The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

What do you get if you cross an idiot with a garden?

Well, folks, the curtain has fallen, the lights are out, it’s all over and done with. I now officially declare my first gardening year over. Yes, there are still some crops out there; the cabbages, kale, winter carrots, celeriac, spring onions, rocket and winter potatoes are still under a sheet of snow, with added ice, as they have been for the past two weeks. I think it’s more a case of salvage than harvesting once the thaw sets in.

So what have I learned? Well, I’m an Idiot (granted, really), not all gardeners are up their own arses (that’s a bow to you lot – well, most of you), and hitting yourself in the face with a shovel* hurts. (*Take that to include all various gardening induced injuries I have suffered).

So here we go: free from knob-jokes and lurid tales, it is my first annual report!

TOTAL FAILS

Thai Aubergine Maybe it was the cooler climate, maybe it was the lack of fish sauce, but the seeds germinated, grew a few leaves, attracted a plague of blackfly, then died. Not one single eggplant appeared. Off the list for 2011.

Fennel It grew, and it grew and it grew. It was so bushy I couldn’t see the bulb at the base. Then after it had invaded half the bed I cut it down to find … no bulbs. I know some doesn’t bulb, but this should have. Off the list for 2011.

Rosemary What can I say? I planted it, nothing happened. Might be on the list for 2011 if I have space.

Chives / Garlic Chives Yes, they grew, but they tasted of nothing. I might grow again if I have space and DON’T use Sarah Raven’s seeds!

Samphire / Saltwort / Salsola Like with the lovely Marian, the vicar’s daughter, I got nowhere with these. The only one that germinated was the Saltwort, and it had no salty taste. It had crunch, but frankly I won’t waste garden space on texture. Off the list for 2011.

Red Spring Onions Another Raven’s Seeds travesty. A few grew to the thickness of hairs, and they tasted of hair too. Off the list for 2011.

PARTIAL FAILS (OR MAYBE PARTIAL SUCCESSES?)

Ong Choy Call it Ong Choy (I do), water spinach, water convulvus or even morning glory, this is one of my favourite vegetables. It grew, but because of the cool water it didn’t grow big. I dedicated a third of a bad to it, and I got one meal back, and it wasn’t as good as it was in Asia. With great regret, I accept it is wrong to grow it in an English raised bed, so it is off the list in 2011.

Tokyo Bekana Now, some will remembering me waxing lyrical about Tokyo Bekana, so why do I see it as a partial fail? The positives are it is fast growing, accepting of neglect, and when stir-fried tastes like a spinach/chard cross. The downside is that flea beetle love it. For me, the space it takes up is better given to spinach and chard. For that reason alone, it’s off the list for 2011. If I had more space (or even less space as it replaces two crops) I might reconsider.

Celeriac I had a bumper crop of celeriac. I ended up with around 50 plants, which produced around 50 golf-ball sized tubers, which will deliver around two meals. Too much space was taken for so little return, so they off the list for 2011.

Leeks With over 100 leek plants, the thickest I managed was around the size of an AA battery. The rest were more like decent spring onions. They tasted great, but for the size and the space needed I might just skip leeks for 2011. The jury is out on them at present.

Broad Beans The Aquadulce Claudia germinated well, grew well, and podded well. A few pods had two beans. A few more had one bean. Most pods had no beans. What few I gathered did taste great. Broad beans of another variety will be trialled in 2011.

Pumpkin I grew Munchkin Pumpkin. I started with 12 plants and ended up with two, which produced okayish. The pumpkins were small (as they should be), but resulted in little flesh quotas. 2011 will see a larger pumpkin trialled.

Courgette I opted for the donkeyesque Trombonchino believing it to be a genuine courgette. I only selected it because it climbs, thus reducing required space. Well, it’s no courgette and young fruit are bland. However, left to mature they are more like a winter squash, sweet and orange and brilliant with chilli. I vowed to never grow them again, but I might just have one plant!

Miniature Cucumbers I started with 12 La Diva plants, ended up with one, and got two cucumbers. They were sweet and juicy, so I am tempted to try another variety, not from the Raven’s house of horrors!

