advice re veg patch please

Here we are in 2014, one of the best summers for years especially in my neck of the woods i.e. Scottish Borders. But my veg patch is rubbish- hardly anything has grown and apart from courgettes and potato I can harvest very little.

This is a patch I am getting to know - have had one previous summer where things went relatively well. But the previous owners zapped the place with Round-up so we are wormless - this year found a couple. We have fenced it in (no rabbits) and covered with netting (only the smallest birds) and yet the growth has been pathetic. I sowed green manure plants over winter but wish I'd just spread manure instead as the results this year have been rubbish.

Beans (huge harvest last year) have produced three so far. I mean three beans, from about 15 plants. 

Peas -= most have failed but I have about three which have flowers but about two actual peas to date.

Parsnips- seem to be fine

Carrots- three from a sowing of hundreds.

Brassica- have survived, sprouts especially, but the leaves are flu;l of holes and the cabbages have been completely reduced to slime - I assume sludge, despite my slug repellent. 

The courgette seem fine and the potato seem to have survived but harvest is a tad pathetic.

Onions- complete waste of time. Now harvested and all about twice the size of the original sets, that's all. 

I did water every day when it was very warm here- was that too much?
I have seen lots of small black beetles in the area- is this flea beetle? And if so,how do I prevent them next year?
I have tried neem oil and nematodes but see no improvement. 

The soil here is OK but very stony so it is a constant de-stoning process. Should I maybe just let things lie fallow for a year and compost madly? 


Really frustrated as I work hard on this but have limited time and resources.

Any advice would be much appreciated.



  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 45,187

    How disheartening Amanda ((hugs)) but I think your soil is tired - it did it's best last year but used up all the nutrients.

    Which green manure did you use?  Some (leguminous ones) will fix nitrogen from the air, but the ones usually used over the winter are primarily grown to stop the leeching of nutrients from the soil by the winter rains - if there's not a lot of nutrients there in the first place there's nothing to save.  However, digging it in will help improve the soil structure.

    I would put as much organic matter onto the soil this winter as possible - well rotted farm yard manure and home made compost if you can get it.  Just keep doing this each winter and sprinkle some Fish Blood & Bone in the spring, before sowing/planting - according to the instructions on the pack.  

    Some Chicken Manure Pellets in the spring would be good too.  

    It will improve - our veg patch was very poor and stony when we moved here 3 years ago - it's unrecognisable now and very fertile (and full of worms image).

    Good luck image

    If you stop taking chances, you'll stay where you sit. You won't live any longer, but it'll feel like it.” 
  • Hey image

    Please dont beat yourself up, even really experienced gardeners with all the time in the world have failures, even with perfect conditions some seeds just wont do well! As for over watering- no such thing if your plants are in the ground.

    My mom has been gardening since before i was born, her beans are really naff this year- just one of those things image

    Im a massive advocate of horse/farmyard manure, if you can spread some then please do, its worth it for the worms alone image

    There is a thread where we have all said what we will /wont grow again, it might make you feel better, i will try and bump it up for you image

    Please dont be too disheartend, weve ALL been there- i promise image
  • Amanda, don't worry, I've been in a similar position. I took over an allotment in late spring, it's previous holders obviously hadn't fed it over the years and despite adding bonemeal and FBB, it's still been a poor year for me too. My plan of action is simple, I do have access to several tons of well rotted horse manure, so the allotment is getting a serious depth of manure this autumn, plus other organic fertilzers and sharp sand as the soil is quite heavy.

    Poor soils can be quite common, and your soil sounds light, so the addition of as much manure as you can get your hands on this autumn will help significantly.

    I'm leaving most of it fallow over winter so that the worms can do their work. A lack of worms shows there is little humus and organic matter in the soil, manure will rectify this very quickly, their rate of reproduction is staggering when conditions are right.

    Over the summer I came across several neglected gardens ( new customers) and the addition of a thick layer of manure has boosted the worm count amazingly, and the condition of the soil has been vastly improved.

    So take heart, feed the soil this autumn and start again next spring, I'm certain you'll reap the benefits next year. 

  • I think dealing with dodgy years is one of those things we all have to get used to, it is no reflection of your skill or commitment image

    The great thing with gardening is there is always another year image
  • philippa smith2philippa smith2 Posts: 6,277

    Amanda.......all the above advice is year will be so much better for you.     image

  • Agree with all the others. You'll find yourself in the coming years saying 'this was a good year for this and a bad year for that'. Its just the way it goes sometimes. Plenty of organic matter. (Although not where you want to grow roots crops such as carrot & parsnip, they don't like it too fresh). Get a crop rotation going if you haven't already and stay positive. Good luck.

  • Thanks to all of you- I was already thinking that I should stock up on the poo!
    I have chickens so can use their debris in the compost but think the compost we have is still too young to use, so I shall get bags full of horse manure. Have some already but am aware that it takes a lot to cover even a patch as small as mine (about 12 x 6 meters).

    I shall just GO for it. I kept a manure free area this year for the carrot crops and the parsnips are doing fine but the carrots just never got going. Why might that be? They are beside each other and if anything the parsnips are on the dodgier soil. Odd.

    No one has commented about the beetle thing. I don't remember seeing these last year but this year once I started wondering why things were so pathetic I also started noticing these small black beetles. I looked them up and flea beetles seemed a likely culprit but they don't 'ping' as I expected. they just scurry off! Whatever they are, is there anything I can do that won't kill everything else, to get rid of the little ******s?

    I do crop rotate so nothing is growing where it did last year. And I have had a fallow area (tiny) this year with a view to having at least one 'fresh area' next year.


    I have asparagus which is a new one for me. Planted five last year and another five this as husband rotated (helping!) the first five. Again growth has been variable but a few have sprouted quite strong stems. I haven't cut anything and don't plan to for a couple of years - and am I right that they need loads of food too?

    Really appreciate your feedback. If anyone wants to come and live with me as a permanent adviser just say!



  • philippa smith2philippa smith2 Posts: 6,277

    Amanda...I have a "patch" surrounded by old Railway sleepers.......when I clean my chickens out, I put all their straw and wood shavings in there along with old compost and root balls from previously containerised plants.  The Chickens have free access to this as it is in their part of the garden.  They break everything down beautifully and I take the residue as and when I need it for both garden and allotment.  The fact that the Patch is open to all weathers and the Chickens are constantly scratching about in there works well for my uses.  The Raspberries which grow alongside also produce some large tasty fruits......provided they are above Chicken jumping height of courseimage


  • Oh, that sounds perfect. My chicks don't have access because we have so many pigeons and crows they would decimate anything if it wasn't enclosed. But I do plan to use their poo and straw as compost.

    I wish I could let them scratch about- maybe I should just do that over the winter, and leave nothing growing.


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