Also abandoning

Experiments
Sue Nichols
Sue NicholsGirvan, United Kingdom

l'm having to stop the experiment due to spinach bolting, radishes being munched by slugs and snails and storm Hector damaging my beans which the mice have been eating! Next year l'm growing potatoes and courgettes outside and strawberries in hanging baskets in my greenhouse. Good luck everyone else.

6 comments

Diane SchofieldScotland, United Kingdom

Hi Sue, I'm feeling pretty disheartened too. So much hard work for so little, gardening is always a gamble but maybe not quite so big as this one is. I'm having a lot of trouble with bolting spinach too, I was going to resow but there is no point because the forecast for the next 2 weeks is dry and hotter than ever, not what you would call typical Scottish weather.

In the last 60 days there has been only 1 half day of rain and 4 other inconsequential drizzles, my water is off the hills and is now very low indeed - as close to drought as I've ever known in the 8 years I've been here so I can't water anything except with house waste water..... and there's not a lot of that either now - so perfect conditions for anything that bolts easily.

I've sown 160 of the 200 radish seeds from the packet - and had the grand total of 9 survive for my plate and have maybe a dozen almost ready, the challenge is to get there before the snails, mice etc do - the rest have disappeared. I've just sown the last 40 and don't expect much from them either. My beans are okay if a lot smaller than they should be by now but given they are growing in a dust bowl that's no surprise.

All 3 crops are highly vulnerable in their own ways so I'm not surprised by the results so far, my usual radishes are growing well between rows of onions and shallots, my chard is doing well between beetroot and sunflowers and the runner beans are smaller than normal but flowering well and it looks like I'll get a decent crop, they are inside a ring of sweet peas and have lettuce beneath so poly planting can work well if you choose species carefully .... my thought is that the choice of crops for the experiment was maybe not quite right, I'd have gone with plants that look after each other a bit more - like having onions in the mix and a leafy veg that is less prone to bolting - what do you think?

Carol Knightcoventry, United Kingdom

Same here I have what would be considered a lot of growing space in modern terms but the experimental plot is exposed to almost prairie like conditions. Soon to be worse has the hedge to the east is to be cut to less than 4ft in October. Only nesting blackbirds have saved it this long. I have put some pics on https://gonetopot96495457.wordpress.com

Spinach is not something i would grow at this time of year. It is famous for bolting. My radishes in the shade of the orchard are fine. They are just coping on the experimental bed. I am not sowing any more because of the water shortage.

Where crops are closely planted (I grow lottie style not raised bed) and have deeply friable soil only the soil surface is dry so they are getting by. Due to circumstances we had to spragg the bed we are using for the experimental plot so I doubt we will crop but I am still finding the experience educational. We have more weeds on the poly bed where the spinach is slower to bolt. I might have success if I resow spinach in September but that would cause a clash with my intention to grow sweetcorn there next year.

I sympathaise with your feelings about next years cropping but would urge you to find some old photographs of cottage gardens in your area. See if you can find a style you like and emulate that with your preferred crops. My favourite french beans are cherokee trail of tears. You can grow them as pole beans or pinch the tops out at the desired height. A regional kale may be unfashionable but imho it is a very useful addition to every veg garden. You can see my kale in the photographs. I love and grow Nero but there is no way that would ever get to be a fraction of the size of hardy kale. Pick the leaves young especially if you want them for salad. Radish are so easy to grow -in normal conditions they can go in any spare corner you find.

Every year is different but this year is particularly unusual. Even in the comparitive shade of the orchard. I am still waiting for courgettes but harvested my redcurrants this week! The red goosegogs are almost ready. The birds are thirsty so they have eaten my blackcurrants. There is no sign of beetroot, turnip or swede. Good kohl rabi and celeriac though.

There are always new varieties to try. I am trying commercial parsnips because my heritage ones are becoming a bit of a joke with other plot holders. I grew student on the same area has the experimental bed last year. I was going to try white gem this year but it did not germinate. My home saved seed has germinated well as did the leeks. I think I will lose my leeks to the weather - even in the orchard - so I am going to sow some more but we are creating growing areas in cooler corners in the shade of buildings.

All the best with your growing. Hope you are going to sow spring greens. Try some lettuce in September.

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Sue NicholsGirvan, United Kingdom

Diane - you are right about the weather not being typical this year. The spring on our property, which once was the water source for the house, is just a trickle, even though we live on the wetter west side of the country. l think part of my problem is that although we have lived here for 4 years, l don't really know the garden well enough to determine which are the best crops to grow here. The veg beds are protected from the larger fauna (deer, rabbits, hares and birds) by a fruit cage but we have so many mice and voles that are impossible to keep out ( as a counter to that we have a resident barn owl who raises chicks each year as there's plenty of food). l don't grow peas any more as they ALL get eaten each year which is a shame as they are my favourites, straight from the plant. l will keep experimenting with different crops until l find the best combination.

Carol - l like your suggestion about looking at local cottage gardens but my problem there is that we are in sheep farming country here and there just aren't any! Our currants are behind yours but those at the front of the house, which are unprotected so the birds are allowed them, are beginning to colour. The fruit cage contains red, black and white ones along with green and red gooseberries. My turnips are doing OK but l grow the plants quite large before putting them outside. Unfortunately, due to the unexpected heat here this year, some of the greenhouse plants got too hot and died. (l usually rely on deciduous tree cover rather than shading the greenhouse). Oh, well, next year will be different again.

Hi Sue and others

Sorry to hear about your disappointments with the Experiment. It has certainly been a particularly difficult year for growers. Information on what hasn't grown well is still valuable for the Experiment (although we know that's not much consolation for not getting much food from it!).

Thanks for sharing your growing ideas here and on the other thread.This is all part of the learning we're doing in the experiment!

On my plot we are struggling with the drought as we have no water supply and have used the last of our stored rainwater. We are having to bring water with us in a container from home. I hope we get some rain soon!

Thanks everyone

Best wishes

Victoria

C OSBOURNManchester, United Kingdom

I've also had problems with few of my Spinach seeds germinating and the few that did grow bolting as soon as they had a few leaves on them. I've always sown the 'perpetual' spinach before so not sure if this is a typical response.
The radish within the monoculture also seem to have split, whereas the ones in the polyculture have not. I'm wondering if this is because those in the polyculture are only around the edge, therefore not competing for space with others, also they are more shaded by the beans so perhaps less dry. The beans are coming along slowly. I planted Borlotti beans at the same time, which have been a bit more speedy and seem to be tolerating the dry conditions better. I have an experimental polyculture of mange tout, sweetcorn and sorrel which seems to be doing quite well as the mange tout are providing some nice shade for the sorrel, whilst the sweetcorn are slowly making their way through the mange tout. The hot weather has been beneficial for my chickpeas, which I might be able to harvest soon (though only a handful, so really not worth bothering with again) and some sweet potato plants that aren't under cover. The blackcurrants have also thrived and I have 3 full ice cream tubs from one bush already :)

Tamas ToldyMárkó, Hungary

Hi fellow gardeners,

I have similar issue unfortunately, spinach was not germinating as it was too dry, both mono and poly failed:( Beans and radish were nice despite the later attacks by snails which appeared with the first rains. The final kick was a big hailstorm here, with ice 2-5cm in size, it killed all the few survivor spinach, but at least I managed to harvest some radish. Bean suffered also losses, but hopefully I will be able to harvest measurable amounts. As per my understanding, we can continue with the experiment despite our "losses", so good luck for everybody, and wishing rain for those who are now short of water.

Kind regards from Hungary: Tamas