This year has been good in terms of veg crops; my best yet, but that's probably because I'm still very much a beginner, therefore still improving. My time has been limited both by customers in the gîte and by a big DIY project to renovate our main bedroom in the house, but even so I'm pleased overall.
My first observation is that the new raised beds have worked very well. They delineate a growing area together with an access path to it, and filling the bed with compost mixed in with the pre-existing soil means that the earth is easier to work and weed. I will install two more this Winter. The wood for the next one is ready as soon as the waterproofing dries; the second one will have to wait a bit.
I also installed an automatic watering system that pumps well water into little nozzles spaced evenly along a hosepipe that runs along alongside the plants. This seems to work well and is economical with the water too. It works best on the raised beds, which is another incentive to install more of them.
I have put a lot of effort into the compost heap as well. The shambling mound of detritus is nearly all gone, and in its place are three compost heap compartments. The compost in the first bay is ready to go, and will go into the new raised bed.
Now for the plants. Carrots are interspersed with onions and weeds in a raised bed in this pic. Apparently, onions ward off carrot fly and carrots ward off onion fly. Or something. The Onions are the worst crop this year; I bought a pack of about 1,000 seeds and have five onions, two of which are small. They are the variety Walla Walla, very sweet, excellent with salads. I will have another go next year. The carrots are a mixture of different varieties. The red ones are especially sweet and I will go for those exclusively next year. I am pulling them as and when they are needed.
I grew runner beans this year for the first time. Apparently they are thirsty plants, a fact that I didn't take into account. None the less I got a good crop. The variety is called "Lady Di", chosen without reference to the recent anniversary, but in the hope that they would live up to the hype on the packet: "Heavy crops of tender, delicious, dark green, 12 inch long pods". They did not disappoint.
I wonder if she was ever bemused. "When I was a kid, I never imagined I'd have a runner bean variety named after me".
Note: when making a runner bean support, make sure you can reach up to the top of it.
Around the back of the gîte is a new bed. Since it was large and empty I decided to try it out as a squash / pumpkin patch. I was a bit doubtful about it, since it doesn't get a huge amount of sun. The plants seem to have grown well enough, and I have acorn squash, pumpkins and a huge grey thing that I will have to look up again, but I think it's a pumpkin. They're not quite ripe yet, but we have six weeks to go at least before the first frosts.
We got a huge glut of courgettes this year, but that's because I planted four plants instead of just the usual one. Tomatoes also were prolific. This year's most successful variety was Rio Grande; I got tens of kilos of nice red, nearly cylindrical tomatoes with a nice flavour. I will grow them again. The Italian plum variety San Marzano did less well, but they really need a greenhouse, and I don't have one. The pic shows the San Marzano - the Rio Grande are all finished, you can see some of the ones that didn't make it on the ground behind the plant.
As for the brassicas, it looks like I will have a few cabbages this year, and the purple sprouting broccoli should be plentiful in the Spring.
Oh yes, I got some spuds too; they seem to like it here, and I got a decent crop, more than we can eat, so they're being inflicted on the gîte guests until they run out.