters.
H6 -20C to -15C Hardy 6,7 Hardy across the UK and northern Europe.

So looking at the table we can see a few important pieces of info, let’s take USDA zone 9 as an example. This is the zone I live in. The table shows that it has an RHS rating of H3, so if we see that in the garden centre we know that means us. The winter temperatures are on average between -5C to 1C and it’s considered half-hardy. We can also see a bit of advice. “Hardy in coastal/mild areas, except in hard winters. Likely to be damaged or killed in cold winters, particularly with no snow cover or if potted.” So something that usually survives winter might not survive a harsh winter, especially in a pot.

Useful to know. Means I may want the ability to move a plant into the greenhouse or indoors during a bad winter.

Zones in the UK

So the first thing I want to point out is that Scotland isn’t just one zone. You can see the west coast is marked as zone 9, whereas if you head inland towards the Cairngorms National Park it’s a hardiness zone of 6. This is because in different areas you can expect lower temperatures over winter, different levels of frost and snow. Knowing which zone you are in can really help you decide which plants will do well in your garden. However, don’t take this as absolute fact, keep your garden journal up to date and get to know your garden. I know that even though I am in zone 9, there is a bit of a local microclimate around my area which these charts can’t predict.

So that palm tree… well maybe, most palm trees are tropical meaning no they wouldn’t grow here, but you can look for palms which are labelled as hardy. These could be grown in pots so that you could bring them indoors over winter or wrap the stems to prevent damage from our cold winters.

Take a look at the RHS plant search site and have a look at the plants recommended for your hardiness rating.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/search-form




Honey roasted seeds – pumpkin, sunflower and linseed

I’ve been really enjoying little packets of flavoured seeds as a snack recently. A friend at work turned me onto them and they’ve become a go-to snack, however, all those little packets add up in cost and wasteful packaging so we thought we’d have a go at our own. Turned out they were delicious and much cheaper so we thought we’d share our adventure with you.

Give it a try.

We used a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseed, about 260 grams in total of seeds. I mixed them in a bowl with a tablespoon of sugar and three tablespoons of honey. Gave it a really good mix to get them all evenly coated and then spread them out on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Popped them into the oven at 160C for 20 mins, the house smelled amazing while they were baking.

Once they were done, I let them cool and then just broke them up (as they go like brittle), and popped them into a jar to store (for as long as I don’t eat them ha ha ha).

Tasty snack done!




April comes and the garden springs to life

I know that the blog has been relatively quiet on the gardening front of recent but that definitely doesn’t means that nothing has been happening. Just that nothing unusual has been happening that I thought you may want to read about.

Last year wasn’t a great year in terms of production, the cold, wet spring meant that everything was late in getting established and this in turn meant that we had didn’t get much in the way of veggies to harvest. However it wasn’t a quiet year for the garden in general.  Our big party last July and the horrendous storms that battered us this winter have meant that there has been a fair bit of “repair” work to do recently. The lawn was trodden on until the poor grass waved the white flag and two fences didn’t even get that courtesy, they just collapsed under the brute force of the storms over winter. So before we could get started with the fun of planting, we had to completely replace one fence and make repairs to the second.

We also had the unfortunate luck that the new fence is slightly different dimensions than the old one, so we have lost a few inches of our flower bed (the few inches that had my gladioli bulbs in it) and some of the shrubs have been damaged beyond hope but a bit of work and we’ll get the bed looking great again.

Add to that the task of breaking down the greenhouse for cleaning and the unfortunate fact that I was on off my feet for almost five weeks with a knee injury and I hope you can then forgive us for not having much in the way of exciting seedlings photos for you?

Hopefully though I can rectify this today.

spring seedlings

We got our usual assortment of seedlings going a few weeks ago, courgettes, tomatoes, flowers, beetroot, kale, radishes etc and we’re starting now to see the little green shoots appearing.

Some of  our plans have had to change though, as I just couldn’t get the particular varieties I had planned to and after a poor crop of tomatoes from the little balcony plants last year I’ve decided to go back to the usual bush tomato plants.

