The last couple of months have been a bit hit and miss in the vegetable garden as the wet weather put a dampener on activities. It has all been rather frustrating as the chores have piled up. Never mind we have been busy in the kitchen processing our excess harvest into pickles, chutney, jam and - new to us this year - fermented produce.

Storing our produce has always been a worry. One year we lost a whole harvest of potatoes and last year more than half our apples rotted before we could use them, although there were so many we didn't miss them. This year we have finally succeeded with most of our crops: onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots have all kept well and so far the apples are remaining crisp and edible although to be fair it is very early days! 

We had far fewer pears than last year. All the pears from one tree were cracked. Their surfaces were a maze of splits and cracks resembling baked mud, there was no sign of infection, scabs or mould but they failed to ripen and fell prematurely. Googling around suggested that the problem was water. Dry period followed by very wet. I'll go with the wet but I can't remember a prolonged dry spell; and the tree next to it (a different type of pear) produced a whole crop of perfect fruit despite it developing pear rust. I've had the pear trees about 25 years and never seen it before but it matched the description perfectly. 


The pear rust was easy to identify but as the season progressed and others of my plants developed discoloured, spotted, curled or wilting leaves, it was much harder to identify. I spent hours reading guides, descriptions of diseases, conditions in which they appear or thrive, preventative measures, antidotes etc. but apart from the pear rust and the mould on the aubergines I remained almost as much in the dark as before I started. Having said that most of the material I read provided general advice on good practice which I can apply to most of my greenhouse the crops. As I'm not a commercial grower losing money each time something fails or the harvest is reduced it isn't a big problem. I just need to ensure I disinfect thoroughly at the end of the season and don't reintroduce the problem on pots or tools next year.

The main crop of beans has finished. The broad beans kept producing until end of August when they succumbed to some sort of rust. The runner beans delivered in a season of two halves: little fruit from the first flowering when the weather turned, cool damp and the bees were less active to a bumper crop from the later flowering plants. The dwarf french beans were tasty but we didn't get many and I was disappointed with the borlotti beans.  My autumn sowing of peas and broad for early harvesting next year have started to sprout. As last year I have sown some outside and some in pots in the greenhouse.

The beetroot and salsify produced a good crop; the parsnips are doing well - I tried one but I'm hoping they'll keep until Christmas - but the celeriac was only leaves last time I looked. Why is it that things sold as easy to grow are the most difficult? But the biggest disaster was that all the kale, Chinese cabbage and most of the kohlrabi I grew from seed was devoured by caterpillars - next year I need to be quicker with the butterfly mesh.

In the greenhouse the Sweet Aperitif cherry tomatoes were prolific. We were harvesting 2-3 kilograms a day at their peak. You can never have too many tomatoes! We harvested a good number of Money Maker aubergines - more than we could eat so they were processed into chutney and some preserved in oil for over winter - despite losing a good part of the crop to mould (below). The black beauty aubergine plants were very late. We got a few fruits but most were only beginning to come into flower as the weather began to cool and the miserable Autumn weather strike.

mouldy aubergine

The giant bell peppers were a success and the various chilli plants have produced a reliable steady crop. The super hot chillies planted by the Webmaster were slow to get going and are only now ripening. The plants have many young, unripe fruits but it may now be too late for them to ripen. Some how the tomatoes and peppers managed to avoid the mould which had affected the aubergines, at least for several months. I can only think that it was the air circulation in the greenhouse. There was no question that we had tried to accommodate too many plants and they were definitely overcrowded. Another beginners, amateurish mistake but we'll learn for next year.

When I retired and decided to resurrect my vegetable garden I didn't expect to be growing so much, but my excuse is Brexit. It is no secret that I think Brexit is a very bad idea and that many of its proponents are deluded about the ability of any country to operate completely independently outside their regional bloc, even if they once held an empire. Nevertheless I thought to cheer myself up I'd join in the spirit of things and see if I could make a go of the independent good life. This would require producing enough and sufficiently varied food to provide for myself and my family throughout the year. I have by no means made it yet but I'm working on it.

Rather than reduce the number of plants to solve the overcrowding problem I have embarked on another new project. Reclaim old ground, long left to become overgrown, repurpose it and build a poly tunnel. So I've splashed out on a polytunnel and we are now breaking our backs preparing the ground where we plan to erect it.  The challenge next year will be to resist the temptation to grow even more!

Arena1 2018

Arena polytunnel prep 2019