Saturday, 31 December 2016

That was 2016

Christmas is over, the turkey carcass in the pot for stew and a new year starts tomorrow.
The last week has been cold and frosty with blue skies and sunshine during the day and clear, starry skies at night. At last a bit of proper winter weather. Until now it's been just grey, wet and very warm for December. We had a couple of days of frost which is supposed to be good for brussel sprouts and raspberries. It does clear off some pests and bugs too.

In general this year has been warm with some periods of really heavy rain and then some - shorter - periods of sunshine. 2016 is supposed to be the warmest year on record for the whole world, so global warming maybe starting to kick in. Definiely been some crazy weather which is what the scientists predict.

Round up of the year in our garden:

 

Vegetables

The big success this year was Brussel Sprouts. We've carefully nurtured them, with a big cage with fine mesh to keep out the butterflies and the pigeons and pheasants. Very little problem with slugs despite the wet weather. We had a good feed off the sprout tops and pleanty for Christmas dinner. They should keep us in green veg for another few weeks.
Chard was good and is still giving a few leaves, but the second sowing just didn't take.
Runner Beans and Broad Beans did well, but the French Beans were a complete disaster.
Onions and Leeks also did fairly well and better than expected as this was our first try after a break of a few years because of the Allium Leaf Miner. I just did a few Leeks and the ones we picked early were great, but those we left in to grow bigger got the dreaded bugs again.
The Sweetcorn experiment was a flop. We had a couple of rather misshapen cobs with just half of the kernels swelled up. Tastysnack but not a meal.
Marrows, Courgettes and Squashes were excellent, especially the Butternut Squashes. They were very late getting going, with slugs giving them a hard time for a while, but eventually produced lots of medium-sized fruit with good flavour.
This year I just did Tomatoes (Alicante) in the greenhouse, unlike previous years when we have also grown beef tomatoes in the small conservatory. 9 plants produced a massive harvest. We still have a handful of small tomatoes in the fridge and a good batch of tomato chutney.
Potatoes: Not a good year. It started with drowning spuds and didn't improve much. Spuds were of modest size and some had holes in the middle, rendering them pretty useless. The best potatoes have ben from the big pots. Got 3 pots in the greenhouse at the moment and one is just beginning to sprout.

Fruit

The soft fruits - currants, raspberries and loganberries were very productive. The only thing we do to them is a bit of basic pruning and put a bit of compost around the roots each year, so they are gold-dust really.  We did put nets over the currants because the blackbirds and pigeons can strip the redcurrants and iin the last couple of years have been moving on to the blackcurrants.

The Cooking Apples, especially the Bramley, have been amazing and the red eater. We have apples stored in trays in the conservatory (not heated) and boxes of cooked apples in the freezer. This is the first year we have just left fallen apples on the grass to rot - or be eaten by birds, squirrels or mice. But the Russet and the small eating apple didn't do so well.

The Damson produced bucket-loads. Plenty for jam, mostly damson & apple, pies and damson vodka which is lovely and makes great Christmas presents in small 125ml bottles.

The small plum tree (similar but not quite the same as a Victoria) was good, but we had nothing from the the purple plum and the big plum despite lots of blossom.

Flowers & trees

The warm, wet weather meant shrubs and trees grew like crazy so lots to trim back in the autumn and massive quantity of leaves to sweep up and compost.

Wildlife

Each spring I have a bit of a panic about the bees and this year they seemed to start a bit slowly. We had a warm month and then it went cold again. But eventually plenty of bees came into the garden to forage. Obviously its difficult to assess absolutely but I have the impression that honey bees (from hives) were in short number, but bumble bees of various sorts were doing OK. The press report wasps having a bad year. I think there were fewer, especially in the autumn, but I managed to get stung stepping on a wasps nest on the rockery and there was a sizeable nest by the rhubarb.

A lot fewer butterflies than usual.  Spotted a caterpillar of the elephant hawk-moth which apparantly like fuschias.

There was a little frogspawn in the spring although I didn't hear any croaking males. During the summer we saw several small frogs and large toads around the garden and a couple of newts. A friend asked me to write a report on the changes to frogs and toads in the 10 years we've been here, so I did this blog post in October >>


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