Time to take stock and to plan for next year

Part of the garden two years ago. The soil drains badly in winter and the two laburnums died because of waterlogging – an expensive part of the learning process.

As the year nears its end we look forward to a new gardening year and make plans for 2022. Those of us with gardens have been fortunate over the past two years; to have somewhere to go and work and lose ourselves. I am sure our gardens have all progressed well as we have been able to spend more time looking after our plots.

My own garden has changed remarkably this past year but then it was not a garden at all four years ago – but a field. I had to start very sensibly and mark out the garden, plant lots of hedges and some trees – all the things that take a long time to grow; and on which other plants depend for shelter since my plot is cold and windy.

Looking at the garden in winter shows up many faults. It exposes the bones of the garden and it is now that I long for more evergreens.

This new border was photographed last winter and now has an osmanthus and photinia which will provide some winter interest.

It used to be recommended that we keep garden notebooks but I have never been good at keeping a diary – though I wish I was. But with photography so easy to do now it is easy to keep a record, even by accident.

In some cases these photos show how slow progress can be but at other times just how fast things grow. In these difficult times it is sometimes a challenge to be positive but just finding the photos for this post made me realise how much we did actually get done this year. And they spur me on to get the rest of the ‘hard graft’ completed this spring so I can concentrate on the plants next year!

At the back of the house I wanted to lay paving and have a summer house. I wanted a simple planting around it so that, if I ever do have time to sit down, I will not be surrounded by obvious work. At the time, the concrete and shuttering seemed to be never-ending.

And once the paving was done and the summer house built there was the awful soil to dig and top up so I could sow a lawn in September.

But it finally all came together and now I wonder what the fuss was all about.

An ongoing challenge has been the pond – or ponds. These were dug out when we were building the house and had a mini-digger to dig out the trenches for the water pipes and electricity. One was lined in spring but another and this, the main one, were waiting for me to pluck up the courage to try to put in the shuttering and concrete it as level as possible – as the water runs from this to the other, lower ponds.

The hole was lined with sand and then the liner went in and I put in a little water but the rain has subsequently filled it and I now have to sort out all the surrounding paving.

And the two lower ponds need to be completed and all connected up. I am looking forward to getting these done!

It has not been a bad year for flowers and veg though I need to make some resolutions for next year and these will include trying to eat more of my fruit and stop the birds eating it. And I need to make more effort with some crops. I did get a watermelon this year but it was smaller than an apple. Though, in fairness the apple is ‘Howgate Wonder’ and actually weighed more than 1kg.

Potato blight struck in August but I only grew early potatoes so I managed to harvest them all before the blight affected the plants and very good they were too. I grew a few in bags for extra-early crops and would recommend anyone to grow a few early spuds – they are so delicious.

I always like to try something new but next year I will be growing white cauliflowers. This year I grew ‘Parmac’ which is a gorgeous purple (Top right) but when boiled it changed to inky violet (top left). It was vibrant but just not the right colour for food! When pickled it went even brighter red (bottom).

Other plans worked out better and a border of perennial asters, augmented with annuals like lavatera became a colourful cloud and a magnet for butterflies for many months. They all need splitting and replanting now but that is the joy of gardening, there is always something that needs tweaking or replanting.

Have a Happy Festive Season and let’s start thinking about how great our gardens will be next year.

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