Yellow Squash I inherited the squash seeds, started with 12 plants, ended up with two, and had a bountiful harvest of gorgeous patty pans. In a way it was lucky ten plants died, because they were seriously prolific. I will try planting direct, because they are definitely on the list for 2011.

Cabbages I planted them too late (August!), and so the heads of January King are very small. It was my fault, so they get another run-out in 2011.

Tomatoes – Black Krim and Red Cherry They grew, they fruited, they ripened, they got late blight. They took so much care and attention that it left me somewhat depressed. 2011 will only see blight-resistant strains being trialled.

Potatoes – Arran Pilot and Sante The Arran Pilot grew well but were tasteless. The Sante grew well but were tasteless and fell apart as soon as they even were in the same room as a pan of water. Both will be replaced with other varieties in 2011.

Radish – Munchen Bier and Rat Tail Both grew well, invaded, took over and did little else. Then overnight I had about ten million pods with were spicey and zingey. Within 48 hours they all went hard and bitter. Didn’t make the list for 2011.

Ishikura Spring Onion Really a Japanese bunching onion, these were planted in April 2010. They’re still out there despite the snow and frost, and are just getting to look like they’re the right size. A decision will be made once the thaw is over and I’ve tried some!

Winter Savory It grew well, but was only;y added to counteract the fart-inducing properties of the artichokes. It didn’t, so it’s off for 2011 (although its perennial so it will probably still be here).

Salsify I think it got choked out by other crops, but the roots were spindly and thin. I might try again in 2011 if I have space.

Salad – Lolla Rossa Lettuce, Oak Leaf Lettuce, Mizuna All grew well, but all were outshone by the salad leaves mentioned later. They’ll be dropped during 2011.

SUCCESSES

Jerusalem Artichokes What can I say? I planted the tubers, they grew to over ten feet high, flowered, died back and each produced around 1 kilo of tubers. I shall use a further ten, saved for 2011. A definite, and highly recommended!

Potato – Pink Fir Apple Yes, it’s a cliche, but who cares. These waxy, tasty, easy to grow main crop spuds are a favourite at Idiot Towers, and will be back in 2011!

Perpetual Spinach Easy, fast, hardy, tasty. That’s it really! Definitely back in 2011.

Turnip I grew Milan Purple Top, and they were seriously delicious. They were too delicious and we ate them all, so 2011 will see two sowings, as well as a light sowing of the slightly less tasty but very fast Tokyo Express. Both are back for 2011.

Swede I can’t remember which swede I grew, but it was magnificent. They will be given more space in 2011, and I’ll try to remember which variety it was.

Cavalo Nero The old black kale is a sure-fire winner. Ignore conventional wisdom and boil it for an hour to get the best out of it (an Italian chef told that little trick). There are tastier greens, but as it goes in late (I sowed late July and planted out in September) it fills gaps. It will reappear in 2011.

Swiss Chard I followed the crowd and planted Bright Lights. The colours were immense, and we loved it so much that I did a second sowing. It was a waste of time as the first sowing produced all year. Is definitely back in 2011, and I’ll try Fordham White as well.

Carrots – Nantes 2 I planted, I watered, I waited, I ate. More carroty than any other carrots I have ever eaten. They are getting double the space in 2011.

French Beans The purple pods of Brauhilde overflowed in their abundance. I gave them a good load of manure, plenty of water, and the occasional spray of diluted fairly liquid. Definitely on the 2011 list.

Parsnips I grew Gladiator, and thought I had zero germination at first, but something started to grow a month later. These fantastic roots will be given more space in 2011!

Radish – Spring, Mooli Both of these went off lat a scalded cat. The spring radish grew so fast I had to lift and pickle them, because they were choking the carrots and parsnips. The Moolis were great too, reaching a foot in length, but a few days in damp soil saw them rot. I have mastered a technique to freeze them, so they’re on the 2011 list.

Salad – All Year Round Lettuce, Red Salad Bowl Lettuce, Red Frills Mustard, Red Giant Mustard, Watercress, Land Cress, Salad Rocket, Wild Rocket The salads were a major success, but got squeezed out by other crops as summer hit. The two lettuces were fantastic, cropping repeatedly and not bolting at all. The new Hill 49 Memorial Salad Bed will ensure they have their own dedicated space in 2011.