So as is tradition, let me introduce you to Colin 2016 (we always have a Colin the Courgette plant).

IMG_20160409_095849

This year Colin is a yellow courgette plant and as always we will keep you updated on how he grows.

We’ve also made some changes or I should say are in the process of making some changes to the herb bed, instead this now holds a gorgeous rhododendron and some aubretia and the herbs will be rehoused.

IMG_20160410_163339

The herbs, instead of being in one big planter, are going into individual little coloured pots and are going to be on the trellis on the new fence here.

IMG_20160403_152731

 




Our wedding – the little things that make life fun

Hold onto your hats folks, we finally did it. Kate and I are finally, legally and all officially married. WOOT!

Get us, the latest Mrs & Mrs to dance the night away and eat cake.

Now as blog posts go, if we were just wanting to make an announcement we could say goodnight now. Job’s a good ‘un but no, we wanted to share some little details with you about how we made things a bit more personal.

We all know that traditionally weddings are all about the bride, the bride’s dress, the elaborate venues and the traditions and rules that people follow even though they don’t know why. Well that’s just not us. So here are some little details from our very casual and very homemade wedding.

The venue

I didn’t quite tell the truth there, we did actually have a fantastic venue, but it wasn’t a fashionable restaurant or historical building. We had the wedding in our garden, the most special place we could think of to get married in and it was truly special.

We decorated the entire garden with bunting, put up a big gazebo on the patio to provide a sheltered space for sitting and eating or drinking and we dressed up the tables really simply with a checkered tablecloth and some flowers in a champagne bottle.

Making the guests feel welcome

Something we felt was important was that our guests, some of whom had never met each other, felt comfortable and able to chat to each other. So we asked each of them to submit a photo and a small paragraph telling us about themselves. We then turned this into a small booklet to go with the order of ceremony that everyone was given when they arrived.

We hoped this would help break the ice and it seemed to work as we had a sneaky peek out the window as the guests had gathered and they seemed to be mingling well. Even the two dads.

Another thing we felt very strongly about was taking away all the stuffed shirt type traditions and rules. So when our guests arrived, they didn’t have to worry about where they were to sit, which side and which row, we made it very clear that there was no assigned seating with a quirky sign, after all which side do you sit on when there are two brides and no groom?

take a seat

 

And we also did away with rules about attire, we told everyone to wear whatever they wanted and we ended up with a fantastic mix of outfits that really showed the personalities of all our family and friends…. we had kilts, tweed jackets, R2D2 tie pins, red chinos, brothel creepers, and a red trilby amongst other things. If you are observant you’ll notice a lack of big, white, meringue dresses too.

One other thing we did, my little brother Arlen and his wife Diane couldn’t come over from the US to join us for the day so we set up a Google hangout so they could watch the ceremony live. It did mean however that they both had to be up very, very early so they watched from the comfort of their bed.

11828597_10101337442536841_3636460671472243945_n

 

Wedding gifts and favours

One of the first things we did chronologically, as you’ll have seen in previous blog posts is that we made some beer for our guest to drink afterwards. We actually made 3 beers for the wedding as we were intending on having a bar serving beers on tap but one was our official Bride Ale. You can read more about it in these two blog posts.

But we had a few guests who do not drink and we didn’t want them left out, so we also made Dandelion and Burdock and Ginger Beer (soft drinks). These specific drinks were requested by the two fathers of the brides. Apparently it was about reliving their youth.

We also gave them the same label designs as we had for the home-made beer we gave away as party favours so that no one would feel left out or treated differently.

Another of the other little touches we did to make our guests feel a really special part of things were to put together very personal favours for the ceremony guests, in this case something that was also very personal to us – books!

