The end of a cropping year

· gardening ·

I think we've more or less come to the end of the vegetables from our allotment and garden. There are one or two tomatoes left on the plants in our conservatory, but that's it. So I've been looking back on our gardening year.

In some ways, we did better than last year. The allotment is more productive and better organised, and some crops that we utterly failed with last year (courgettes and tomatoes, for example) have done fairly well this year. But we were battling the weather all year. Both the garden and allotment are on heavy clay soil. It's quite fertile, but the downside is that when it rains, it gets waterlogged very easily. And when it's waterlogged, the slugs come out in plague-like numbers. So the incessant rain and lack of sunny conditions really hampered our horticultural efforts this summer.

One or two plants thrived in the rain. The potatoes did very well, and we got a good crop, except for a few tubers eaten by slugs underground. The courgettes also revelled in the rain, and because we sowed the seeds in pots first then planted out when they were larger, they were big enough to withstand the ravages of slugs. Courgette stems and leaves are quite spiky when they get bigger, so I think they deter slugs naturally once they get beyond a certain size. The fruits put on incredible growth in a very short time. We frequently left a small courgette on the plant, thinking it wasn't quite big enough for picking, then came back a couple of days later to find a giant marrow.

The tomatoes outside rotted in the wet, but the ones inside did OK. We didn't get a huge crop, but the fruits we did get were really sweet and delicious, and I felt as if they were worth all the pampering you have to give tomatoes.

The runner beans struggled a bit, but produced a reasonable crop, but our Cherokee beans -- which did so well last year -- were disappointing. All our other beans and the many varieties of greens (chard, pak choi, spinach greens etc.) were eaten to frilly stumps by the slugs. We did our best to control slugs, but despite trying everything (organic slug pellets, coffee grounds, crushed egg shells, plastic bottles cut into spiky protective collars, you name it) the little blighters still managed to munch on our veg.

I hope we have a sunnier, drier summer next year. While we can raise some plants in our conservatory to plant out, we can't do that for all of them, so some have to brave the ravages of the slugs on their own. We're trying to grow some baby leaves in the conservatory over the winter to tide us over. Today I sowed some rocket, Australian yellow leaf lettuce, black Tuscan kale and some bunching onions, so hopefully we'll have some small but tasty home-grown greens over the winter. Meanwhile, I'll order some seeds for next year and dream of a balmy, warm summer.