So here it is, then. Hello, 2015!
Actually it feels much like 2014, if I’m honest. Now, I like an excuse for a party as much as the next person, but if like me you’re in prosaic and/or post-Prosecco-overindulgence mood this morning you’ve probably already figured out it doesn’t make much sense to see 1st January as some kind of new dawn, any more than 31st December, or 13th August, or any other date you care to mention.
After all, when the first New Year’s party was held in Mesopotamia some time in 2000 BC they picked a date in mid-March – the spring equinox – to get excited about. If you’re Chinese you won’t be getting at all excited until February 19th; and if you’re Jewish, you’ll be hanging on till September 13th for Rosh Hashanah.
I generally get all New Year-ish in autumn too, around September and October each year, as this is the time of year my new veg-growing year starts. It’s when the old year ends and I’m clearing away spent plants and tucking up the beds for winter; and it’s also when I get the following season off to a good start with sowings of ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ broad beans and lots of sweet peas in the cold frame, as well as autumn-sown onions and garlic outdoors. So the beginning of January feels like a continuation of the same, rather than the start of something new.
It’s probably not surprising, then, that I try not to make New Year’s resolutions. After all, can you remember the ones you made last year? No. Thought not. Try making some this year and that’ll jog your memory: they will, after all, be exactly the same. As an exercise in finding an excuse to punish yourself for no good reason, it’s hard to beat.
I prefer, instead, to collect together the new experiences and lessons learned by the end of last year, last September, which have since been floating around aimlessly in my mind not doing very much.
It’s good to give it all a little time to coalesce into nuggets of information you can do something with – otherwise I find something which seemed terribly urgent and important last year turns out to be much less momentous than you thought it was. And some things – like how to avoid the aubergine disaster of last year in which perfectly healthy, flowering plants failed to make any fruit – can turn into quite different things, like the decision not to bother trying to grow aubergines any more since they’re too much blimmin’ trouble for what you get back. We don’t even eat that many aubergines anyway.
So here are my not-New-Year decisions, rather than resolutions, with which I hope – as always – to make 2015 an even better growing year than 2014. I’m on safe ground, as the longer I grow, the better it gets: but also shaky ground as veg growing has a habit of throwing you googlies which make you rethink everything you thought you knew all over again.
Happy Not New Year!
Photographing my garden once a month turned out to be really useful, at least until I got distracted and forgot to do it from about July (I’m aiming for the full twelve months this year). There’s nothing quite like photographic evidence that you really have made a lot of progress over the last six months to keep you going through the next six.
Dwarf beans may not be worth growing. I tried dwarf borlotti beans and French beans last year: those that weren’t got by the slugs were mud-splashed and none were plentiful. If anyone has any tips for growing them well, do let me know.
I am revamping the greenhouse as I have got into an unthinking rut in recent years which has dictated that I grow peppers, chillies, aubergines, cucumbers, tomatoes and one novelty crop (insert name here) each year. Despite the fact that I eat hardly any aubergines, three cucumber plants is way too much, eight tomato plants is way too few and we don’t need any more chillies now the tree chilli is topping six feet and threatening to lift the roof off my greenhouse. Next year: no aubergines, two cucumbers max, blight-resistant trial for tomatoes to see if I dare grow them outside and I really, really want an edible passionfruit.
I need more potatoes. And carrots, and onions. I am aiming for self-sufficiency and these are the three which have defeated me: we eat tons and tons of potatoes, fight the ponies and guineapigs for carrots and always run out of onions by February. Luckily I can co-opt more land if I evict the chickens from their run and into a different bit of the top field for half the year. Everyone can find more growing space if they’re determined enough: if you think you can’t, just log on to www.landshare.net and have a good browse, or ask that neighbour with the brambly patch at the bottom of the garden if they want it growing veggies instead.
I will learn to garden in the dark. Time management is always a struggle for me what with kids and work and an inordinate and expanding number of animals to look after. But leaving the garden to its own devices is not an option: so I have decided to free myself from the constraints of daylight and garden with a head torch instead. Or in the shed: I am building myself a potting bench and there’s a proper light, and a radio, and a cup of tea in the shed. All good temptations to get me outside into the wee small hours of the morning if need be.