Last blog of 2019

salad leaves from the polytunnel

It’s the last day of 2019 …. didn’t that pass quickly? I’m sure there are things on my “to do” list from February that I’m still meaning to get round to!

salad leaves from the polytunnel
harvest of fresh salad leaves from the polytunnel

I hope you all had a lovely festive time. I’ve mostly been at home, with Christmas day spent at my sister’s in Oxford with family.

The weather here in Somerset has been rather grim for months now, such a lot of rain which means I feel behind with a lot of the gardening I had hoped to do – there’s only so much that can be achieved in the odd snatched hour of dry weather, especially at this time of year when it is dark around 4pm. This has not diminished harvests happily, with the allotment, home garden beds and polytunnel producing delicious fresh vegetables.

It’s fantastic having this abundant fresh larder but I do sometimes forget to pick things for tea (an evening meal, not the beverage) until after it gets dark, so being organised is helpful.

A few weeks ago I harvested all of the allotment celeriac along with some carrots, beetroot, leeks and other veg – the celeriac, carrots, beetroot and parsnips store well in the understairs cupboard at home, which has a concrete floor and is cool, dark and frost free. This is very helpful when I forget to pick greens etc as there’s plenty of delicious meals to be made from homegrown root veg.

Everything was a lot muddier than usual, because it has rained an awful lot here.

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After harvesting, I “tucked up” the beetroot and carrots for winter, using two layers of horticultural fleece and then some enviromesh. I have had both now for around a decade, if you take care of crop protection it can last a long time. The enviromesh is to protect the fleece from any allotment visitors with claws. The holes are too tiny for anything to become tangled up in it. Everything has been weighed down with stones to prevent it from flying off in windy weather and also to enable anything curious enough to burrow underneath to get safely out! (I don’t actually want anything to burrow underneath, but neither do I wish to harm them.) This protects the veggies from very cold weather (even worked during the Beast from the East) and I can harvest from these beds right through to the spring when they will naturally go to seed.

The allotment is heavy clay – my no dig beds and paths have coped very well with weather that has caused a lot of flooding in my area. I can walk on the paths and beds with no problems. This photo (taken by my son Ruairi) shows flood water pouring into the river Brue: some of the roads here have been impassable and many of the fields have become lakes – much to the delight of opportunist ducks!

It’s mostly eased now thankfully.

Lots of rain combined with very mild temperatures for the time of year means that annual weed seeds are germinating at the allotment and I can’t hoe them off, it’s too wet. The weeds are mostly from the flowers I grow there and grass creeping in from the surrounding paths. I’ll have to hand weed them mostly, but at least that is good exercise after all of the festive feasting.

The polytunnel is full and abundant. As well as the veggies in the ground, in here I’m overwintering lemon verbena and other semi-tender herbs in pots and also some pots of daffodils for cutting, to bring them on sooner. All of the overwintering chillies and a couple of lemon verbenas too (I have a lot of that herb!) are on windowsills in the house where it is frost free.

Chimney Sheep kindly sent me some jute (a veganic mulch made from plant materials) and wool based mulches which I’m trialling on top of the compost in the pots – so far it is doing an excellent job of conserving moisture. It may also keep the roots a little warmer. The plants have all been cut back hard for the winter months, they will sprout again in the spring.

I filled the broken wheelie bin with water from the outside tap to use as a dipping pool for the winter. It also helps to make a cosy nook for these plants.

They sent me some larger sheets of mulch for trialling in the garden, but unfortunately the area where I had planned to use it is in a horrible state, thanks to high winds which smashed up most of my fence. Sadly this storm also badly snapped a plum tree. I was advised that it could have been possible to tie the trunk back on but although I tried this really wasn’t a job that was humanly possible for me on my own!

So I’ve got 9 fence panels that need replacing, the broken ones piled up on a bed behind the greenhouse (regular readers may recall that this has happened before, although not as bad): I hope to be able to repurpose them in various projects around the garden. I’m not posting any photos of the damage to protect the privacy of my neighbours as one can see right into their garden, but there’s several panes of the greenhouse smashed, trays and pots blown about the garden, it’s all fairly horrible really! Imagine the scene – a very windy day and there I was with a crow bar, trying to rescue a line of 5 six food high fence panels still attached to the wooden posts that had snapped right through, which were lying in a heap in my neighbours’ garden. Not much fun.

(I have someone lined up to do the work and fit much stronger panels.)

On a cheerier note, Vegepod sent me this to try out. I have a lot of concrete in my back garden and am always looking for new ways of making it a productive area rather than a hard standing monoculture, mostly using large pots and containers at ground level. So this will be a bit different as it is growing waist height.

I’m going to write about it in a separate blog, explaining the composts I used to fill it, which focused on creating diverse soil biology in a confined space – it’s very simple! –  information useful for all container growing.

Wishing you a very happy 2020. I’m going to make some veggie bhajis now to take to a New Year’s Party tonight. And tomorrow I shall be starting the new year by doing my tax return accounts!!

Finally, look who I found in the polytunnel! Meet Doris the Dor Beetle, a kind of dung beetle called Geotrupes stercorarious. She is living happily in the mulch (this is Dalefoot compost, part of a trial I’m doing) – compost mulch supports so much wildlife, but I have never seen a beetle like this one before.


13 thoughts on “Last blog of 2019”

  1. Lovely to hear your news. Have been too busy to concentrate on my garden recently but look forward to getting back into i in the New Year so please keep the encouragement coming! Was down near Bruton just before Christmas and the water was up to the car door cill!!!!!!

  2. So look forward to the New Year and reading all of your wonderful posts! Still loving your cookbooks and gardening tips! Have a great New Year! It will be a while before, I can garden. But lots of fun planning and reading in the winter months. 🙂 Best to you and your family!

  3. Happy new year and hope it will be a good one,I have had a mixed year from my first no dig peas and the beans did well and the early potatoes,most of the beetroot and chard was a bit up and down there’s always this coming year,I am still leaning.the weather hasn’t helped we have had a lot rain,I haven’t started to mulch my beds yet.

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Happy New Year – yes, there’s always something that doesn’t go quite according to plan with gardening!

  4. I live in France now and made the veggie Bhajis from your wonderful book for an impromptu New Year’s Eve drinks party. I have never seen food devoured so quickly, they are absolutely delicious.

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Thank you Judy – I love bhajis too 🙂

      I made some for the party Charles and I attended last night, a different recipe to the book, a store cupboard speedy recipe – I’ll post it here soon.

  5. Pingback: The surprising abundance of January! – no dig home

  6. Is it too early to say how successful your compost trial with dalefoot has been? Considering a purchase.

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