2012: A Strange Year in the Garden

And what a strange year. The gardening year began with dire warnings. The winter rains have failed! We need two year’s worth of rain in the next few months or we’ll have a summer of protracted drought and water restrictions.

I’m not sure if this was a cunning plan by the British authorities – let’s send out a spokesman and bait Fate – but it certainly worked. Fate was so tempted she added an extra shift at the nimbo-cumulus mines and sent the aforementioned two-year’s worth of rain over Western Europe during spring and another year’s worth over summer.

It was the wettest drought for 200 years.

And produced one of the weirdest years in the garden. I’m not sure what exactly happened in early spring, but something ruined our apple, pear and plum crop. Last year we had the best harvest of tree fruit I’ve ever seen. There was so much fruit, we had to use props to support branches bending under the strain of too much fruit. We ran out of props. Branches broke off. Many of our trees looked like weeping willows with branches touching the ground.

This year we had six apples.

But some of our cider apples were covered in fruit. It didn’t appear to be related to the time of blossom – some of our late blossoming apples failed completely, while our early blossoming peach had a huge crop. And our kiwis – which are usually the first to suffer if there’s an unseasonal frost – went through spring unaffected and produced a harvest of 23 kilos.

So it wasn’t frost. It must have been a combination of a strength-sapping bumper harvest the year before and a protracted cold damp spring. Certainly, we had the blossom. But only a few trees managed to set any fruit. And – even weirder – four of our apple trees came back into blossom in September. I’ve never seen anything like this. Occasionally you might get a tree blossoming in December, but September?


Our vines were also affected. A huge, but late, crop on our white grape. But only a handful of red grapes and none of them ripened.

On the good news front, we had a bumper year for potatoes, beans, carrots, leeks and root crops. The cold weather kept blight at bay until July and, by then, our potatoes had grown huge. And twice-daily picking out the affected leaves, kept our tomatoes going until October.

But peppers and chillies were poor this year. The sweet corn was okay but late and the brassicas never really got going. Seed germination across the board was poor, and we had to sow many crops several times to fill the rows.

So, all in all, a very strange year. But then – as every gardener knows – all years are a little bit strange, and it makes sense to plant more than you need, and plant a wide variety of crops. Some will always do poorly and some will always thrive.

The problem is, you never know which.

Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novelette, What Ho, Automaton! was a finalist for the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award for short fiction. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Handsa quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth?



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