A funny time of year

In the Northern Hemisphere, there are still storms threatening the UK across the Atlantic at a time when we didn’t really expect them.
(24 Aug) I feel deeply for those in southern USA and the Caribbean who are getting one hell of a bashing from storm-force winds and the prospect of the mayhem that follows.
We’ve had (in my part of the Midlands - UK) a pretty weird Summer (to put it mildly). But things are growing or swelling and we are going to get some sort of decent harvest which is (hopefully) going to be well worth it. It is the time when we put in place the plans for the Winter and look ahead to 2021.
It’s a time to reflect.
What worked well this year?
What crops did we really grow to eat and not just for ‘fashionable experiment’?
How much food did we waste by sowing all at once and not by successional sowing?
We’re learning all the time.
What gave us the best value?
Which are the particular local pests which we definitely have to take into account next year?
We are in a sort of hiatus between the two gardening years.
In uncertain (climatic & health issue) times, we derive from this year’s experience with very little certainty of what lies ahead. We can either get discouraged by it or see it as an adventure of which we are a definite, vital and active part.
We amateur gardeners are almost pioneers!
As gardeners worldwide, we are often ‘firing from the hip’!
Hopefully, sufficient expectation for late and Winter crops - and then what?
I’ve certainly already made some ‘executive decisions’ as to what I’ll not be planting next year- as well as what did well and deserves even more space in the plot.
e.g. I value my time as quite a bit more than £5 GDP/hour and so it is clear to me that - eating about 5-10 melons each year between us - it’ll be more efficient to buy them in than grow them. I’ve handed over peppers to the Mrs as well. I’m going to concentrate on ‘staples’ and try to excel with them. However, I’ll be sowing and planting twice as many broad (fava) beans and French dwarf beans. (They were late but ‘oh so yummy!’) Spring/green onions/scallions and kale will be further priorities, as will be white onions.
I’ve already invested in some more scaffold/debris/insect net to challenge the Cabbage White which has been a right pain in my area this year during Summer.
They’ve destroyed my Kohlrabi and had a go at the swedes - naughty beasties!
The swedes will recover.
My fault - hands up to that. But I’ll not be caught out next year!
How are you getting on with the combination of climate and 2020 pests?
Your experience of (highly memorable) 2020 is likely to influence your positive plans for the future.
We always need to learn from each other.
Groping in the dark is totally acceptable - throwing in the towel isn’t.
Every good wish to all.
Hope you have a good Autumn/Fall in the N Hem’ and a really good Spring in the S Hem’.


I could fancy a bit of groping in the dark.
Sorry, but you were all thinking it too!


Yes, it has been a most unusual year, one which has made all of us stop and re-evaluate. Here in central France the climate has been almost bizarre in its variance from what we have come to expect. The winter was almost a no-show, spring was wet and too warm, summer was a combination of searing heat and thunderstorms.
I struggled to get beans to germinate until the third sowing. Brassicas have germinated then failed to thrive. Leeks and onions bolted before getting to any sort of size. Speaking to local gardeners around me, they have suffered similarly.

I think my approach to the 2021 season is going to be much better preparation.
The manure is going on as early as possible and I will follow that with a very deep layer of straw mulch. I’ll cut the bottoms out of large pots, cut them up the side and use them to go around the base of my fruit trees to stop the mulch rotting the trunks.
I’ll use cloches over the herbaceous perennials, like the herbs and artichokes.

I’m planning to sow little and often and have mixed beds. We’ll eat 6 lettuces in a week, so I’ll sow six lettuces a week. There will be a week’s worth of carrots in the bed, other salad doings and beetroots.
Transplant the cabbages and caulis at 2 a week, a couple more on the calabrese.
I’m redesigning the layout of my polytunnel to make better use of the space in there, especially for start and end of season crops.
I’m trying dwarf varieties of tomatoes next year so I don’t have to be constantly pinching out and tying in. 7 or 8 varieties of things instead of the usual 2 or 3, to allow for all vagaries of (in?)the weather.
A better fence to keep out unwanted livestock. More insect, toad and hedgehog hotels. And a more structured watering system to use the captured rainwater (with added duck fertilisers) from my duckpond/ mini dam.

There is a saying in gardening. The best year in the garden is the next one.
Stay safe everyone.


Hi Alli. It looks as though you’ve had the same year as we have, ‘over the stream’. Like your sensible plans for next year. They are brilliant. They must be, of course, because they coincide in almost every respect with my own! (Tongue in cheek, that one - I’m not really a bighead). It looks as though we all need to evaluate strategy in this part of the world, if not globally. Your successional plans make a lot of sense. I’m now giving away tomatoes (which I really don’t mind at all) and the tail end of the crop will go into the freezer later on. A bit more planning on my part might avoid some of the gluts in most areas. My regular onions will store but I’m giving away half of my spring onions or they’ll all grow to bulbs. The bit-at-a-time approach that you are planning is surely the answer. As the 40-50 mile an hour winds are blowing here today, I wish you well and hope things are calmer over there.
That plant pot idea is cunning - I’ll be doing a bit of that. I’ve got a surplus of 10" pots that might fill the bill.

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Please remember that some of us 'wholesome’ (lol) gardeners are on blood pressure tablets, sadly. Naughty, naughty!