24 Nov 2012

Sub-Arctic, Canadian Wonder and Striped Pyjamas

Drop

Abundance is not the word I'd reach for when describing the past year's veg successes. It's been more a little taste of this and that when the weather has obliged. In choosing my 2012 veg, I envisaged a nice prolonged warm summer (like last year) with the right conditions for tomatoes, chillies, sweetcorn, squashes, courgettes and exotic pulses such as LabLab beans and purple podded peas.  Foiled (or fooled?) again!

My sweetcorn grew but the cobs didn't fatten, the fennel has seeded itself all over the garden thanks to high winds, peas and pole beans amounted to nothing much.

On the other hand, the Canadian Wonder (red kidney) beans that I ordered have been a triumph; they produced a huge number of slim pods over a long period so that I had plenty to give to friends and neighbours. I picked the pods young (about 3 - 6 inches long) for eating - they were delicious.  I had hoped to grow several plants for mature pods so that I could save the kidney beans over winter (I love a good bean stew or chillied beans) but it didn't happen. I guess much more warmth was needed for that.

~ Canadian Wonder beans, late August 2012~
Most of my courgettes rotted before they grew much more than a few inches high - apart from the Sicilian Long White on my balcony :)  but a spaghetti squash planted close to the wall struggled through to September when it was rewarded with a few weeks of warmer weather. That did the trick nicely and it went on to produce several huge squashes, the biggest weighing nearly 3 kilos, probably enough to feed at least 6 people! Is that a big achievement? It certainly felt like it to me.  I chose this vegetable purely for it's name - Striped Squash Pyjamas. Sometimes a total lack of logic is best.

~Spaghetti squash: Striped Pyjamas ~
My tomatoes were very deliberately chosen - Sub Arctic Plenty.  Touted as fruiting within 9 weeks of planting and being able to set fruit in cooler conditions, surely this was the tomato for me!  It didn't, however, live up to expectations, producing only a couple of dozen tomatoes between the 2 surviving plants - and those after several months of nurturing. I blame the weather.  It's a lovely looking tomato though, like a small beefsteak and with a very good flavour, thin-skinned and lovely squiggly insides - I'll be growing this one again in 2013 and hoping the weather is kinder. (All my veg are grown outside and at the mercy of whatever the weather may thrown at them.)  Incidentally, the other two seed choices, Red Alert and Principe Borghese, either didn't grow or didn't fruit. What a year!

Tomatoes sliced
~ Sub-Arctic Plenty. Very pretty determinate tomato. ~
I also had a bonus tomato plant in the patch, grown from the seed of one of last year's dropped Cherriettes of Fire tomatoes.  This time, knowing its dendency to droop, I potted the little found plant into a large pot where it flourished to produce lots of very late mini tomatoes. Even now in November, I'm still able to pick a small handful from this plant although it's now on the way out.

Cherriettes of fire
~ Cherriettes of Fire, tiny cherry tomatoes ~
So what about next year?  I'm thinking only about the vegetables I buy in quantity:  purple sprouting broccoli, beans, squashes, beetroot, blueberries, raspberries and, of course, plenty of herbs and edible flowers. Potatoes break up the soil and carrots take up very little space if grown in tubs but both are cheap to buy, as are onions (but I've already bought white onion sets). I'll grow lots more salad leaves on my balcony (far far away from those pesky slugs!) and broad beans (red flowered, hopefully) as they get the season off to a good start.  As to varieties, I'm already reading through the catalogues to see what's new, thinking about weather protection for my crops and dreaming of a greenhouse.

23 comments:

  1. Don't rely on escaping slug damage by planting on a balcony, Caro. Slugs can (and will) climb. I have sometimes seen slime trails up near my guttering!
    BTW: I had a similar experience with Sub-Arctic Plenty, a few years ago. Took ages to develop and produced a poor yield - which is not what I had expected.

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    1. I'll rely on the pigeons to eat them before they get to my 2nd floor balcony, Mark! Interesting that you had a similar experience with the tomatoes - can you remember what the weather was like that year or did you grow in a greenhouse? I was thinking of giving them another go next year... May have to reconsider!

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  2. I tried Lablab beans for the first time this year. I probably sowed them too late, or left them in pots for too long before planting out. By the time they started flowering in October we had a few cold nights and that put paid to them. I'm ever the optimist though -I'll try them again next year!

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    1. Same story here. My LabLab beans all germinated, grew beautifully, established well and grew to about 12" tall ... then, nothing. They need warm weather which we just didn't get. Warmer weather in late August prompted them to start growing but it wasn't enough to get flowers to form for the pods. I'll also give them another go next year as I have a few beans left over from this year's packet. Last chance!! I'll be interested to compare notes next year!

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    2. Also ... "leaving them in the pots too long" - isn't that always the way? I have huge plans in my head, sow seeds with great anticipation of the harvests to come and then don't have the time to plant them out, or can't decide on the best positioning for them!! My Cape Gooseberry is STILL on my balcony (where its doing rather well).

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  3. I am going to have to have a sit-down session soon to decide on what grew well or not, then think about seed ordering. As this year was not A-typical it's difficult as the veg garden wasn't given a fair chance to show what it could do. Hoping for better next year - ever the optimist.

