Veg Patch Benchmarking

This season more than any other, most of my conversations with other local gardeners have been centred around “How are your beans doing? Mine are really late”, or “My courgettes are tiny this year…how are yours?” So, I thought it might be helpful to do a little benchmarking in this week’s post with a quick lowdown on all the crops in my veg patch so that you can compare progress with your own plot. (Please forgive the use of the jargony word “benchmarking”. I’ve never liked it much, but I couldn’t think of a different word to explain the concept).

The Good:

  • Salad leaves – I’ve been growing these in a spot that gets a lot of shade during the day, so they’ve kept quite cool and the soil hasn’t dried out too quickly. As a result, they’ve been doing really well and I’ve had a good, continuous harvest for several weeks now. The rocket is just starting to bolt now.
  • Spinach and Chard – Planted at Easter, these have been growing really well all season, although they look like they want to bolt now.
  • Mangetout – after a rocky start (the leaves turned purple in the cold winds and dry conditions of May/early June, these have shot up and I am harvesting every day with no signs of the plants slowing down.
  • Beetroot – apart from the damage done to leaves by an escapee chicken, these have been great. However, some plants took an awful lot longer to establish themselves in the early spring, so they are a little way behind yet. It was strange to see them growing at different rates.
  • Broad Beans – the best crop I’ve had yet, and I put it down to going “no dig”. I haven’t had any trouble with black fly for once (although there is a chance this is simply due to the blackfly being more attracted to the globe artichokes in the opposite bed)
  • Peppers – They’re a good size and beginning to crop, however there are a lot of aphids on each plant (they’re in a greenhouse). I’m trying to keep on top of it so am hoping the harvest won’t be too badly affected.
  • Kale – Probably the best thing I’ve grown this season. I’ve been growing all brassicas under a fine mesh net, so caterpillars and pigeons haven’t been a problem.
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli – looking super healthy and just beginning to sprout now having been planted at the end of April.
  • Sprouts – doing well under the mesh netting.
  • Leeks – looking good and healthy.
  • Celeriac – I’ve been careful to keep these well watered to make sure the roots swell. So far so good.
  • Potatoes – I think these have been more or less on par with other years, although the yield has definitely been smaller from each plant. I think that must be due to lack of water.
  • Onions – Best ones yet, they’re huge!

The Late:

  • Winter Squash – these are unbelievably small still. I planted some around Easter, and another batch in late May, but neither have grown very much. I plan on pruning them as soon as I’ve got one or two fruits on each plant, to try and help them produce a decent crop before the end of autumn.
  • Courgettes – I have only just started harvesting these this week. That’s so late! Normally I’d have been harvesting courgettes for weeks by now.
  • Climbing Runner Beans & French Beans – these grew so slowly in spring and early summer, and have only reached the top of their supports in the last few days. There are some flowers, but not many, and very few fruit forming. Again, this is really late…it’s nearly August and I’ve already picked a few ripe blackberries along the hedgerow!
  • Borlotti Beans – no flowers yet, even though these were planted earlier than the runners and French beans.
  • Tomatoes – Hooray! These are just beginning to ripen…finally! I’m growing Tiny Tim tomatoes in the greenhouse this year, and the little plants have had unripened tomatoes for weeks. I thought they would never change colour!
  • Sweetcorn – I’m not sure how my sweetcorn are going to turn out. The plants are still quite small, but the cobs are forming and the hassles are beginning to turn brown. I think I may end up with very small cobs… They definitely took a while to get going.
  • Carrots – they’re taking forever to get bigger. Not sure what’s going on with them.

The Sad:

  • Dwarf French Beans – I honestly don’t know what has happened with these. Normally reliable, they have really struggled. The leaves are very damaged (brown patches) the beans themselves are often stunted and misshapen. I think I’ve only harvested about 10 beans from 6 plants now.
  • Globe Artichoke – This is their second year and whilst I’ve had a lot of fruits, the foliage has looked bad all season. I think the plants really suffered from strong winds back in May, and then lack of water. I’ve mostly let them just flower, hoping that this will help them to come back stronger next year.
  • Strawberries – I have totally failed my strawberry patch…leaf curl has set in in a big way. I should have mulched them back in spring – the soil looks really dry and tired, and the plants are suffering. Some are putting out runners, but I think the dry soil will be difficult for them, so I’m going to plant the runners in pots of compost, then dig the whole bed up in autumn and go no-dig and start again!
  • Weeds – weeds have gone berserk on the wood chip paths…I have a weekend of weeding ahead of me!