What a strange year it has been in the vegetable garden. I’ve been harvesting crops fairly steadily all summer, but not what I expected. I had to change things around to adapt to challenging conditions. The vegetables have had to contend with that long cool spring, then the invasion of giant slugs, followed by a dry, thirsty summer and finally, as things are winding down, a new onslaught of devastation by deer.
Nevertheless, I have managed to grow some new crops and cultivars, as well as enjoying some old favourites. So I thought that it would be worth a post to review some of this year’s experiments.
Early on I managed a modest pea and bean crop and while not brilliant in terms of quantity I have to say that it was worth growing the broad bean ‘Crimson flowered’ for the display of flowers alone. They were beautiful and popular with bumblebees. The plants produced short pods over a lengthy period until they eventually succumbed to rust.
In the sell-off at the end of last year’s season I managed to pick up a couple of packets of seeds from the Eden Project for a snip. I found the unopened packet of lentils a couple of weeks ago, but I did sow the chickpeas (Chickpea ‘Principe’ – Cicer arietinum).
And they grew … like common vetch, with fetching feathery, silvery leaves and white flowers. Then the furry little bladders containing the seeds (~2 per pod) puffed up:
Maybe I’ve got enough for a tagine, but I’ll definitely have to grow more plants next year.
With the failure of leafy vegetables in the garden (due to the slug problem) I’ve been looking for alternatives. Then I remembered growing New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) when we live on La Palma and thought that, with its unusual texture, it would be worth a go here. NZ spinach is not related to ordinary spinach, but is a fleshy, crisp, spreading plant (a bit like purslane). The leaves are small, triangular, slightly hairy and numerous. The great thing is that the more you pick it the more it branches and comes back.
It is a good thing that it likes being cut back, because this turns out to be another thing the deer likes. Luckily the slugs left 50% of the plants, so we are doing fine with it. The leaves can be used raw in salad or cooked like spinach. You can purchase seeds from Chiltern Seeds.
Another thing I was determined to try this year was a crop of soya beans. All of the family love Edamame and I seem to be buying this bean at the supermarket all the time, so I thought it would be good to see how easy it is to grow. D.T Brown sells a cultivar called ‘Elena’ that claims to be ‘the best GM-free soya bean for the British climate’, hence I am giving that a go.
And so far they have been trouble and pest free, but I haven’t had a chance to try any yet because the crop isn’t quite ready. Apparently, when the leaves start to drop, sometime in September, the pods will be ready for harvest. I can’t wait for this one!
My tomato crop was hit by blight before we went away in early August, so I stripped all the leaves off the outdoor plants completely and enjoyed our holiday. You can imagine how happy I was to see the fruit on the bare stalks turning red (and yellow and orange) on our return, with no further sign of the disease. I’ve ended up with a bumper crop of ‘Sungold’, but I really like the look and taste of this yellow plum tomato that a friend supplied. She said that it is an heirloom variety, but can’t say more. If anyone recognises it I’d love to be able to get seed next year. I have tried to save some, but it is my first time doing this so I don’t know how successful I will be!
A final new crop for this year is pansy. Yes, pansy is an edible flower and I am following the example set by Robbie of Palm Rae Urban Potager (who loves Historic pansies) and encourages us all to enjoy some pretty salads from our productive plots.
Have you grown anything new this year?