Kate and I are both huge book fans and indeed books played a part in bringing us together, so as a little gesture of thank you we chose a specific book for each of our guests and wrapped it up with some wildflower seeds (as you know we love our garden) and a key shaped bottle opener, for opening their beer later. This way each of our guests got a very special keep sake to take away.

books

 

Food and drink

Now you’ve realised by now that the theme to our wedding was casual and comfortable, right? Well this meant food and drink too.

We really didn’t want a sit down meal with a set menu. There’s nothing worse than being stuck sitting at a specific table and finding out that there’s only one thing on the menu that you like so you spend the rest of the night starving. So instead we had a huge street food menu for people to grab and eat standing or sitting and to grab as many different things to eat as possible. It seemed to really go down well.

For the drink part, I’ve already mentioned that we made beer and soft drinks to serve… but we also made the bar that the beer was served from (look out for Kate’s blog post on how to make a bar as she made this amazing thing).

It was a HUGE success and we’ll be using it again and again and again.

Oh and the cake… we just got a nice sponge cake from a local bakers and Kate made the cake toppers herself.

Get everyone involved

One of the things that has always struck me about weddings is that I always felt like I should stand quietly, not really be noticeable in case I take attention off the bride and most importantly just be a watcher, never part of the actual wedding. For our wedding Kate and I wanted all of our guests to play an actual part in the day after all they are our important witnesses to a life changing event. So we did a couple of little things so that our guests could really leave their mark on our day and leave us with a little souvenir or two from them.

We left little antique keys with paper labels attached to them on a table and we asked our guests to write on these paper tags and tell us their “key to a happy marriage”.  Kind of like a guest book but more personal.

We also asked each guest to leave a fingerprint on a print of a bare tree, making the leaves of the tree. This is now framed and hanging in the house as a reminder of all our family and friends who shared our day.

So I’ve told about some of the things that really made our feel very special and most of all fun, so I guess now you just want to see what the brides wore? Was it the brothel creepers?

 

 




Petunias – the growing from seed adventure

petunia seedlingsThis year’s experiment was to grow the flowers for our hanging baskets ourselves rather than buy plants from our local garden centre.

This would be the first time we’d grown flowers from seed so it was a bit of l new adventure for us and as usual I went into full research ninja mode before doing anything.

Normally when planting seeds, well I say normally but what I mean is that for all the seeds I’ve planted so far, you place the seeds onto damp soil and then cover them with more soil.

Research ninja however discovered that for petunias, you don’t cover the seeds they actually need the sunlight to spark off germination.

I have to be honest, this felt a bit weird and I REALLY wanted to cover them.

The second think to know if you should ever fancy growing petunias from seed is that they apparently are notoriously difficult to grow. Every article I read was full of doom and gloom telling me to plant 50 if I want 10 etc. I wasn’t filled with confidence, especially since we have 10 hanging baskets to fill at a rate of about 5 plants on average per basket. So back onto t’internet for a quick deal with old Mr Fothergill and another few packets of seeds were winging their way to us.

When it was time to plant up, I had lots of seeds, TINY, TINY seeds and I patiently made lots of little paper pots. The plan being to scatter the seeds throughout lots of these little pots and then IF any seeds germinated I could pot them on later as needed.

It took an age, I was getting so jittery as nothing was coming up and I took to staring at things really intently everyday as if my sheer will could encourage the little sods to get going But they did eventually start coming up and they were so tiny.

The advice was right, hardly any germinated, infact a couple of weeks after germination seemed to start I only had 16 plants… sod it, I planted a wee drop more.

Well the wee sods only almost all came up eventually!!!!!! So much for advice on t’internet.

Well potting on was fun let me tell you, 4 hours of making over a hundred new paper pots and transferring the now bigger seedlings into them. The only reason that it only took 4 hours was because Kate took pity on me and jumped in to get a production line going.

hanging basketsSo 5/6 weeks later and we have just planted up our hanging baskets with copious amounts of baby petunias plants which hopefully in a few weeks will start to look lush.

All good, we have the start of our hanging baskets out there and all being well we should have the most awesome cascade of colour in a few months filling the baskets and trailing over the sides.

