Garden Review of 2017 – my Top 5 Vegetables

Looking back to the 2017 season in my garden, and highlighting my vegetable growing successes.

The spring and summer of 2017 have long since ridden off into the sunset, and the memories of my first spade into the tired old lawn of my new garden are beginning to fade.

So, what better way to beat the February chills or driving myself crazy with wanting to sow every seed, than to look back at my five favourite vegetable successes that grew in my new garden.

Squash ‘Spaghetti Stripetti’

Three Squash Spaghetti Stripetti
Three left!

Having never grown a squash before, and rarely tasted them in anything other than soups, I decided to grow 2 Squash Spaghetti Stripetti seeds.

I greatly underestimated what these plants could do, although the wind sorted one of them out in just a few hours of planting it out into my new raised bed. I sowed a replacement, but really didn’t need to.

Within only 6-8 weeks of sowing the first one, I was already expectantly watching the first of the squashes form under a mass of leaves and tangled stems.

Small Squash Spaghetti Stripetti forming
The first Squash forming after about 6-8 weeks of sowing.

I ended up with the original plant meandering and clinging to all other plants (including the lawn), with a radius of about 20 feet.

By the time that the plant had peaked, it had given me about 15 edible big plump squashes. I swiftly learnt how to roast them up and have enjoyed eating their soft, spaghetti-ish, kind-of sweet yellow flesh. I still have three of these in my kitchen – they store really well.

Courgette ‘Black Beauty’

Courgette plant on flower
One of the Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants on flower. They went er.. bananas.

The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’, just like the namesake horse, galloped along and took over my diet for about 3 months, allowing me to legitimately infiltrate the courgetti fad crowd with my tricky-to-clean spiralizer gadget.

I’d tried growing these over the years with intermittent success. In this new garden though, for some reason I thought 6 plants would be ok. This gave me heaps of courgettes resulting in a great soup recipe, and new-found friends at work (gardening really is sociable!).

Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup
Courgette, Potato, and Cheddar Soup – one of the tastiest ways to reduce my courgette glut.

Considering that the seed ‘should have’ been discarded about 8 years previously, they did very well. After drowning in courgettes, and the plants experiencing mildew that eventually suffocated the courgettes and the marauding squash plant, I pulled up both after a long and happy harvest.

I kept a tally, but gave up at the end of Week 7’s harvest. At that point, i counted a total of 45 courgettes, weighing a cumulative 15.5 kilos (that’s 15,500 grams – the equivalent of just less than 1 London Bus).

French Climbing Bean ‘Blue Lake’

French Bean 'Blue Lake' beans
Just a few of the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans that cropped well in the new garden.

This was probably my best harvest yet, and these French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ beans soon took to the wigwam and cropped. They were the second plants to be planted out into my new garden, as the seedlings had spent most of April crawling around my old house’s windowsills desperate to be planted out whilst solicitors did their job.

French Bean Blue Lake seedlings with wigman
My French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ seedlings had been desperate to be planted out in 2017, so they were 2nd out, in week 1!

Heavy assaults from snails were seen off with some magic sweets, enabling me to have many harvests right up to the frost. I’ll definitely continue growing these, as the beans are so tasty, and I love to pop a few in a stir fry.

Mixed Salad Leaves

handful of mixed salad leaves
The mixed Salad Leaves have been lush and delicious, and I’ve enjoyed picking them in the morning sunshine before work.

These did really well, considering that they were supposed to have been sowed ‘before 2012’. They were desperate to be planted out when they were filling up the windowsill of my old house, so they were the first plants in – just a few days after getting my new house keys.

A red leaf lettuce planted out.
The slugs don’t seem to like these red-leafed lettuces. I’ll grow some more.

I grew a mixed range, and I soon realised that one of the red leaf varieties did not appeal to slugs and snails. I think I’ve identified the variety as Lettuce ‘Red Salad Bowl’ (ingenious name, right?), and will be growing it again in 2018.

Pea ‘Alderman’

Last year, I returned to growing one of my first garden successes from when I was a child – Peas. Armed with a packet of Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds, and a newly erected fence, I sowed my line.

Handful of Peas 'Alderman'
My one and only handful of Peas ‘Alderman’ from my 2017 garden. Delicious.

They germinated fast, but the woodpigeons and slugs were fast too. I managed to pop some wire over them but they’d already taken heavy slug damage. I managed a harvest though – a handful of pods – and well, a mouthful of fresh peas. They were delicious, but brief.

Small harvest of Pea Alderman
My 2017 Pea harvest. That’s it. Baby steps, Andrew. Baby steps.

I hope to improve this in 2018, and be two steps ahead of my pea-nibbling foes.

So, those are my vegetable highlights of 2017 – all of these grew from seed, and were planted out in my new garden.

What did you grow in 2017?

