Friday, December 28

2018 review

It's been quiet plot-wise for a couple of weeks. Combined with this and a few other issues my blog has been rather neglected so I thought I had better get posting again.

A week or so ago one of the subscribers to Martyn's YouTube channel nominated him to film a review about how things have gone on our plot over 2018. Of course I was roped in as a sidekick and then I was also nominated by one of my subscribers so in a way it was a case of one video fulfilling two nominations. 

To be honest I don't like being in front of a camera these days, especially not to be filmed. I'm still having eye problems which cause me to blink a lot which looks ridiculous and also I'm not able to wear contact lenses at the moment and am very self conscious wearing my thick lensed glasses. Anyway all that aside we managed to produce something which we have posted on our Vlog here.

To spare you watching the video I thought I'd write a summary of our review here.

The first question we were asked was:

What was your best crop of 2018?

In answer to this, Martyn chose the spring and summer brassicas. We had a good crop of cabbage, calabrese and cauliflowers. We grew our brassicas under enviromesh which did a good job of keeping any pests off which on our site with so many 'creatures' on the look out for whatever they can devastate is no mean feat.
I chose carrots and parsnips. Last year we sowed carrots three times and, although each time the seeds germinated, nearly every seedling was munched by slugs or snails. Any roots that did survive were spoiled, probably by the same culprits. This year we have had a really good harvest.
As for the parsnips, we had what looked like a 100% germination rate which meant that I had to bite the bullet and thin out the seedlings. The roots vary in size but we pulled our largest parsnip ever this year.

Martyn chose plums and greengages as the best performing fruits. Most years the plums do fairly well. They tend to have a bumper year followed by a leaner year. This year was a bumper crop and my waspinators seemed to keep the wasps away. This year's greengage harvest was the best ever. In fact this year's crop was almost as great as the total of all the previous year's harvests. This was a treat as we love greengages which are surprisingly sweet given that the green fruits don't even look ripe.
For my star fruit, I chose cranberries. Lots of different berries would have been worthy contenders. The cranberry didn't produce the largest crop but one of the bushes had more fruit than it has ever had before.

2. What was your worst crop of 2018?

Martyn chose potatoes in answer to this question. The potatoes just didn't like the weather conditions in 2018. The plants never flourished. Normally we have potatoes in store to use most of the autumn, winter and early spring but this year we have nearly run out and the tubers that we did manage to harvest were either small or spoiled.
I chose sprouts as the worst performing vegetable. Our sprouts usually do well but this year the plants just stopped growing. Despite growing under enviromesh the plants seem to have fallen victim to aphid attack. Now when we should be picking them they have only produced tiny buds. We did manage to pick one or two  diminutive specimens for Christmas dinner though.
Martyn's disappointing fruits were strawberries. Most of our strawberry plants dried up and withered. We're guessing that we will need to replace them next year.
I chose two fruits in answer to this questions. The first were the gooseberries that for the first time ever fell victim to mildew.
For my second selection I chose pears. The pears were loaded with blossom, the bees busily pollinated the flowers but hardly any fruit set. 
3. What would you do differently/lessons learned

Even though we try not to fall into the trap of planting, or sowing, too early it is always difficult to ignore the fact that everyone else seems to be pressing on with things when we are still not even off the starting blocks. With the cold start to spring this year we fell into the trap of being impatient for conditions to improve and started one or two things a bit too early. We know that things sown or planted later do catch up but it's always so tempting to make a start as early as we can.

4. What was your biggest challenge this year?

Without doubt this was the weather, and not just the hot dry summer when we were watering nearly every day. We had a cold, snowy start to spring. Early on the ground was too wet and soggy to dig and then, when the weather warmed up, quickly this turned into ground too dry and hard to dig. On top of all that we had gales that, amongst other things, flattened our newly planted leeks.
5 What are your plans for 2018

Martyn is on the lookout for a potato called Athlete that was recommended by one of the YouTube channels that he subscribes to.  He also wants to grow some Sarpo potatoes in some of our rougher beds. As these will be planted later than our other potatoes he wants to use blight resistant varieties.

