Growing crops during Summer 2022 – what have we learnt?

Every gardening year is different, no two seasons are the same but I think that the Summer of 2022 is perhaps one year that will go down in my memory as ‘one of the most challenging’. The season started full of optimism, plans made for what we were going to grow, especially now that we have the new raised beds at the Abbey gardens.

At 2 of the Edible Abingdon sites we have various means of access to water. The Kiosk beds we have to ‘dunk’ buckets/watering cans into the river and at Abbey gardens we have a large water butt and we decided to limit watering the beds to once a week to conserve the supply.

Forward three months, temperatures in the high 30s C, little or no rain for weeks – how did the plants cope? The plants that that suffered mostly were the leafy greens eg salad leaves, spinach, parsley, they either bolted or shriveled up. Also affected by the heat/lack of water were the runner beans, mangetout, sweetcorn and squashes.

Surprisingly the French beans, courgettes and tomatoes did crop but the yields were lower than usual. The plants that were really little affected by the drought were the perennial herbs, soft fruit bushes, rhubarb and in particular the fig tree at the Kiosk beds.

So could the future of growing our own veg be to grow more perennial crops? Or are there other things we can plan for eg growing leafy crops earlier/later in the season, growing varieties of crops which are proven to be more drought tolerant and grow more root crops? Use more/deeper mulches to conserve moisture, grow more cover crops/ green manures, grow some crops vertically so they shade other crops? These are just a few suggestions to try

Old Station House where we grow crops in old recycling boxes has been less affected by the difficult growing season as there is a better water supply of 2 water butts which are topped up with mains water, but we still needed to water daily.