Looking back on 2016

As it’s the last day of 2016 I’d like to spend it looking back on how I spent 2016 and what I grew.

Looking back: What we did in 2016

We moved house at the beginning of April so missed a lot of the sowing season. But we did manage to spend a lot of the summer planning and creating the garden so we could dive right in next year.

We now have two large raised beds and one smaller bed along the fence. We have room at the back of the garden for the greenhouse (which needs moving over from my parents house), a small shed and plenty of patio and fence space for pots. 2017 will be our first full year of growing at the new house and I am so excited.

Looking back: What we grew in 2016

We did manage to grow a few things in 2016:

  • Runner beans – I love runner beans. Both to eat and grow. I’ve grown them every year since I started growing my own veggies and they’ve never let me down. They are easy to look after and always provided a large crop.
  • Courgettes – My first attempt at courgette was relatively successful. We had large healthy plants and plenty of courgettes per plant. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on top of picking them and a few got very large. We ate them all the same and got a fair few meals out of them. We had two plants this year but for the amount we eat and the room they take up I’ll only be looking to plant one this year.
  • Sweetcorn – This was going SO well and then…. nothing. I don’t know what happened but the plants didn’t produce any cobs. Any ideas? I planted six plants in rows of three and I shook them to pollinate. I won’t be trying these again in 2017 anyway as the space taken up for the potential yield doesn’t fit my plan.
  • Chillies – We grew three types of chillies; Jalapeno, Cayenne and an unknown variety from the seed swap. There was one plant of each and they thrived. Each plant had tons of chillies. I want to try some new varieties in pots this year with the potential to attempt overwintering.
  • Tomatoes – We grew four plants of two different varieties this year in pots. The crops were plentiful but took a long time to turn red. Mr T&F said they weren’t very nice to eat either. I’m putting this down to a lack of proper watering and care. I’m determined to do better in 2017.
  • Potatoes – Mr T&F attempted some second early potatoes in bags this year. We got an okay amount of potatoes from the two bags but they didn’t last us very long. I’d like to plant a few more bags of different varieties next year.

Conclusion

It was a modest attempt in 2016 but some interesting learning curves. I can’t wait to get stuck into 2017 and have a productive garden. I have so many plans and ideas and can’t wait to get stuck in. 2017 is going to be a healthy and productive year and I want our kitchen garden to be a big part of that.

I’ll be starting my 2017 plans over the next couple of weeks and once they’re finalised I’ll be sharing them here on the blog.

What were your 2016 successes and failures?

I had my first harvest of strawberries for the year this weekend and it got me thinking what are the health benefits of strawberries? Nothing beats the taste of fresh strawberries but how do they really benefit our bodies?

I’ve come up with 5 health benefits of strawberries that I want to share:

5 Health benefits of strawberries

1. Good source of Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps to promote healthy eyes, helps fight cancer and helps with the production of collagen (for younger looking skin).

2. Contain a good amount of fibre – Fibre is a necessity for healthy digestion.

3. Antioxidants and phytochemicals found in strawberries can help to reduce inflammation of joints – Reducing the risk of diseases such as arthritis.

4. Rich in potassium and magnesium content –  both of which are effective in lowering high blood pressure.

5. High fibre content, folate, no fats, and high levels of antioxidants such as vitamin-C are effective at reducing cholesterol in the arteries and vessels.

As you can see, not only are they delicious but they really are good for you! I ate my small harvest of berries with some pancakes, blueberries and honey for a yummy and nutritious Sunday breakfast. Next week I’m hoping to have my favourite strawberry muffin recipe ready to share!

If you’re interested in growing your own strawberries check out my 5 tips for growing strawberries.

It’s been four weeks since my last post and I honestly couldn’t tell you where the time has gone. I have however finally made some progress in the garden to update you on.

Highs and lows

Between moving house, work and university I barely have time to breathe let alone garden. But me and the other half found a few spare moments over the bank holiday to get the potatoes planted out, Finally!

Potatoes.jpg
I really hope they grow. They’ve been sat in the windowsill so long I fear the worst!

I also brought some strawberry plants from B&Q to fill my second strawberry planter as all my runners from last year (bar two) have not survived my neglect at the beginning of the year. If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I also bagged some bargain snapdragons!

My chillies, tomatoes and cucumber plants are being ravaged by greenfly (despite my daily attempts to get rid of the little devils!) and are making slow progress. I haven’t successful sown anything else yet either. I have plans to of course. Lots of plans. Very little action.

A few weeks ago I did go and collect a large amount of pots and tools along with all my seeds and gardening books from my parents house but due to a lack of shed (the developers still haven’t provided it yet but only to me and my neighbour I notice everyone else seems to have one) it all remains in the boot of my car, keeping dry.

