Hey everyone, thanks for all your lovely feedback on my photos!
Secrets / tricks? Well I wish I knew exactly!
I think the two most influencing factors on my garden are the soil, and timing of planting out.
Im lucky in this garden to have a generous layer of about 300mm of good topsoil on top of the clay. Simply stripping off the lawn layer and digging over the soil with a bit of mulch added has produced good results. Previous gardens I have had I havent been so lucky, and have had to import good soil and compost heavily with anything I can get my hands on!
On the subject of timing. This year has been the most obvious for me. I planted most of my winter plants fairly early
(end of March), so they got a good start before it got cold. I followed up with another batch of seedlings in early May, and these have not done anywhere near as well, stunted growth and brassica heads now bolting on immature plants.
I found that planting early meant I had to do battle with the caterpillars (by hand picking them off and squashing the eggs). White fly was prevalent but didn't seem to badly damage the seedlings. The benefit was that the plants got a good amount of growth on before soil temp. dropped. The frosts killed the caterpillars and white fly, and since then I havent had to touch the plants.
The celery has been in the ground since October last year. They got crowded out by the beans over summer, so were still only small in March when I pulled the beans out, Once the beans were out the celery took off!
I planted some more celery in March and this has grown to about 200mm high before stopping. I expect this will take off around September and hopefully with give us a good crop around November.
I've also found that once the plants get a good amount of growth on, the bugs don't bother them so much. The slugs etc are definitely there, but they only manage to eat a small amount of the outer leaves of a healthy plant it seems, while the rest remains clean and bug-free.