Well, what has it been a good year for? What did well, which crops failed miserably and what did you try for the first time?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve tried to keep a diary this year to chart and record my successes and failures, my sowing dates and harvesting. All this should help me avoid mistakes and optimise the soil next season. But what can I say I’ve learned so far?
My first entry laid out my plans and aims: To provide at least two crops in each month for the table. To be methodical and only grow what we will use.To achieve by methods such as succession sowing and inter-cropping and by the use of varieties of each crop to extend the cropping season.
I started early, well early for the year. Gardening doesn’t really follow the calendar, starting in January and ending in December. Rather we sow and plant, harvest and lift as the season dictates. I made my first entry on January the sixth.

 Got to plot 11:30 am
 No ice but cold and sticky
 Dug some Leeks. Site locked up and barren
 Need new batteries for radio.

As you can tell, my priorities were not entirely all about food!
The following visit was a little more productive:

 Thursday 09/01/11
 Dug last of the Mooli.
 Cleared beds.
 Turned heap.

Turning that heap was a great way to not only keep the compost actively decomposing but also to keep me warm. A good session digging or turning a heap is so much better than jogging or dancing about in lycra at a South American exercise class. Mooli were great as a crop as they grow to about the same size as a shop bought Parsnip and withstand any weather except drying out. Too much heat and not enough water will make them ‘bolt’ or set seed prematurely. The only downside really is that they are, after all, a radish. Not the most versatile crop for mid winter.

 Thursday 13/01/11
 Site too wet to work.
 Weeds growing strongly.
 New batteries!

So, things looked up. Sadly, even with raised beds, long periods of deep snow usually result in standing water making access to the plot difficult , and it’s never a good idea to walk on saturated soil as it squeezes any remaining air out of the soil damaging it in the long and short term.

 Sunday 16/01/11
 Hoed again.
 Planted Stuttgarter Onion Sets.
 Grey, windy and cold still
Not an exciting month, January, but getting the succession going with the onion sets is a good point. Autumn sown Onion sets don’t have to be planted all at once. Save some and plant a second or third selection later for later cropping. Although Onions can be stored very well and last from the last of one harvest until the start of the next, harvesting, drying and tying up before storing all your crop in one fell swoop can be a bit daunting. Space it out, smaller amounts over a longer period.

 Sunday 23/01/11
 Cold, some ice, breezy.
 Dug last Parsnips and leeks.

 Sunday 30/01/11
 Still freezing but very bright.
 Only one other body visible at the site.
 Cleared area at the end of the shed.
 Planted two more rows of Stuttgarter.
 Raked eggshells into soil before planting sets out. (experiment)

So, not everyone took the opportunity to get out and work on the soil while things were quiet. It can sometimes be easier to dig the plot if conditions allow while very little is growing. I know the snow we had in November and later didn’t help but once the snow had melted away and the waters had subsided, there was no reason why not to keep warm, exercise and get some fresh if chilly air.

Next time: February brings very little activity but plenty of prep for the upcoming busy season.

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