Did you have any vegetable growing successes in 2017? What are you planning to grow in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, happy gardening (or simultaneous seed catalogue browsing and dreaming). I’ll post the garden review of my favourite flowers in a few days, but for now – thanks for reading.

Andrew

The first harvest of 2017 – lettuce, strawberries, and raspberries

The first harvest of 2017, and my new garden, has happened!

About a week ago I was really pleased to finally stop having to regularly buy bags of salad leaves. Usually these are over-priced, crushed into the displays that they soon decompose, and are a wet limp mess by the time you go to serve them up.

Instead, each morning I’ve been out in the morning sunshine picking fresh leaves from the salad leaves that grew from those ‘sow by June 2012’ seeds that I sowed en mass back in early April.

Salad leaf seedlings in a tray
The old Erin Eco Salad seed starter kit has germinated – 5 years beyond the recommend sowing date.

It seems that they all germinated, and so whilst they were desperate to be planted out, it wasn’t until the start of May that I was able to actually plant them in soil at my new house once i’d broken the lawn.

handful of mixed salad leaves
The mixed Salad Leaves have been lush and delicious, and I’ve enjoyed picking them in the morning sunshine before work.

These fresh green and bronze-red leaves have been delicious, and I was kind of proud that I’d managed to grow and harvest these. I’m not usually successful with salad leaves. My failed Rocket sowing put me on a downer, so I’m glad that these worked. Even if i’ve had to be vicious with the slugs and snails.

Joining these on Wednesday were my first Strawberry ‘Cambridge Favourite’ and Strawberry ‘Elsanta’ strawberries, which were nicely red although greatly varied in size.

first strawberry and raspberry harvest of 2017
Strawberry ‘Cambridge Favourite’ (left), Strawberry ‘Elsanta’ (top right), Raspberries (bottom right). Might even be a mouthful?

I also managed to pick three small Raspberries from the plants that I picked up at my local Wilko store. The Elsanta variety have always worked well for me in my previous garden, giving me a small but steady crop in the summer. Well… aside from my bare root strawberry disaster earlier this year 😦

Strawberry plants in a patio planter
Some of my older Strawberry plants are happily growing in some refreshed compost in my patio planters.

It’s unlikely that the Blueberry ‘Vaccinium Corymbosum Patriot’ plants will give me anything this year as they’ve been busy growing branches and leaves, and the few berries and flowers they did have were soon removed by the two days of flattening wind that trashed most things in the garden.

Do you have a particular variety of strawberry or raspberry that works well in your garden? Let me know in the comments below.

Anyway, there’s plenty more growing – including more veg, but i’ll tell you about that in my next post.

As ever, thank you for reading, and happy gardening.

Andrew

Sowing an old Erin Eco Salad Seed Starter Kit

Giving an old Erin Eco seed kit a chance, leaves me with dozens of salad seedlings that’ll need a new home.

I was doing some pre-move clearing out last week, when I stumbled across a couple of old Erin Eco seed starter kits. One was for mixed Salad, and the other for Rocket.

About 7 different versions of these kits were given to me in about 2010/2011 as Christmas presents by some non-gardening friends, and some of them were not suitable for my little border garden. I gave some to my mother, as she has a bigger garden with a vegetable plot, and I kept hold of a few that I thought I could cope with.

Inspecting them, they both said ‘sow by 6/2012‘ on the reverse. I could have thrown them out, but because they’re a complete kit – compost, seed, and mini-propagator – i thought I’d just give them a chance, because in worst case scenario, I wouldn’t be losing any new compost to old dead seed. I like to let nature have its chance.

Erin Eco Salad seed starter kit
The old Erin Eco Salad seed starter kit, given to me in about 2010/2011.

So, I opened up the Salad kit, tipped the bone-dry peat free compost into the bottom part of the propagator, sprinkled all of the seeds on, sprayed it with water and shut the lid.

Within 48 hours, I had results. Within 4 days, I had a tray full of seedlings. I’m kind of concerned now about how a) I sowed the whole lot, and b) I now have a glut of seedlings (and will have a glut of lettuces).

Salad leaf seedlings in a tray
The old Erin Eco Salad seed starter kit has germinated – 5 years beyond the recommend sowing date.

The packet states that the salad varieties here are: Red Cos, Red-Tinged, Batalava, Oak Leaved Lettuce.

I hate buying bags of salad leaves, because by the time you’ve got it home, put it in your fridge, and gone to it the next day for a nice crisp salad, there’s a floppy, slimy, mess in the bag. I often think that the desperation of supermarkets to jam as many into their displays is partly to blame – with their delicate stems being crushed or bruised, and then speeding up their rotting.

If I can find the space to prick some of these on, I will, but I’m now a bit worried that my ‘it’s got two chances‘ attitude has now given me a windowsill headache.

What’s the oldest seeds that you’ve sown, and how did they fare? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy gardening!

Andrew