Published: 09 September 2012
The Blackwood Growing Season
We have a look back at the results of the growing season in our kitchen garden at Blackwood.

Here at Blackwood the kitchen garden has had a mixed season, a bit like our weather. The rain has certainly played a part in the results and our most notable disappointment has been the cauliflowers, which either rotted, or bolted before they were ready for harvest. It was not all bad news however and we have been self sufficient with vegetables for most of the summer.

One of our early success stories was the first crop of cabbages. We bought a pack of a dozen small plants from our local nursery, which we planted out in the raised border and very soon they started to grow. Nurseries are a really good source of vegetable plants, especially if you do not have enough space to make use of a whole pack of seeds, or if you do not have access to a glass house, but you want to get an early crop into the ground. 

Slug Population


Red Cabbage
The rain has meant that it has been a bumper year for the slug population and I am sure that we are not alone in finding holes in our precious crops. Help is at hand though, because whether you grow organically, or with chemicals, there is a solution for you. I think that the most popular method is to use those little blue pellets with which we are all familiar. These days, the manufacturers of these products are well aware of the environmental issues surrounding slug pellets, and certainly the Vitax “Slug Death XL” which we have been trialling this year is certified as safe to use by organic growers. Where we have used them, they have greatly reduced the damage to our crops.
An alternative to slug pellets is to use a product called SlugOff, which on first sight resembles a box of small stones. The stones however are very porous, and when a slug crawls over them, it becomes dehydrated and dies.

I used this product by sprinkling some liberally around our strawberries before putting down the straw, and I have to say that it stopped the slugs in their tracks. The stones remain in the ground and can be simply dug or hoed into the soil when they are no longer needed. 



Along with the cabbages, we had good success with our peas and broad beans. The beans especially did very well, and there is a bag full of them in our freezer ready for us to enjoy with our Christmas lunch. They are over now, and the ground was cleared a few weeks ago to make space for more cabbages, as well as sprouts and the purple sprouting broccoli which Chris Allen sowed back in the spring. These will be ready for harvesting in the late autumn and winter.
The poor weather has not slowed the growth of the tomato plants in the glasshouse; however the yield is down compared to previous years and because of a lack of sunshine the fruits are very slow to ripen. I fear that the majority of the tomatoes will remain green, so if anyone has a good recipe for using green tomatoes, I would love to know.



Runner Beans growing
The big success story at the moment is the runner beans, we are picking masses. The plants are quite close together, so the leaves tend to shed the rain to the outsides of the rows. Therefore even with all of this wet weather, it is important that they get regular watering.
The salad crops have been delicious; radishes, spring onions and lettuces straight out of the garden along with a few tomatoes make a fine salad. Add some freshly dug potatoes sprinkled with parsley and you have the makings of a tasty meal. The only way to improve on it would be a warm evening to enjoy it in the garden. 
All in all we have been pleased with what we have grown in the kitchen garden so far this year, but we are hoping for better weather next year to make are garden even more productive.
Reported by Liz Thompson  

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