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    1. Oh, me too, Elaine! I really hope things perk up for next year but, in the event that they don't, I'm not going to waste my time trying to grow stuff that needs lots of sun (as well as water). While writing this post, I just got on with ordering my seeds. Next will be planning where to plant in the spring - hopefully using my new garden design skills! :) - and I can then concentrate on weather-proofing the veg garden! Wow, I'm really surprising myself with my decisiveness!

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  4. For once, being late getting my plants in, seems to have done me a favour. My sweetcorn and runner beans were super and we were still picking beans in October and of course, with all the rain, we didn't need to water! Our corgettes were a disaster, from 3 plants we got one tiny vegetable, oh well, better luck next year. I think we have all been left feeling that we could do better, roll on next year!!

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    1. Well done, Pauline, for getting your sweetcorn to the picking stage! It seems we've all had different successes, as I know many people have not been able to grow carrots this year and yet mine were perfect (if you like them small). I'm not convinced that last year was the exception weather-wise ... perhaps patterns are establishing and we have to change the way we garden. I hope I'm wrong and that we all have better luck but just in case I'm going to put my tomatoes in a plastic greenhouse next year!

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  5. Sounds as if we are thinking along similar lines Caro, although I plan to grow some carrots to pull very young, as baby veg is costly to buy. Have noted down that tomato, and have my fingers crossed that we all get a good growing season next year.

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    1. It's worth looking at the More Veg website, Janet. There's a new tomato there called "Outdoor Girl" bred for growing outdoors in cooler climates. The seed packets are cheaper because they have fewer seeds for gardeners that want to grow just a few of each plant. I've ordered both 'Outdoor Girl' and another new one called 'First in the Field', another early tomato. I do love my home-grown carrots so I'll probably grow a few in tubs, just for novelty of baby veg especially as they always seem to do well for me.

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  6. Now choosing to grow a vegetable on the grounds of its name sounds perfectly logical to me Caro but that maybe because I've done the very same thing. I almost ordered tomato 'Sub Arctic Plenty' last year so interested to read your observations. The kidney bean sounds as if it was a good doer. Not sure what I will be growing next year but will be sitting down with the catalogues soon.

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    1. I'm going to try and resist the catalogues, Anna as that's how I end up with far too many seed packets in my box! My mind is made up as to which veg I'm growing so that I have more mental space for the flowers, shrubs and other ornamentals that I want to put into the garden. This year I've struggled to find as much time as I wanted to spend in the garden; next year I'll be doing college assignments as well so I need to keep things really straightforward. That's the theory, at least!

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  7. An enjoyable, if somewhat reflective, post. Next year I'm hoping to grow pretty much what I always do but to do it all better - weather permitting!
    I'm going to try Outdoor Girl tomatoes, along with the yellow Golden Queen ones that I grew this year. Both of these, along with most of my other vegetable seeds, I got from MoreVeg.
    Here's hoping that next next will be a much better year! Flighty xx

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    1. Oh dear, here I go again ... those Golden Queen tomatoes sound nice and I fleetingly thought about ordering some seeds but I'm going to be going through my seedbox first! I'm not banking on a return to the weather of previous summers; instead I'll try and change what I grow to suit the weather. The one thing I will be looking out for is the slugs - and hoping to keep some kind of limit on the damage they do!

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  8. It has been tough hasn't it? I agree it's better to grow what you eat the most and those things that are hard to come by in shops. I'm really hoping this last year has been a bit of a blip. Sweetcorn has never worked for me and tomatoes always get blight. My spuds were disappointing this year and they do take up a lot of space so they may not be grown next year. Not sure I could keep my enthusiasm going if this were to become the norm. But us gardeners are an optimistic bunch I'm sure once the seed catalogues come out over Christmas my list will be as long as ever.

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    1. I'm sure that Nature will even up the balance this year. The warmth of the past two years, coupled with this year's rainfall have created an imbalance in the garden - SO many slugs and aphids! Next year, things will be different and our optimism will be restored! Looking back, I don't think things were as bad as we thought, it's just that expectations are so high in the spring and we've all come back to earth with a bump!
      Just in case, I think I might have to get a pair of those lovely wellies you had for your birthday! :)

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  9. I think I ordered the Sub-Arctic Plenty Tomato with my allotment seed order...the image in the catalogue wasn't great so I'm pleased to see how lovely it is from your photo. After this year I don't doubt a lot of us will be attracted to vegetable varieties that include the words 'Sub-artic', 'Canadian' and 'Siberian' ;)

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    1. .. and then we'll be thwarted by a tropical summer and watch as our crops all bolt!! Haha, I live in hope! I expect the seed companies will have geared themselves up for this change in the British weather and will be offering a huge selection of 'new' varieties to cope with the weather. Isn't it funny how seed catalogues put photos of the outside of tomatoes when sometimes the inside is more interesting?

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  10. Merry Christmas Caro :) I'm really looking forward to sowing the seeds you sent last week. Thanks again and enjoy your day! xx

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    1. Tanya, you're most welcome - I love to pass on seeds that I have an excess of! Happy 2013 to us all - I'm looking forward to it already!

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  11. Love the look of that tomato! I grew purple sprouting for the first time last year and while it didn't look anything like the image on the seed packet I was happy with the results and got a lot of pickings from each plant x

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    1. Oh me too! I had two PSB plants and really enjoyed just taking what I needed for supper - and then I let the plant flower and the bees absolutely loved it! A win-win situation :)
      Don't you think that tomato pattern would make a really great lino cut or fabric pattern? I think it's wonderful and worth growing for that alone! xx

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Caro x

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