I want to grow some fleshier varieties of tomatoes which will be better for cooking and making tomato sauces for freezing. The varieties this year were juicy and produced 'watery' sauces. One variety on our list is the large ox-heart variety, Albenga, that we saw, and tasted, growing in Roger Brooks greenhouse when we visited him in September.
I also want to stick to growing the round bulbed onions rather than the flatter ones. Once the flatter onions are prepared for cooking, there's not really much onion left.
We also are thinking of growing more varieties of squash, probably the smaller varieties. We use a lot of squash over winter and so these would need to be suitable for storing.

6 Who inspired you in 2018

Neither of us were in any doubt about the answer to this. Our inspiration comes from other Bloggers, Facebookers and YouTubers. Reading what other 'ordinary' gardeners grow in their own gardening spaces is far more inspirational than anything read in magazines and books or watched on the television. So thanks you for sharing your ideas, successes and failures with us. We look forward to seeing what you are all up to in 2019.


  1. How lovely to see you both, and hear you talking about your growing year. You've made an excellent video, so well done both. The brassicas look absolutely amazing, it really is a challenge to grow them, with all the pests that love them. The cranberries are fantastic, they're something I've thought about growing, and you've really encouraged me with that photo. My pears tend to take a year off. I thought they would this year, but surprisingly they didn't, although I don't think they particularly liked the dry weather. Albenga looks like an amazing tomato, I shall enjoy seeing what you think of it. And I agree, the online gardening community is hugely inspirational. It's been a sad Christmas down at the allotments (which I still pass regularly, despite not having a plot now) as four sheds were burned to the ground in three separate arson attacks. It really is heartbreaking to lose all that equipment and the shed as well. There were also two arson attacks on the local school, which prompted the police to find the culprits, although there's still been another (school) attack since. Anyway, that was rather by the by, but I just wanted to second what you say about ordinary gardeners being hugely inspirational. Here's to a good growing year in 2019!

    1. Glad that you enjoyed it CJ and I agree that it is heartbreaking when allotment property is destroyed. We don't keep anything of value in our shed and transport tools back and forth. We have had shed break-ins but arson is by far worse. I just don't understand why people act in such a way and obviously have no empathy for their victims. We grow our brassicas under enviromesh to keep all the beasties away or should I say try to keep them away.

  2. I was going to say that it's good to be spoilt for choice when it comes to nominating a best crop, both you and Martyn choosing something different, but then I see that it applies to the worst crops too. No different from other years then, there's always good and bad in any year but I think 2018 was a somewhat of a challenge for gardeners with the hot, dry summer so you've done well with any harvest but just look at those brassicas, fabulous specimens, and the size of that parsnip. I wonder what challenges 2019 will throw at us.

    1. It was certainly a challenging year, Jo and no doubt next year's good and bad performers will be quite different.

  3. Ooh, I envy your brassicas! We managed one tiny cauliflower, but yours look perfect. This year's heatwave certainly impacted on our harvests, but surely we're not expecting another one next year...?

    1. The cauliflowers were good this year, Belinda but they usually do quite well. What variety do you grow?
      I don’t expect we’ll have another summer like the last one for a while!

    2. Our cauliflowers were 'Amazing', but they weren't for us this year!

  4. I was amazed at your produce this year especially as it was such a cold spring and scorching

    1. I don't think we would have done as well if we hadn't been constantly watering, Dina

  5. Your cabbage is so healthy. It's really interesting me

  6. Every year there are winners and losers when growing edibles, but I'd say on the whole that you have done amazingly well given such a difficult growing weather. I'm massively impressed with your Cabbages, Cauliflower and Broccoli, what varieties did you grow? I'm not growing potatoes at the moment, but could imagine that this long dry summer would have been a big challenge for such a water hungry crop. I love your greengages - they look so good. Well done to you both for such a great harvest through 2018. Best wishes and good growing for 2019.

  7. We grew, cabbage were Regency, Kilaton and Kalibro, savoy was Sabrosa, cauliflowers were Clapton, Aalsmer and Helsinki, calabrese were Aquiles and Monclano. Potatoes don’t like the heat either, Julieanne apparently above a certain temperature the tubers stop growing. We love greengages too.

    1. I didn't know they actually stopped growing above a certain heat. It explains why Scotland is where most seed etc potatoes come from.

    2. It was a surprise to me too. It also explains why growing sweet potatoes is more prevalent in some parts of the US.


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