The only way I can make myself feel better about the lack of progress in the garden is the continued miserable weather.

Progress Goals

Sadly my schedule isn’t getting any lighter until June but I have decided to set little goals each week to try and get somewhere! This week I will focus on:

  1. Sowing some peas and runner beans
  2. Sowing spring onions

How is everyone else’s gardening progressing?

Im a little late with my garden planning this year. January was a pretty horrendous month workwise but, I’ve made it out the other side and February just disappeared!

The big problem is I don’t know where to start with my garden planning this year. Me and my partner have purchased our first house and should be moving in two weeks time.  We’re purchasing a new build property so I haven’t been able to measure and plan the garden. I have a rough idea of how I want it to look but it’ll take time and money to get it that way.

So my plan of action it is to assume things will have to stay at my parents or in my large pots on the patio area that comes with our new home.

Grow what you eat

My first step as always is to make a list of things we eat regularly, I will then eliminate things I don’t have room for/climate for and finally add one or two things I’d like to try. This leaves me with a list that looks like this:

  1. Tomato
  2. Cucumber
  3. Spinach
  4. Peppers
  5. Onions
  6. Carrots
  7. Beetroot
  8. Peas
  9. Runner beans
  10. Parsnips
  11. Leeks
  12. Spring onions
  13. Salad leaves
  14. Strawberries
  15. Courgettes – newbie
  16. Sweet corn – newbie
  17.  Blueberries – newbie

There are tons of things I’d love to try but limiting it to a few a year means I don’t get overwhelmed and fail.

Usually I’d draw out my area and decided where things will go but this year I’m just going to start things off and look at my situation when they need to go outdoors.

Timing is everything

I’ve made a list of all my items on a timeline showing when seeds need to be sowed inside, outdoors and when they can be planted out.

As far as possible I will be following the square foot planting method as I did last year. I really enjoyed the organisation and the knowledge of exactly which plant was where.

As i’m behind in the planning i’m also behind in the sowing but I don’t think it’s too much of a problem this year. The weather has been awfully peculiar (it was trying to snow here last week!) and it wouldn’t hurt to make sure we’re past any danger of frost and snow that could damage small seedlings.

I will start some sowing seeds this coming weekend if it kills me! What has everyone planted so far?

I spent some time this weekend potting up strawberries in my new planter, while doing so I came up my favourite 5 tips for growing strawberries that I wanted to share with you.

2015 - 5 tips for growing stawberries

Here’s my 5 tips for growing strawberries:

1. Water regularly
Its really important to ensure your strawberries get enough water to ensure as they need it to bulk up. If you think you’ve water enough, water a little more! Water every day through dry spells and avoid the plant itself to ensure your fruit doesn’t rot.

2. Sunshine
Strawberries are sun loving plants and need to be in a sunny spot to ensure the fruits ripen nicely.

3. Protect from birds
The birds love strawberries as much as we do so ensure you adequately protect your precious fruit. Most people use fruit cages or netting to cover the plants.

4. Harvest regularly
At the height of the season strawberries will ripen fast therefore, regular picking ensures you get the best out of your strawberries. Ensure fruit is bright red all over before picking. Strawberries are fantastic straight from the plant, I’ll also be posting some of my favourite strawberry recipes soon including Strawberry Muffins.

5. 3 year rotation
Ideally you’ll be replacing your strawberry plants every 3 years to ensure the best crops. The easiest way to do this is pot on the ‘Runners’ that your existing plants create. Runners are the stems that your plants will send out over your patch or container. They will then root down and produce a new plant. By potting on these runners you can pick the strongest and healthy plants to continue your crop with and best of all it’s free!

My strawberry planter

2015 - 5 tips for growing strawberriesBeautiful weekend – for more on the purchase

I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with my two clearance strawberry plants  when I stumbled across a pop up strawberry planter I received the year before last. Result! When I popped it open I was really impressed, it was a lot smaller and sturdier than I was expected. It holds up to 50 litres  of compost and can hold up to 8 plants.

2015 - 5 tips for growing strawberries

I started filling it up and popped my two plants in (which was a little difficult as they had quite large roots and quite small pockets), I was so pleased with how it looked and held up I rushed straight to the local garden centre for more plants. I managed to get 6 strong, healthy looking strawberry plants for £5.99, bargain if you ask me! Look how fab my planter looks now:

2015 - 5 tips for growing strawberries

If your interested in something like mine I found this one over on amazon, but I’m sure you’ll find tons if you search pop up strawberry planter.

What are you favourite tips for growing strawberries?