Christmas is just around the corner and 2019 is nearly coming to an end. Around this time of year, I always enjoy looking back and making resolutions for the year ahead. This year, I was once again reminded of how much, and why, I love growing and eating my own vegetables, and I hope I can transfer some of that enthusiasm to you as you’re reading this. In this post I’ll give you an overview of what we ate and harvested from the garden this year, as well as a brief breakdown of what happened in the different seasons – the triumphs and successes, but also the disappointments and the lessons learned.
What we harvested and ate from our garden this year:
Green peas; broad beans; pink onions; beetroot; lettuce; courgettes; (large) cherry tomatoes; cucumbers; potatoes, broccoli, (sweetheart cabbage).
Rosemary; thyme; oregano; mint; sage.
Next year I also want to grow:
Cavolo nero, aubergines (which we tried this year, but they refused to grow), pumpkins and butternut squash (I loved them last year and kinda missed them this time around)
As always, the growing season started with buying seeds, seed trays, bulbs and seed potatoes. The green peas, broad beans, red beets and artichokes were sown mid February in trays and lovingly raised indoors. Once they were big enough, mid March, we could plant them all out in our raised beds. At the end of February we also built a new bed for the potatoes. In March we sowed the lettuce straight into the raised bed and in April we planted the onions.
We’d hoped the artichokes we planted last year would come out of their hibernation and reappear, but unfortunately we’ve been having a bit of a mice problem and the artichoke roots we covered up lovingly at the end of 2018 had all been eaten by the time we removed their straw blankets. No artichokes for us this year. Fortunately, by mid June, we could harvest our first peas, broad beans, beetroot and lettuce.
Summer was hot and abundant. We harvested plenty of lettuce, peas, broad beans, beetroot, and a little later on also onions, bags full of beautiful potatoes, and courgettes, tomatoes and cucumbers.
At first we were a bit worried about the number of aphids on our broad bean plants, but they eventually disappeared without doing any real damage, and our broad bean yield was far from disappointing.
We planted out our cabbage and broccoli seedlings, but they struggled a lot with the heat and had a rough start.
The strawberries, which had been so bountiful last year, did not come back this this time around, but instead the plum trees were prolific this summer. Most of the plums were claimed by the wasps, but we managed to eat a fair few ourselves, and they were delicious.
The potatoes were a big hit. They did really well and were so plentiful we could share them generously with family and friends. In addition to potato curries and salads, we also made plenty of jacket potatoes (on the barbecue and even in a campfire!) and some of the best oven roast potato wedges I’ve had in my life.
The loose-leaf lettuce grew like crazy, up to the point where we were fed up with eating big bowls of lettuce every day, and we finally just let it go to seed. The Romaine lettuce formed little tight heads, which were delicious and even firm enough to grill.
As usual the courgettes kept on giving for a long time, and they were scrumptious, grilled on the barbecue, in soup or in pasta dishes.
The onions (a delicate pink variety) were lovely; the peas and broad beans were divine once again; and the beetroot performed a lot better than last year. We still multi-sowed them, but in smaller groups, giving them more room to grow and allowing them to reach a better size. The beetroot itself was lovely and sweet, and the beet greens could be used as leafy greens in almost anything – growing your own beetroot really is a two for one deal.
When we moved into autumn, our cucumber plants, amazingly, still continued to yield and the chunky, spiky cucumbers they produced even became a little sweeter. I pickled a few of them, but most of them were just eaten raw, as a snack, salad or vegetable for rice bowls or gado gado.
The sweetheart cabbage was very slow to develop and showed little promise. We also failed to pay attention to those pesky butterflies, so, after a while, we had quite a few cabbage-loving caterpillars to remove. Likewise, the broccoli seemed to have been a bit stressed out and many plants already went to seed (burst into flower) before forming broccoli heads. Fortunately, the bees loved their little yellow flowers and the broccoli plants that hadn’t gone to seed provided us with the loveliest little tenderstem-like heads of broccoli for a long time. They were utterly delicious – sweet rather than sulphurous – and needed nothing but a quick blanch, a drizzle of good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
And now it’s winter again, which means we’ve come full circle. Most of the sweetheart cabbages have refrained from folding themselves into tight heads and the ones that have done so are very small. As we speak, we haven’t harvested them yet, but when we do, probably within the next two weeks, they probably won’t amount to more than one meal.
And then it’s time to clean up all our raised beds, spread a nice layer of compost on them and perhaps some mulch and let the soil have a little rest until it all starts up again in a few months.
When it comes to growing my own vegetables, I’m absolutely hooked and I’m already looking forward to the next growing season. And about those mice? We just heard the farmer, whose land we’re using, has acquired a new cat, so the future looks promising.