What’s your best gardening success story? Mine has to be strawberries. I want to say they’re practically foolproof but I have been known to kill some plants!
Saying that, once established, they are the gift that keeps on giving! When I planted my first garden at our house back in 2008 I planted some strawberry plants under my apple trees…and just left them. Every year however, until they were finally crowded out by the apples, and then blackberries, blackcurrants, and gooseberries, they gave as much as their little strawberry hearts could give. I think we got our final strawberry crop from this particular set in 2015.
At the start of the pandemic last year, I bought more strawberry plants, and they’ve been happily spreading across my garden, escaping their planters. I’m currently considering cutting some of the runners and potting them up for sale, there’s just so many of them!
I also love soft fruits, and started growing two different varieties of raspberry last year, the normal red sort, and a beautifully sweet golden type. Prolific growers, the golden ones especially produced fruit well into Autumn, and in fact, I was still picking them in November. Both varieties are back with a vengeance this year, and their location directly outside my office means that very few make it into the house…sad times.
Apples, gooseberries, blackcurrants, and also redcurrants are guaranteed prolific crops in our garden. But on the other hand, I’ve had blueberries for nearly as long, and have yet to get a single fruit from them. I’ve expanded my soft fruit empire this summer to include loganberries, jostaberries, tayberries, mulberries (black, and white), gojiberries…and probably a whole lot more I’ve planted and forgotten the names of already!
Here in South East London we have a mild climate, so I decided to try my hand at growing grapes last summer. My two vines surprised me by producing a very tiny bunch between them, before dying back. I’d given them them up for this year, but I’m grateful I didn’t dig them up, as both have burst into leaf this summer. Will they produce grapes again? That remains to be seen.
No piece about fruit and vegetable gardening can go past the old favourites – tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, and the gift that keeps on giving, courgettes (zucchini). I had a mixed result with tomatoes last year; I grew far too many varieties and way too closely together, resulting in losing a lot of fruit to blight. This year I’m trying to trellis my tomatoes, so although I’m still growing just as many varieties, I’m letting them breathe, and I’m also practising good garden hygiene by cutting off all the lower leaves. Peppers on the other hand cropped continuously until November, as did my courgettes, meaning, if I could manage it, those two ingredients found their way into just about every meal. Like the tomatoes, I had mixed results with my peas and beans, but I think that came down to starting too late in the season. This year I started early and have set up bean teepees and the runners are finding their way to their top.
I’ve tried my hand at some new things this year, including globe artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, and asparagus. I’ve even planted out some sweet potato slips, and I’m hoping that our summer will eventually kick in!
We’ve added some more fruit trees to our existing apples, cherry, damson, medlar, Kentish cobnuts, and pear: a Yuzu lemon, and an Australian citrus variety, the finger (or caviar) lime. Both of these have been planted in half barrels up the back corner of the garden, in order to take advantage of the all day full sun.
I’ve also planted three types of self-fertile fig trees in one of my garden beds, and hope to train them over an arch. Our cherry and damson trees have joined the apples in being heavy croppers; the medlar and Kentish cobnuts also seem to be giving it their very best at producing fruit. Only the pear tree doesn’t seem to be enjoying itself, and if it doesn’t get any bigger, we may have to move it for a year and see how it goes.
Do you grow your own fruit and/or vegetables? What’s been your greatest success, and why do you think that was? On the flipside, what have you grown and never want to grow again?