Our kitchen garden – summer successes and fails in year 1
It’s been a while since I shared my kitchen garden progress on the blog. If you follow me on instagram then you will already know about a fair few of our successes (aubergines and beetroot being the main ones) but we’ve also had a few fails. Keep reading to find out how we’ve been getting on and the lessons we’ve learnt.
Before I tell you about the things that haven’t quite gone so well, I feel like we should probably start on a high! We’ve been incredibly lucky that the weather has been good this summer which not only means our fruits and vegetables have been able to grow in abundance, but it has also meant that we have been able to get out and tend to our garden.
We’ve also had the help of our friends. We had one really nice weekend in particular when a friend of Jon’s came over to help dig up the last of the bushes on the left hand side of our garden. In return he got a BBQ lunch and plenty of beer to keep him hydrated!
The thing I am most proud of is how much space we have created in the garden. Down the right hand side we now have a large long, but relatively thin vegetable patch which we dug out of nowhere!
We have also reclaimed a space of patio which was completely covered by spring onions and rosemary. Whilst we haven’t utilised this space for growing it does house our smoker and BBQ which are essential bits of kit in a kitchen garden!
As of this week we’ve also now removed all of the bushes from the left hand side of the garden. This was a mammoth task as there were 8 large, very well established bushes along here with huge root networks. There were also lots of vines, ferns and reeds growing in between. Removing them has given us another large veg patch. It also makes the garden feel wider as the bushes no longer spill over on to the lawn and tower above the height of the fence.
Enjoying the fruits of our labour
We were lucky that some of the hardwork had already been done for us as the garden came with blackcurrants, apples and raspberries already planted and well established. It’s been wonderful being able to pick fruit over the last few months. The raspberries in particular went mad and we’ve had more than we knew what to do with at times. I think we are about to have the same problem with the apples!
As well as the fruit, we’ve also had tonnes of beetroot and aubergines. The herb garden has also served us very very well which led to my posting this red pepper pesto and this oregano oil. I think we are going to have more brussel sprouts then we will know what to do with later in the year.
The last few months have been far from rosey and the biggest blow has been discovering and battling with garden pests. Some were easier to deal with than others…
Pigeons were the first nuisance we had to contend with. I thought we’d lost an entire broccoli crop after just one week because the pigeons just wouldn’t stop pecking away. The solution was to attach netting on to the fence at the back and to pin it using tent pegs at the front of the vegetable patch. That way the birds couldn’t get to the leaves to peck at them. We’ve since “upgraded” this system by creating a frame with bamboo canes. which helps to keep the netting at a level higher than the vegetables (otherwise they have a tendency to try and grow through it).
The pigeons (and squirrels) also ate a lot of our berries. Fortunately we had so many that it wasn’t the end of the world. That being said, we intend to create a frame and cover this whole area with netting next year.
We also had a bit of a nightmare with cabbage fly attacking our brussel sprouts. These were one of the first plants to really shoot up so when they started getting eaten to death I was really worried. Luckily we invested in a natural pesticide which got rid of them in just one treatment. If we had used netting which also kept butterflies out we may not have had the same problem. But you live and learn! Perhaps we will upgrade our netting next year.
I can’t even bring myself to write this one down and I think I’m incredibly brave to even mention this at all on the blog. But, it’s a hazard of urban gardening.
Back in May we discovered we were sharing our outdoor area with a family of furry rodents. Some big, some small, and some super cute babies. They dug up our carrots and just generally made me feel uncomfortable about spending time outside, especially after they came to join us one evening when we were eating dinner out on our patio.
Since then we’ve paid a lovely pest control man called James to come and help us tackle the problem and after just one month of treatment we stopped seeing signs of them. I’m hopeful that’s the last of it but we do live in London with a garden full of food so you never know.
I’ve now got enough tips for keeping these furry critters out of your garden to fill an entire post . If you’d be interested in it let me know in the comments. Otherwise…lets pretend I never mentioned it!
As well as dealing with pests, we had to deal with some unseasonal weather. Our broccoli has bolted not once, but twice because we haven’t been able to keep the ground cool enough. Each time we see a broccoli head roughly the size of a 50p we get excited. Then, overnight, it will shoot up a metre and start flowering! No broccoli in sight.
I’ve since learnt that we should have been adding mulch or watering the soil more regularly to keep the temperature down. I’m pretty gutted that this crop hasn’t produced anything but we will be planting a purple sprouting variety at the end of this month which will hopefully be more successful.
Having had great success with courgettes in the past I have been incredibly frustrated with our courgettes rotting!
It would seem the issue is caused by the flower getting wet or damp, this then starts to rot into the fruit. We’ve had maybe 5 or 6 fall foul of this sad fate so we are now keeping a very close eye on the flowers! It may also be that there is an issue with pollination between the male and female flower – as it’s their first year hopefully this will improve.
Either way, my fingers are crossed that we can get a few more courgettes before the season is out.
What successes and failures have you had this summer? Are there any tips and tricks you’ve picked up on the way? I’d love to hear them in the comments.