There is just one thing though… what to do with the spare 36 plants that weren’t meant to germinate????????

imagespare petunias

Potting up the petunias




Oat breakfast bar treats

IMAG2660Our oaty breakfast bars are perfect as my energy boosting breakfast after my morning cycle. They started life as the Peanut butter booster bars from River Cottage but as I’m not a big fan of peanut butter or seeds in my food I have tweaked these so that they are more like a flapjacks and filled with the things I like.

The oats help keep you from getting peckish before lunch and the dried fruits make them feel like a treat with your morning cuppa.

Ingredients for Eli’s breakfast bars

    • 155g flora light
    • 150g soft brown sugar
    • 150g honey
    • 300g porridge oats
    • 150g dried fruit –  I like cranberries and dates but you can add whatever you fancy

How to

Add the flora, sugar and honey to a pot and stir it over a gently heat until it all dissolves.

Add the fruit and oats and mix together to combine, making sure all the oats are coated in the sugary syrup.

Empty this into a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper and using a spoon press it down into an even layer.

Bake in the oven at 160 degrees C for 35 mins, after 35 mins take the tray out and leave it to cool completely before cutting into bars.

It really is as simple as that.




Reviews, thoughts, recommendations and the year so far

Eli going over and updating her garden logWe’re now entering August which for us is usually a time of abundance from the garden. Unfortunately this year things don’t seem to be following that timetable, although that’s not to be said that things have been a complete wash out.

At this time each year, I stop to review the year so far and to start planning for next year, what will we plant, what seeds do we need etc. It gives me a chance to really think about the garden as a whole from spring onwards and not just get stuck in whatever headspace I happen to be in at that time and it lets us compare the different seeds we’ve tried from one year to the next.

I keep notes in a gardening journal of every plant I grow, where I got the seeds, when I planted them, any issues and when they have fruited. This gives me a good record to use for the following year so I can see not only which veg has done well but also which particular seeds did best. For instance, courgettes. This year the courgettes haven’t been great. The plants have struggled and we’re seeing lots of dead, dried out leaves (possibly mildew) and the fruits are rotting on the plants before we get to harvest them (other than maybe 4 or 5).

Now you might think that means that courgettes don’t like the Musselburgh climate but looking back over the last two years, the courgettes have actually been our most productive plant. So what’s different this year? Well this year I put the plants out a little earlier than normal, although we didn’t have any frosts which could have caused problems, so it’s probably not that.

This years plants have come from different seeds. Last year and the previous year I grew our courgettes from a seed called All Green Bush, this year however I tried a different seed. This year I grew from Firenze F1. So what do we do? Next year I’ll try the All Green Bush seeds again and see how we get on.

balconi yellow tomato plantTomatoes are something I am always testing  and comparing too and this year I’ve found a winner that I’ll definitely be growing again.  Tomato Balconi Yellow, these are the perfect tomato plant for those of us who don’t have acres of space or even a greenhouse. It’s the tiniest little tomato plant I’ve ever grown, but you get a huge amount of lovely, tasty cherry tomatoes from it.

I’ll be growing these again next year and I’m going to try a red version as well. The size and yield of this plant means not only does it not take up a lot of space, but also it doesn’t need a lot for training and pruning. You could probably grow these on a sunny window ledge.

So what else has been a beaming success this year? The peas. We have had so many lovely, fresh peas this year that to be honest I kind of got sick of peas and started giving them away so we will definitely be growing peas again next year, but we may look at a new place to grow them as we found they took up quite a bit of space in the bed .

Now potatoes are another resounding success for this year, but unfortunately in my rush to try out different varieties means we now have far too many potatoes for us to use. I’ve tried leaving them in the soil but I’m going to have to give in and pull them all this weekend as it’s getting quite late, so if you want some potatoes,give us a shout.

Ok I’ll leave it there for our reviews and thoughts for this month but the next big excitement might be the dwarf green beans, we’re starting to see these appearing, so I promise an update about those as soon as is appropriate.