As we approach the end of the year, I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on 2017. It has been a busy year in the garden, one way and another. Cue wavy effect on the screen as we take a trip back through time…
I conducted a few very small scale trials in the first half of the year. Usually the point of these trials is to test for myself when confronted with conflicting advice, or something I’ve never tried before. I found it tricky to manage the trials and deal with the volume of work that comes with too many seeds, cuttings & plants. I will do trials next year but just a couple I think. This year the most valuable trial was on seed sowing mix. I’m sticking with the winning approach, it seems to work consistently.
I sowed all my seeds using that method, putting all the freshLy sown pots into the heated bench. My one-size fits all sowing approach worked for probably three quarters of the seeds I sowed. The remainder were either dud seeds, or much more likely, needed a different treatment – a period of chill, for example. I need to do a bit more research before sowing next year’s multitude.
Still, I grew hundreds of plants from seed this year. Many I planted, some went to friends and family, some to plant fairs, some to the compost heap. Yet more are waiting to be a useful size and for some planting space. I remain a big fan of growing stuff from seed, I’m going to do a lot more of this in 2018 and damn the consequences!
My trials and tribulations at cuttings were the main reason for starting this blog a year ago. It has been a mixed picture this year with some notable failures to go with some successful outcomes. If I step right back, however, I have at least got lots of cuttings to root, which is a lot more than I can say for previous years.
Next year the goal is to keep more of the rooted cuttings alive until they become useful plants. I have the learnt the hard way not to overfeed them, I believe this to be the main cause of sudden death. One of my trials next year will be on feeding of rooted cuttings, we’ll see if my hypothesis is correct.
The Heated Bench
I suppose I would manage without it, but really it has been fantastic. Faster germination and faster and more reliable rooting have been the main benefits. I haven’t measured the difference, but I bet it also helps to keep the greenhouse a little less cold in the winter – the warm sand probably acts like a storage heater. I enjoyed building it back in January, you can read how here.
Like the plant magpie I am, easily attracted to shiny baubles, I “rescued” a lot of plants from the clearance shelves of garden centres and DIY sheds. They were undoubtedly bargains but did I need them? No, but I did *want* them, or seemed to at the time. They say the first step to solving a problem is recognising that you have one. I hereby confess that the bargain is often the object of my desire, rather than the plant itself. I do love a bargain. I grow so many plants from seed or cuttings that I really shouldn’t need to add any by buying them. And yet here we are at the end of the year with a backlog of planting. I should probably stop.
Talking of not being able to stop, I bought about 600 bulbs this autumn. Very roughly, about 150 daffodils, 150 alliums, the rest assorted tulips. I was so sick of planting bulbs by the time I was done. I trust it will be worth it. I also hope the tulips aren’t one-hit wonders, so that I won’t have to plant a load more next year, although I may find it hard to resist the bulb offers when they hit my email.
Surfing the wave of renewed interest in dahlias, I have partaken of a few gaudy blooms this year. The Bishop’s Children have been reliable knee-high performers for months this year, with vivid colours and some interesting foliage in some cases. I might get some more ‘bishop’ varieties next year. Cos I need more plants, right?
I also grew a few showier dahlias for the first time. My favourites were ‘Black Jack’ which is a deep red, and ‘Rebecca’s World’ which always reminded me of a raspberry pavlova.
They’re dug up now and safely stored now for the winter. I plan to take cuttings in March and get more of my favourites for….for what exactly? Not sure. I’ll think of something.
This year I undertook a significant overhaul of more than half of the back garden borders, and a totally new start in the front garden. I did some amateurishly colourful designs which helped me think through what might go where. I didn’t always follow them, but it helped.
I’ll do the same again for next year, I still have a lot of work to do, not least to figure out how to accommodate more plants. I got a disproportionate amount of pleasure from revamping the front garden this summer. It was a weedy mess before, transformed by digging & mulching new wider borders and filling with the fruits of my propagating labours, about 200 plants in total went in. Next year will be even better I hope.
I find myself eyeing up parts of the back lawn for conversion to border, possibly to create some garden ‘rooms’, break up the plot a bit. More plants, less mowing. Win win.
Fruit and Veg
Produce has not been high on my list of priorities this year. I let the veg side of things slide in about June. I harvested what there was but didn’t really take any steps to maximise yield from my little plot of three 4’x8′ raised beds. The notable winners were courgettes, runner beans, salad leaves, leeks, apples – it was a great year for apples.
The notable losers were carrots (bloody carrots!), parsnips & raspberries.
The raspberries, new canes early this year, were a big disappointment. Turns out they do not appreciate being mulched with spent mushroom compost. High lime content doesn’t agree with them it seems. I got hardly any growth, never mind fruit. I’m hoping they’ll recover a bit next year with some regular garden compost added in place of the top layer of soil. I might even dig all the canes up, dig big holes and replace the soil entirely with compost, manure and whatever else I can get my hands on. I demand raspberries!
I am going entirely no-dig in the veg beds next year, having been persuaded of the benefits. I have recently mulched all three with a nice thick layer of lovely well-rotted horse manure. I am determined to achieve a better yield from the plot in 2018 and am planning accordingly, in excruciating and possibly futile detail. Watch this space!
This is a bit recursive, reflecting on the blog in a blog post about reflection. This has been my first year as a blogger. I’ve enjoyed the mechanics of the blog, the planning, the writing, selecting the photos. I’ve enjoyed even more interacting with other bloggers and visitors to the blog. I inadvertently created a meme back in May – a recurring blog post series in which others participate. “Six on Saturday” seems to have some legs, even in the depths of winter we have a committed band of regular contributors. This might be my favourite aspect of the blog this year, in fact. If interested in taking part, you can find out more here. Visitors to the blog have increased nicely over the year from a modest 227 views and 54 visitors in January, to almost 4500 views, 850 visitors in November.
Hardly the stuff of global hegemony, and not my main driver. Pleasing, though. When I started this blog almost exactly 1 year ago, I had not the faintest inkling that what I wittered on about would be of any interest to anyone else, but it seems even I can reach an audience with the help of the interweb.
A review of the gardening year would not be complete without mentioning the Twitter crowd. I was a Twitter virgin until about March this year when I took my first tentative steps with the idea of encouraging more visitors to this blog. That part certainly worked, but I have been delighted to find that the gardening, blogging and gyo crew on Twitter are a funny, interesting, helpful, knowledgeable, raucous and entertaining bunch, all very willing to share their experience and advice. Far too much of my time is spent fiddling about chit-chatting, but I do enjoy it – an entirely unexpected benefit and one I now value greatly. You know who you are, cheers!
Overall, 2017 has been a busy, fun year in the garden. Most importantly, I continue to learn, and am very much looking forward to next year.
Have a fabulous Christmas, I hope you get some R&R time with family and friends, and here’s to a successful growing year in 2018!
I’ll be back soon with more gardening, propagating and GYO-ing nonsense.