Not a good year for…

… anything except water, really.  It hasn’t been as wet here as in most parts of the country, and I did need to water the vegetable patch (what’s left of it) for a couple of weeks in August.  That meant I ran out of water in the double water butt, but the second one smelled bad, and when I looked I found I had (turn away now if you haven’t a strong stomach) some slugs decomposing in the bottom of it.  I tipped the water out and cleaned the butts and set them up again.  Two days later the thunderstorms started and I had full waterbutts again.

Slugs and snails seem to have been the bane of everyone’s veg this year.  I did try the nematode treatment from Wiggly Wigglers.  I suspect the first lot didnt work due to it having been left at the back door by my postman and I picked it up two days later.  Only inside does the package say ‘keep cool’!  If it had said that on the outside my postie would have left it in the shade.  So I don’t think that worked.  The second batch arrived when I was in.  I am sure it worked as there were some grotesque slugs around, but it didnt get rid of them all by any means – hence the ones that had found refuge from the heatwave in the damp of the water butt (despite the ‘close-fitting’ lid) and fallen to their doom.  Maybe I’ll try it again next year, maybe not.  They certainly enjoyed my lettuces and all my seedlings.  I kept wondering why the seeds weren’t coming up.  One day I noticed my carrots had sprouted.  Next day, not a trace.  The fennel worked though.  Some of it even almost bulbed up.  So snails don’t like it, good.

Other things that have grown are beans, sweet corn and courgettes. The kale, collards and kohl rabi have done ok, although none of us like the taste of collards (a US type of kale).   Also Endive panacalieri (frizee) and Radicchio Treviso.  These were sown alongside the cut-and-come again lettuce.  I had one meal of the lettuce – next morning it was skeletal and the day after gone completely.  The frizee and the radicchio, alongside, are still going fine.  What gets me about the slugs on lettuce is the way they eat the hearts out then finish the outer leaves, so there is no chance of it recovering.  The tomatoes and cucumber planted outside have failed miserably.  The cucumber in a pot in the mini-greenhouse has done well and has about five babies growing on it.  The tomatoes in pots and growbags are leafy but not that many fruits.  The Amish Paste toms seem to bear fruit only right at the top of the plants, which means stopping them out gets difficult.  But fingers crossed for a small crop.  I’ve had one Black Russian tom ripen so far but there are more on the plant coming along.  Not enough for soup and sauce through the winter, but maybe for one or the other.

Strawberries were shortlived but I did manage to make a couple of pots of jam.  I gather my great-niece has given it her seal of approval.  I ate the half-pot I made and it was delicious.  First crop raspberries were over quickly and had raspberry beetle.  The autumn crop is only just starting (it started in July last year) but is producing steadily at present.

I’ve just started to prepare for winter.  I’ve sown seeds of winter crop and winter density lettuces, endive frizee,  radicchio, swiss chard, sorrel, pak choi and rocket in modules for planting out after I’ve cleared a couple of beds and the sweet corn and beans are finished.  One of those cleared beds will have winter tares sown, the other will have the sorrel, which is hardy.  The other young plants will get fleeced.  We’ll see how things go.  I’m also going to experiment with sowing winter tares under the raspberry bushes, which will then be hoed off in the spring and left to decompose.  I dug it into the bed I did last year; leaving it to decompose is apparently a better strategy.

The comfrey has done well and I really ought to be making comfrey tea for all the plants.  It’s not too late to start today.

Let’s just hope for a better year next year.  And fewer slugs.

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