Every year you get some plants that simply grow amazingly well. That could be down to nice fresh seeds, genetically robust varieties, great skill with seedlings, good plant care, perfect growing conditions such as soil and weather, or plain old dumb luck. It’s a good idea to take stock and have a think about what went well during the year.
- Aubergines. Simply can’t provide the right conditions, not enough sunshine and warmth.
- Beetroot. The soil here is just too heavy, plus the bad spring weather didn’t help.
- Cherry tree gave us very little blossom and no fruit. This might be due to it being newly planted, or because of pests, frosts or being in a spot that is not sunny enough. Not sure which of these it is, but if another frost threatens than I’ll cover it in a fleece. Fingers crossed for 2014.
- Okra. Rain and lack of sunshine did for my seedling.
- Oriental greens. Slugs. Bloody slugs. And whitefly.
- Parsnips. Very few germinated, took months to get started, stunted growth, carrot root fly.
- Purple sprouting broccoli. This was total user error, didn’t plant out the seedlings early enough, and didn’t protect them from caterpillars. Lesson learned.
- Sorrel. Slugs, snails, say no more.
- Summer raspberries – all killed by the cat.
- Brussels sprouts. Didn’t get much by way of buttons in time for the festive season, but the flavour is good (Seven Hills / Roodnerf).
- Carrot. Red Chatenay and Paris Market gave a couple of crops, but other sowings failed to germinate.
- Cabbages. Golden Acre was reliable, but everything was attacked by caterpillars, slugs and whitefly even though grown under a net. Spring greens slow growing, not sure if they’re tough enough to make it through the winter.
- Chillies and sweet peppers.
- Dwarf beans. Tendergreen type, low germination rate, probably due to cold spring.
- French beans. Blue Lake climbing variety. Very low germination rate, took ages to get going. Prolific once started and nice flavour, but will try a different type next year.
- Japanese onion squash (aka Red Kuri). Delicious flavour, but only got three medium pumpkins in total from two vines. Too little yield for the amount of space and nutrients they take up.
- Kohl rabi. Erratic germination, but they were delicious when they did grow. Supposed to be a catch crop, but in reality grew at about half the speed advertised.
- Leaf beet. Moderate germination rate, leaf miner attacks despite being grown under netting.
- Leeks. The cat dug every last one up that’s been grown in the ground. Baby leeks have survived in pots, but won’t give a big crop.
- Peas. Pea shoots very reliable and strong. Other peas has moderate yields but had mildew problems.
- Radish. French Breakfast 3 was the only one that grew, and even then quite a lot of it bolted.
- Runner beans. Traditional variety started well but then failed to set as the summer got hotter.
- Spring onions. Germination problems with White Lisbon, possibly due to bad weather.
- Strawberries. Very tasty, reasonable crop from first year plants.
- Tomatoes. Blight resistant Losetto tomatoes caught blight – surprise! This was quite late in the season though, and all varieties were early and prolific croppers.
- Autumn raspberries. Still going at the end of December, tasty fruit, cold resistant. Polka variety.
- Borlotti beans. Lingua di Fuoco, great flavour, prolific, attractive flowers and pods. Grows reliably well from saved seeds too.
- Brokali Apollo. Amazing cross between chinese kailaan and green sprouting broccoli. Prolific, delicious, and a very long cropping season.
- Courgettes and summer squash. Great results with yellow crookneck squashes, and Tondo courgettes grown in the ground. Reasonable results with Defender and Tromba di Albenga grown in pots.
- Cucumbers. Different maturation and cropping times meant that Picolino, Marketmore and Crystal Apple plants kept us fed from late June to late November.
- Garlic. Unknown softneck variety from 99p Stores. Really good bulbing up in spite of being planted in January and not the autumn, great flavours, appears to keep well too.
- Herbs. All grew well, in spite of the bad weather.
- Japanese bunching onions. Ishikura took a while to grow, but tasted great, had no waste and were very hardy.
- Jerusalem artichokes. Unknown variety, everything sown sprouted even though it was growing in poor soil.
- Kale. Dwarf Green variety grew well from late spring sowings, few pest problems.
- Lettuce. All types grew strongly, a few mild aphid problems but mostly pest-free and very little bolting.
- Radicchio. Reliable, and the slugs don’t like it.
- Red spring onions. Lilia had a good germination rate, and grew on into tasty red bulbing onions after being thinned.
- Rhubarb. Prolific and very easy to look after. Red Champagne variety, really tender stems.
- Rocket. Tasty, impossible to kill, self-seeding.
- Sweet Dumpling squash/pumpkin. Heavy yielding, very tasty fruits that cure well and should store for a long time.
- Swiss chard. Lucullus grew big and strong, with only a little nibbling from the slugs and snails.
- Turnip. Purple Top Milan defied the heavy clay soil, tasted great and stood well.
Did you have any success stories or epic fails at the end of the end of 2013? Any new varieties of plants you’ve tried that are worth growing?