Herbage – Basil, Mint, Corriander, Parsley, Sage, Thyme All winners and all well used, they will return in 2011, some in the Picasso Herb Construction (trust me, it’s a great idea on paper).

IN SUMMARY

In 2011 I’ll be doing what many people suggested I should do in my first year, concentrating on a few crops. I was arrogant enough to think that I’d master vegetables in 2010 and add fruit in 2011. Fruit is off the plan for now; I want to get the basics right(ish), and try a few of my more idiotic ideas too.

The main crops will be potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swede, turnips, cabbage, broad beans, french beans, squash, courgettes, pumpkins, chard, artichokes, horseradish (I left it in the ground this year to intensify flavour) and the successful salads and herbs. I shall be adding beetroot, pak choi, runner beans and calabrese.

I might try some tomatoes again if I can find blight resistant ones with taste, and I might consider onions at some point.

So that is that, now on with the final plans for 2011!

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15 thoughts on “What do you get if you cross an idiot with a garden?

  1. Meredith

    Blight can be so frustrating! Keep trying with the tomatoes — they can be an emotionally trying crop, and yet they are so worth it when you succeed. I’d suggest talking to some old geezer farmer in your area and ask him what’s the one variety he’d plant if he only had space for one, and plant that. He’s probably chosen that one over the years because, while the flavor might not be spectacular, it’s tasty, and the crop rarely disappoints in your local conditions.

    Overall, I’d say your first year was a smashing success, IG. Mostly because you’re not giving up. 🙂 Gardening is all about not giving up, I think. Bravo!

    Reply
  2. Kyna

    Wow, you grew a lot of shit!

    I’m glad you’ll be back at it next year to regale us with more rounds of radishes and ribaldry.

    I’m going to try and grow some veggies again next spring. I’d like to try pumpkins. And some more varieties of peppers.

    Reply
  3. Esther Montgomery

    What an incredibly long list. Surprised by the rate of attrition. Would it be worth looking a bit more at the soil? Not surprised you like Swiss Chard. We tried several varieties of potato and decided we like Wilja best. But Mooli! Is it worth growing, let alone freezing? Whatever do you do with it? Does yours have flavour?

    Best wishes for next year. I expect you will enjoy it even more than this one now you have so much to compare it with.

    Esther

    Reply
  4. vrtlarica

    Nice review! I agree that fewer crops will give you better results.
    Tomato blight can be very depressive, I lost my tomatoes to it in early September. But I could never imagine my garden without tomatoes. So I will grow them again next year, hoping for a better weather.

    I wish you all the best in 2011!

    Reply
  5. Amy

    Wow…I planted three different varieties of tomatoes and could hardly keep them straight. My garden produces snack size, taste testing samples. They are certainly not grown for meals.
    Well done!! Onward to a new year!

    Reply
  6. Damo

    Love the photo, that’s a real garden! Great review, I’ll have to do something similar this weekend, concentrates the mind on what to grow next year. I tried calabrese this year, I’d get them in early so they crop before mid-summer when the cabbage whites are at their peak. Looks like a good list, it’s best to concentrate on the main veg although I go for the jack of all trades approach. I always grow toms and cucumber in the greenhouse as usually get blight on the outdoor ones at some point. Best of luck for next year.

    Reply
  7. Tatyana@MySecretGarden

    Dear IG! I got dizzy just to read the names of all the vegetables which grew in your garden! Very impressive list! I am also impressed with your decisiveness and determination when you analyse their performance. If I was so critical to my plants, I would need to eliminate half of them, both the vegetables and ornamentals. Anyway, Bravo to you for what you’ve done in your first year! Have a healthy, happy, fruitful, vegetable-full and blight-less New Year!

    Reply
  8. Ribbit

    What’s the point of gardening if we can’t indulge our idiocities. I grow peppers year after year after year even after irrevocably proving it to be impossible with my growing conditions. Doesn’t stop me, however. I’d say I’m a glutton for punnishment, but it gives me something to complain about each year.

    Reply

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