What worked in our garden this summer, what didn't and the plant varieties that we loved!
We've had our last beach weekend for the summer so I'm now officially starting to try and get out of summer mode and embrace autumn. But it's HARD!! I am such a summer girl and the thought of winter approaching makes me kind of sad!
I've planned and planted some of our autumn/winter garden but I thought before I forget what we did over summer I would write it all down so that I remember for next year and also to share with you what worked well and what wasn't as successful!
What we planted:
- Lettuces and herbs
What worked well
Planning the garden! For the first time last year, I wrote a detailed garden plan and stuck to it! It was the best way to keep track of how many plants I needed, where everything was going and when it should be ready. I will definitely be planning my garden like this from now on. Plus, it will be handy to keep the records to show where I planted things previously so that I can rotate my crops from year to year.
I spent a lot of time preparing the soil and taking really good care of my seedlings which really paid off. I hardened off my seedlings for a good month before transplanting them and I also waited until the weather had really warmed up (mid November) before I planted anything outside. I dug up the soil, put down a thick layer of compost and dug that in before planting.
The other thing that worked well (and it might seem obvious!) was remembering to water the garden regularly! We had almost no rain all summer so watering was essential. We have a simple irrigation sprinkler system set up so we only have to turn on one tap to water each section of garden. We alternated between watering the outside and polytunnel every 2 or 3 days.
I also fertilised a couple of times during the season. This should have been done every month but I think it was more like every 8 weeks or so, but considering I have never bothered with fertiliser in the past, it was still better than nothing! I used Tui Seaweed & Fish Fertiliser which I loved.
What didn't work well
Although our irrigation system made it easy to water the garden, our sprinklers weren't so effective at watering the roots of the plants, especially once the zucchini and cucumbers spread out over the ground. We are thinking about changing to a drip line system for next season so I will keep you posted.
The other thing that didn't work well was not being able to tell where my pumpkin plants were to water them. They have been fairly neglected as the vines just take over! Next season I think I will place old tyres or something around the plants when I initially plant them, purely so that I can see where to water them rather than just guessing. We may also set up the irrigation in amongst the pumpkins as the bank that we grew them on is the perfect spot for them.
We had an amazing year for tomatoes this year! I planted a few in the polytunnel and lots in the big outside garden and the ones that did the best were definitely the ones in the outside garden. I think it might have been too hot for the tomatoes in the tunnel as they were just really ordinary. Next year we will stick with planting them outside.
My favourite out of all the tomatoes I grew was the San Marzano. It is a roma style tomato with less juice and seeds which made it perfect for bottling and freezing as well as delicious for eating. Our favourite cherry tomato was the Sungold - so sweet!
We had our best ever pepper year this year. After never having any luck growing them from seed and barely getting 3 or 4 peppers from the plants we bought, this year we had a bumper crop. I planted Marconi and Chianti Peppers which I will definitely stick with. They were so tasty! The chili I will change - we planted Anaheim which is the weakest of all the chili plants and it was too mild even for us! We will go up one or two spice levels next time.
We had 6 Scarlet Runner Beans from the previous year that produced an amazing crop this year! I will pull them out now and start again next year, but will probably stick with the runner beans. I froze about 3kg of beans and we ate plenty. I also planted dwarf beans which were fun as they were yellow and purple which Sadie loved! But not super productive and they took up a whole section of garden that I think I would rather allocate to more tomatoes next year.
Black Coral and Black Beauty were the two we planted - I couldn't tell you which was which, they were both delicious! And super productive. We also ended up with a ton of marrows because they grow so fast. But the chickens and pigs were happy with that!
I grew Spacemaster and Lebanese Cucumbers and they both produced delicious cucumbers! Lots, but not too many and super tasty. We will definitely plant both again. The gherkins did ok this year. The first lot of seedlings didn't make it (I think something ate them) so I planted a few later plants that took too long to take off and weren't very productive. I managed to bottle a few jars and used the others and some of the cucumbers to make a lot of refrigerator pickles!
For the first time ever, I grew melons!! We had a few rockmelons and some unknown melons from seeds that a friend sent me and they were so yummy! Next year I will be sure to get some watermelons in there too.
I grew a few varieties of pumpkins - crown and Queensland blue for the big keepers and so far they are looking great. I also grew a few butternut squashes so I will update you once I pick them all - it won't be until after the first frost!
Our herb garden was beautiful all summer as always - we had mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives, purple sage and basil. All varieties of lettuce did really well in the polytunnel as did the basil. I'm pretty hopeless at doing anything with the basil - I just like the smell! But I did make pesto once and often added a few leaves to tomato salads. Simple.
Our strawberries were amazing this year! You might remember we tried something new this year and planted them under weed mat and in rows like the strawberry farms do and it worked SO well! We had so many berries, I didn't have to buy them at all and we managed to avoid losing too many to bugs and just getting squishy on the ground. It's worth noting that a lot of places recommend 5 strawberry plants per person to ensure a good quantity. Well, we planted 30 plants for the 3 of us...ha! And it was a great amount! Not too many at all considering that most of the berries didn't even make it inside! So that is worth keeping in mind. Our raspberries didn't have a great year - we need to protect them better from the birds I think. Although over the last couple of weeks we've had quite a few! But we did manage to grow a few blueberries which were super tasty. Again, I think there would have been more if the birds didn't get them!
So that's a recap of the Summer 2018/19 garden! We had a great year and managed to enjoy, give away and preserve a whole lot of food which was great!