6 Jan 2022

So that was 2021

2021 has been an eventful, challenging and fun year ... but it hasn't all been about the veg...

Hampstead Heath ponds frozen over in February

Well, there she goes ... goodbye to 2021; a bittersweet year but one that I will remember fondly. That may seem a strange thing to say, given that the country was in lockdown for the first part of the year, and held to ransom by the coronavirus pandemic, but I was one of the lucky ones who remained in excellent health and was grateful for vaccines when offered. 

So, for me, conversely, lockdown was a time of freedom; freedom to improve my run across Hampstead Heath, to potter in the garden in the morning sun, to walk by the Thames and its tributaries, and to explore the Greater London area. 

Extraordinarily for London, streets and trains were virtually empty. This was something I doubt I’ll experience again so I made the most of it. Walking through crowd free streets gave me the time to appreciate previously unnoticed historic elements of my city - venerable old buildings, boundary markers, architecture, ancient churchyards, quaintly named alleyways, wigmakers, tailors, old gibbets at the docks, enduring post-1600 taverns, signs of Roman occupation and other significant events, and mudlarking at the side of the Thames.  I do love a bit of history. And there’s more to see in London than the Tower and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Speaking of which ...

There's the church, and there's the steeple ... where are all the people?
Empty streets symbolising the far reaching effects of the pandemic.

Because I love the outdoor life, once lockdown started to ease I delighted in exploring towns and countryside in Lancashire and Cumbria. So many truly lovely moments - listening to live music in Lancaster, exploring Ribble Valley villages, seeing wildflowers and scenery in the Trough of Bowland, walking by the River Lune, choosing winners at Carlisle races (whoop!), chatting about vintage ephemera in Accrington market (yes, the town famed for the football team and the Accrington Pals war heroes) ... and of course the drive through the majestic Lake District culminating in hiking up Wainwright’s favourite fell, Haystacks, followed by the reward of sitting in the unique quiet of Innominate Tarn at the top. Indescribable bliss.

THE tarn. Two hours climbing but it was worth it!
(Click the photo to enlarge)

So that was it for adventures but what about the gardens?

It was a fantastic year for herbs - I assume copious rain kept the plants happy. Clary Sage (so beautiful) flowered and Oregano Kent Beauty looked lush. No small wonder that; in the past I’ve killed several of these oregano plants but this one is fending for itself in the soil - hurrah!

Clary Sage (a biennial) flowering in second year ...
and Oregano Kent Beaty living up to its name

Mint, rosemary, lemon balm, bay, lemon verbena, lavender and the savouries (winter and summer) grew happily alongside tiny woodland strawberries. It was a sweet smelling jungle in the herb garden! 

The salad garden where I grow plants in raised Veg Trug beds and containers was less successful this year. The beds were constantly under attack from nighttime creatures, leaving disturbed soil and dug up plants for me to find in the morning. (Grrrr - I’m looking at you birds and squirrels.) I reinforced the salad beds with hoops and mesh, and barricaded the tomato bed with rocks, pots ... whatever I could find to cover the soil that would deter the foe. Amazingly, tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies survived and eventually provided abundant harvests. 

All this plus herbs, strawberries and the lemon tree; the salad garden

The long awaited highlight of the salad garden was the slowly ripening two fruits on the little lemon tree. Twelve months I waited for those beautiful fruits to reach the point of perfection ... only to have them stolen when they were ready. Un-be-lieveable!!

So the veg patch (the first of my three garden spaces) was the least of my worries; perennials and self seeders populated the patch (asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, orache, achocha, rhubarb, fennel, feverfew, calendula and forget-me-nots) but annuals struggled. I planted out a few veg (beans, courgettes, root veg and brassicas) and watched them being nibbled into oblivion by pests. I’d like to nonchalantly toss that aside and say “Well, it happens” but truth be told, it made me lose interest in the garden. Yep, shocker.  

Luckily, enthusiasm was restored in August with my invite to visit the trial fields at Mr Fothergill’s seeds for their annual press day. A beautiful drive through the countryside followed by a day of looking at perfectly grown veg, fruit and salads. Now that’s what I call a day out - luscious plants, fields of billowing flowers, a delicious lunch and a chance to catch up with old friends and familiar faces. It was so good to be back.

The field of dreams ...

But back to peering over the veg ... I’ve made it sound as though I had a dismal gardening year; yes, there were challenges but there were also successes.  The Hotbin composter provided beautiful mulch with many worms, and this year I discovered an easy to grow chard with pink stems the colour of seaside rock, and grew small courgettes in pots. Purple sprouting broccoli sown in 2020 produced a never ending avalanche of delicious tender shoots from early January, wild garlic reliably appeared in spring, sweet corn with bicoloured cobs and pink striped leaves ripened in August, autumn sown carrots were big enough for winter harvesting, two cauliflowers survived, and kales grew undaunted. So, not that bad then! 

And there was fruit by the bushel - gooseberries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, cherries ... no lemons, but maybe in 2022? And I could hardly keep up with picking raspberries, there were so many this year due to ... rain? soil? mulch? magnesium? who knows!  But my favourite has to be the aptly named Mr Happy cherry tomatoes; tasty, prolific and one that I’ll definitely grow again in 2022.

And the perfect end to my year was getting published in December (January edition of Garden Answers). Yep, apologies if that’s been recently mentioned but I was well chuffed!

So, onwards towards whatever’s in store for next year. May it be safe, healthy and rewarding. x 

Most of my harvests this past year were grown from Mr Fothergill’s seeds. 


  1. The pandemic certainly procided the opportunity to life life at a slower. quieter pace,

    1. As you can tell, Sue, I rather enjoyed it but was lucky in that none of my family or friends suffered, neither did it interrupt my work for too long. Hopefully you and Martyn also stayed safe and were able to enjoy the beautiful Yorkshire countryside during the past months.

  2. What an interesting roundup! I'm delighted to hear how well your herbs did and how you enjoyed the deserted streets allowing you to explore. I enjoyed seeing more wildlife and less people. xxx

    1. Thanks, Dina, pleased you found it interesting, even if there was rather a lot to tell! Herbs are a big passion of mine, I really must learn more about them - the garden is a good teacher. And I have to agree with you about seeing less people ... in London that can only be a good thing 😁 xxx


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