So the year closes with the burning of the brambles and raspberry canes for bonfire night with the boys, before (ideally) retreating to the fireside at home and hunkering down for the winter months: reminding me of watching the heather burn across the loch at Loch Harport, when we lived in Carbost on Skye.
Life on Skye revolved around the seasons - out all summer, camping and exploring and in all through the dark winter by the fire: reading, listening to music, burning furniture and video cassettes (fantastic firelighters btw - Best use yet found for Jerry Maguire - sorry ozone layer...)
So thinking of renewal and looking forward to the season ahead, some notes on last years cropping:
Garlic - not worth it!
Onions - not great this year, didn't really swell - think they needed more feeding early, more watering and more hot days to increase their size. Not sure about growing normal french onions this year given their cheapness and local availability - Shallots and red onions though are always worth it!
Broad beans - parked in the shady bed by the greenhouse - cropped but only once but probably need more sun to be truly productive. 3 rows are good though.
Beetroot - finally got some decent beets in October, but need to plant earlier this year.
Red Cabbage - great, finally found out how to get the most from cabbages - pickle them. Delicious with baked spuds, and of course beef! 4- 6 plants would do us for over the winter (with a couple of jars as christmas presents)
Primo cabbages - didn't hearten - too late out.
Spuds - I always think this and then get overexcited at the Potato day, but 2 beds is enough! 1 bed of our favourite, Maris Peer, and 1 mixed of Pentland Javelin, and others. Thinking to try the Sapro this year, as it is slug resistant, something which did for the bulk of the Pink Fir Apple this year. All that said, I will be defending my bronze medal this year so lets just say 2 beds for now.
Carrots - I tried building raised beds, I've built frames with mesh and this year I roped Davy into helping me split a barrel in half and drill holes in its galvanised bottom, all to try and beat the carrot fly, and its 13" leaping limit and grow carrots. This year, I ain't gonna even bother - I'm beat! Always thought the 13" leap sounded like a gardening myth...
French beans - didn't take - planted too late
Lettuces - great, but missed the second sowing out, whilst away in the Hebrides in July, sow [sic] didn't have much in August
Tomatoes - Gardeners Delight very abundant - didn't ripen on the vine but a top tip given to me by John was to put in a brown paper bag on the side in the kitchen sun and they ripen - cheers John!
Courgettes - I'd come to the conclusion that 1 plant provided plenty but now with chutney making three is, of course, the magic number
Broccoli - did really well until in a pique of excitement i took out the heart to promote side shoots - always check the variety before doing anything as rash as chopping your entire crop.
Nero kale - brilliant, coming into its own.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli - have checked pack, and have just picked first cropping, chopped the heads... here's hoping we all learn from our mistakes last year, and use the knowledge this year!