This year has been non-stop. It started with a slow cool spring, moved into a damp cloudy summer, and finished with a lovely warm autumn.
The growing season has been mixed: fantastic runner beans in the polytunnel, abysmal onions in the veg patch. Potato blight on some varieties, others in the same patch unaffected.
Fortunately each year gives different results so it is not the time to be despondent. Instead it is the season to review, prepare and plan.
Review means making a note of what varieties you liked (and didn't like), what you need to grow more of and where and when, what you noticed others growing that you would like to try, etc.
For our patch one thing I will make a note of is that my idea that I wouldn't grow summer leeks outside again - because we don't eat leeks then, and they don't last through the winter outside - was valid. But I need to grow more in the polytunnel for the autumn/winter season, which is when we do like eating leeks.
Also though I do like spring cabbage when there are fewer vegetable varieties on offer, by summer I'm not interested in cabbage. But in late summer, autumn and winter I like red cabbage and savoy cabbage. Kale I will eat at any time of year, particularly 'Red Russian' or Black Tuscan kale. These varieties I will grow in the polytunnel and outdoors. All other varieties of kale I've dropped, if the supermarket want to sell curly green kale but none other that's fine by me, that's one of the reasons for growing your own vegetables!
Prepare means getting the vegetable patch ready for next year, cleaning and mending tools, ordering seeds (always one of the best winter tasks). Last winter was wet and my preparation of the vegetable bed was severely hampered. Consequently I was behind when it came to getting things planted (and that was also delayed because of the cool spring). I felt I was playing catch-up well into summer. This year the ground is already mostly snug under black plastic, dug, fertilised (where necessary) and I feel much better and ready to go. Black plastic doesn't look nice I admit, but it keeps the ground drier, stops the weeds, protects the soil fauna so they can concentrate on working the soil and muck, and I just pull it back in spring and plant straight into lovely clean soil.
Plan this means putting your review into effect by make a decision about quantities, varieties, timing. I don't like gluts, I have little time during a busy summer season to do anything other than freeze vegetables or fruit which I know I will use during the winter. If you know you won't eat 20 cabbages why grow them? Think about what you will eat and when and in what quantity and make your plans to that. If you buy vegetable plants you will find that many companies send out quite large quantities of each variety - consider sharing with a friend rather than have 16 broccoli plants all ripening in the same week.
And finally if you find you have spare ground in your vegetable patch don't waste it. You can use a green manure, but it will be prettier and beneficial to insects and birds if you plant or sow a few annual flowers. Cosmos, cornflowers and sweet peas, all will brighten up your patch, provide cut flowers for the house and encourage beneficial insects in to predate on any troublesome pests.
Happy gardening for the next season!