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

Peas, Cosmos, Sunflowers and a spot of Archaeology

The bank holiday sees me spend 4.5 hours in the garden playing catch-up with nature.

It’s been a Bank Holiday weekend, and so today (the Bank Holiday Monday), I decided that if the weather was good then I would spend a few hours in the garden, and if it was bad, I’d spend it painting my new house indoors.

The weather has been mostly dry and a warm 20C, so out I went at 9:30am, and I came in for lunch, and then packed up at 3pm when some drizzle began to get annoying.

In that time I planted my first row of peas since the 20-30 foot row ones that I used to grow as a child in the 1980s. This time, I’m only doing 6 foot, but I carefully sowed the climbing Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds from Unwins into the softly hoed trough alongside my re-positioned fence, and carefully covered them over.

A handful of Pea 'Alderman' seeds.
A handful of the Pea ‘Alderman’ seeds that will hopefully be bringing me delicious fresh peas.

The ground was fairly soft, due to the rain overnight, but I still plonked the rose on my watering can and gave them a soak. I love peas, always have, and so I hope to see those little shoots start to emerge.

One thing’s for sure, the Hitchcock-esque situation I’ve induced by adding two bird feeders into the garden, might increase once those peas start to emerge. A few twigs should put them off a bit, but I’m going to have to keep my eye on them.

A row of freshly sown Pea seeds.
The satisfaction of a freshly sown line of Peas. This brings back memories.

Having sown the peas, I decided to start planting out some more plants – my Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ which I sowed back in March, have become quite long and lanky, and have been desperate to go out for some time, whilst also desperate to grow in any direction other than upwards (a bit like my rubbish sunflowers).

Cosmos 'Seashells Mixed' on flower
My Cosmos ‘Seashells Mixed’ seedlings needed flowering and were already flowering, and have no idea where the sun lives.

Also, my Sweet Sultan ‘Mixed’ seedlings, which are a plant that are completely new to me, were planted alongside them as I dug my new border.

My spade went in, and suddenly DONG!, there was resistance against the spade and a resounding resonance. I’d found something. Something hard.

A little more digging found something metal buried about 5 inches below the lawn. I soon realised that this slight hummock which sat in the area I was turning into a border, contained a drain and this was the manhole cover for it. My Archaeology course with Open University finally paid off, but sadly there were no obligatory Roman brooches or post holes.

Finding a buried manhole cover.
2/3rds of a drain manhole cover is in my garden, part under my fence, and presumably the rest under my neighbours’ decking.

This part of the garden has different soil – it’s more ashy, and had bits of burnt material. I can only guess that this was where previous owners used to tip out the ash from the fireplace before that all got bricked up.

Whilst planting this border, I also popped in a pretty perennial Geranium ‘Himalayense’ that I’d picked up the other day when I went to spend my national gardening vouchers at nearby Parkhall Garden Centre. This will look lovely right by the backdoor when it gets established and comes back on flower with it’s purpley-blue flowers.

A Geranium 'Himalayense' on flower.
The beautiful gentle flower of perennial Geranium ‘Himalayense’.

I’ve just sown some more sunflower seeds. Back in mid-March I sowed some Sunflower Helianthus Annus ‘Autumn Time’ seeds. This gave me three plants – one got stripped overnight by slugs, one has got some black blotchy leaves (although seems otherwise healthy), and one is fine – although none of them could bring themselves to grow more than an inch straight up at any time – they’re not much more than a tangled mess, so I thought it would be good to grow some more, if not to just save me embarrassment when someone spots them.

I’ve also plucked out some older Sunflower ‘Giant Yellow’ seed, which did grow perfectly well a few years back in my old garden. Hopefully these will add to the colour, with their majestic cheery yellow heads, and provide the birds with more food in the winter, perhaps a few seeds for my food, and a load of plants for the next year. Fingers crossed!

There’s so much going on in the garden right now – and I’m digging my garden layout as and when I’m planting out, and when the weather (and soil) allows me to. It’s a race against time though.

Thank you for reading, and happy gardening!

Andrew