Thank goodness that's over!

Looking back over 2020 may not be the best idea for many reasons but we must look back and assess what worked and what did not. We actually have to do this all year round as there really isn’t a point where the growing year starts and finishes.

Our biggest successes were mainly in the polytunnel where we had a good crop of zinnia and nicotiana. The Chrysanthemums in the cold greenhouse also were outstanding. This being their second year they had bulked up brilliantly and supplied us with a large number of flowers throughout November. We look forward to increasing these by growing some other varieties in the polytunnel next year. 2020 saw around 4 crop failures due to the exceptionally mild winter followed by an extremely hot spring. The unusual weather had caused an explosion in pests and diseases as well as distortion to crops which is almost always associated with spring heat and drought. This is when I am grateful we grow such a wide variety of crops as what is bad for some usually means others thrive. I am hoping for a more normal winter and spring this year though.

Looking forward to next year we are excited about some crops which are new to us as well as greatly expanding the volume of some of our favourites. The patch is now largely full due to the 500+ perennials we planted out in September. Hopefully they have established good roots over the autumn and are ready to grow in the spring. I’m particularly excited about having dedicated beds for grasses, herbs, achillea and veronicas.

Michelle challenged me to triple our yield for 2021 and I think we are on track to do this. All beds are in use and the many tons of well-rotted manure that have been added over the last two years will make a big difference. The tunnel is completely full of spring flowering crops and tender perennials, some of which will go back outside come spring.

Last year we allowed the meadow in the orchard to develop, and this autumn we have pushed it along further by rotovating. I chose to do this because we needed to expose the soil to sow annual flowers to be sown and have contact with the soil (such as poppies) and because a lot of the chalk meadow flowers which we want to encourage only grow in disturbed soil. We know that the area is rich in yarrow, scabious and knautia, we just need to give it a nudge to get growing. In the areas where the soil has been disturbed this year we had stunning meadows which were alive with insects to an extent I have never seen before.

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