Cape Gooseberry fruit

The third summer since I restored my vegetable garden is drawing to a close. If I've learned anything it is to give up trying to anticipate the seasonal weather.  Our British summer weather is reliably unreliable. After dealing with scorching heat and drought  in 2018 and the warm and wet in 2019, this time it was cool and damp with the odd few days of hot and sunny. Last week the night time temperature was only 2oC above my usual trigger point for bringing out the fleece - and my tomatoes, aubergines, chillis and peppers were still flowering! 

So what what has worked and what not?

Biggest disappointment - Aubergines: Last year I lost a lot of my aubergine harvest to mould. I suspected it was a combination of the warm, wet weather and overcrowding. This year I have given my plants plenty of space with some in the green house and others in my new tunnel. I sowed three varieties: money maker, rosa-bianca and black beauty.  Just as last year they are watered from below with capillary matting but fed liquid feed (either seaweed or proprietary tomato food) from above once per week. The good news is that it prevented most of the mould but the bad news is that they just failed to thrive and at one point became infected with whitefly and aphids, with those in the greenhouse being particularly badly affected. Two weeks of treatment with insecticidal soap got the problem under control, and the plants perked up a little, but the harvest has definitely been affected. The black beauty are well behind the other two and only started to flower when the cold snap hit them, which I think may be the reason why they dropped about half their flowers. 

Garden Aug 41

Biggest success: Cucumbers. The variety we sowed was Emilie, we sowed in 6 seeds at the end of February and transferred the small plats into the tunnel at the end of April. By mid May we were harvesting our first batch, apart from one spell of bad weather in June when the flowers were not pollinated, they have produced many fruits each week and they are still producing fruit although the next batch is likely to be the last because there are very few new flowers.  The flavour was excellent and they have proved popular as an appetiser when server with hummus. We will definitely grow again.

First Cucumber

Most pleasing: Calabrese and cauliflowers. After the disappointment of of winter and spring crop, the summer crops were an outstanding success. The only problem was that we didn't grow enough. I sowed the cauliflow, variety Orkney, indoors in late January and the calabrese variety Matsuri later in February, repotted and transferred to the green house in March and then planted out in 17 litre grow sacks filled with a soil/compost mix prepared and fertilised with general purpose fertiliser, in in early May. I kept them well watered in dry spells - even short dry spells - and fed them with in early June with a nitrogen and calcium rich feed. We harvested during July.

 Garden August 01 veg

Most fun: As ever the cucamellons. This year we gave them a spot of their own and watched them twist and climb the mesh. 

Garden Aug 52

Biggest surprise: The Cape Gooseberries. Last year none germinated. This year with the aid of a propagator we have grown two through to maturity, each now producing large numbers of fruits. Not quite as large or bright as those sometimes available in supermarkets but I think they are very tasty.

Garden August 39 veg

Biggest flop so far: Pumpkins. Once again the easiest possible variety to grow have failed. Almost certainly pollination problems. There may still be time for some before the end of Autumn but so far 100% of the baby fruits have fallen. No rot or visible problems, just failed to fertilise.  The pollinators aren't keen to be out in the wet and windy weather and are usually to be found in the tunnel on the cucamellons.

Garden August 40 veg

Not sure: the tomatoes. Last year we grew 10 plants of one variety, Sweet Aperitif, in the greenhouse which were prolific. For three weeks at end of August and beginning of September we were harvesting 3-4kg every couple of days and had set up a tomato processing  operation in our kitchen. This year we have grown about 15 plants comprising three or four varieties ranging from tiny cherry tomatoes to Big Daddy.  For the last month we have had a steady supply of tomatoes which we have eaten, so far no large gluts for processing. While this is nice we are a bit concerned that we will not have any of the delicious preserves (chutney, sweet and spicy tomato jam, tomato relish, soup and sauces) which we had to tide us over last winter. There are still plenty of tomatoes on the vines but if this weather continues we are likely to end up with a large number of green tomatoes at the end of the season. Still we know a good recipe for green tomato and lemon marmalade.

Garden Aug 44

Reliable as always: beetroot, onions, kale and cabbage.

Doing better than last year: Chillis, Peppers, Celariac and kohl rahbi. Planning to make celariac and apple soup.

Victims of the gales: Runner beans and tall climning beans, Cobra but mainly my fault for not providing robust enough frame. Needs to be improved for next year.

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