As the year moves along at a steady pace and we merrily wend our way in to September, the garden is starting to look more than a little tired. All hopes of a giant pumpkin have been dashed with only one plant producing a small but perfectly formed specimen and a mental note has been made to revert back to tried and tested varieties of pumpkin and squash next year, as the disappointment of only three or four fruits across a dozen plants, for the second year running, is not a good feeling. That said and in spite of annual additions of manure or chicken manure pellets etc, I suspect that the beds all need a huge amount of enrichment after 5 or 6 years of use and so some investment in fresh topsoil, compost, manure and fish blood and bone will need to be made this autumn. Also, unlike last year when I tried the ‘no dig’ approach to soil enrichment, I will be digging in this autumn, to ensure that the nutrients will be available to the root systems of next years crops.
Against the lawn fencing, the Stupice tomatoes are still ripening but it is becoming a race against time now, as cooler weather at night, starts to inhibit the plants and the signs of ‘old age’ become more apparent with fading leaves and branches. That said, the tomatoes have obviously enjoyed their sheltered yet sunny position and we have had a successful harvest from these outdoor plants this year, so I will be tempted to put them there again next season. Mind you, we have had quite a good summer overall, compared to the previous few years but if next season I raise plants grown from seed saved from one of the outdoor tomatoes, then hopefully they will be better able to cope with whatever the British weather throws at them in 2015.
Oddly enough, over in the little greenhouse, the same variety of tomato hasn’t endured as well and though we have had a good amount of fruit from the plants, they haven’t yielded as many as those grown outdoors, even though all of the plants are container grown (the greenhouse ones in growbags, the outdoor ones in flexi buckets). The greenhouse plants have also keeled over much quicker with one plant already composted and the other not far behind. I have also had my first Amish paste tomato ripen but as with the Stupice, the plants are looking more than a little tired and it really is a race to see if the rest of the crop ripens. Of all the tomatoes, the chocolate tomato plants are doing best of all in terms of health, despite their dreadfully poor start to the season and the tomatoes are ripening at a steady pace.
The little greenhouse has also been home to the cucumbers which have performed really poorly, mainly due to the lack of male flowers several weeks ago when there was an abundance of females. I am confused as to what happened here though because the same variety did really well in the school poly tunnel. I suspect that the prolonged spell of high humidity was the issue and that the regardless of the open roof vent and door on my greenhouse, the ventilation in the poly tunnel allowed for a better airflow and kept the humidity and heat at a more comfortable level.
Over in the larger greenhouse the chillis have done much better and the Ohnivecs are huge with the longest pod easily reaching 7 to 8 inches and there is an abundance of them across the seven plants and some are already starting to ripen. The Little Elf plants I sowed indoors last August (2013), are also now providing very hot, small red chillis and there is also an abundance of as yet unripened fruit on these plants as well. The Cayenne and Patio chillis which were grown from saved seed, have also got a respectable number of fruit on them and so we shouldn’t be short of ‘heat’ for the next year or so. Following on from the success of the saved seed chilli plants, I will be saving seed from all four varieties this year.
The runner and pole beans are still providing pods for the table, the carrots have done extremely well in both the main garden and the Mudlets patch and it looks like it could be a good year for parsnips, although we won’t know for certain until the frosts have come and we can pull the first of them. The leeks, however, seem a bit slow this year despite an encouraging start but I have given them a feed and I hope that this will help them along. Other than the leeks, carrots and parsnips, I don’t intend to grow anything over the winter this year, as I think I need to give the beds a rest and the opportunity to absorb the nutrients we will be piling into them but I will be able to use my plastic little grow houses early in spring to get things off to an early start.
In a nutshell, it’s been a mixed year for vegetable growing with, I believe, the prolonged spell of humidity playing more of a key role than I at first realised but then that’s Ma Nature for you …… fond of throwing the odd curved ball and likes to keep you on your toes!