It seemed like such a good idea at the time. We’d been trying to get a new kitchen fitted since last October. Some things are noteably harder to get sorted living on a relatively remote Island, as compared to living within 6 miles of a major city as we did before. Anyway, having finally found a kitchen we liked that came with all the odd sized units we needed to make the best use of our odd shaped kitchen, they had a sale. So of course we ordered it – the savings were not to be sneezed at. And found people to fit it and do the electrics and plastering. Also not to be sneezed at. The price being that we suddenly had to spend time and energy stripping out the old kitchen to make way for the new. In the middle of the summer, in the best weather we have had for years. When the kitchen garden needed attention.

Stripped out kitchen

We removed cabinets, sorted out plumbing, stripped off floor and wall tiles, and painted the artex ceiling in horrid blue gritty stuff ready for the plasterers to work their magic.

recycled kitchen

We even recycled the old kitchen, it fitted perfectly along the wall in the conservatory and already looks as if it has always been there. It made camping out much easier, providing much needed storage and running water.

double oven

The process of fitting the new one had to be halted for a week in the middle to accommodate the first of our summer visitors. Our wonderful kitchen fitter and electrician made sure they left us with a working oven though, and for the first time since we moved here almost a year ago I was able to cook a proper roast dinner. It was wonderful. The chaos all starts up again tomorrow, just as we are recovering some energy. On the plus side I have met some great tradespeople, learnt a lot of new local gossip, found the perfect excuse to buy a lovely new powerful drill, complete with chisel action, and have a wonderful new double oven. On the minus side both blogging and gardening have taken a back seat, and I have barely played in the sea, desptite the perfect weather. But. Despite neglect, despite haphazard watering, despite a proliferation of weeds, the kitchen garden has still been wonderfully productive.

In the greenhouse, tomatoes, chillies and sweet peppers are doing their thing, though the only tomatoes I am picking at the moment are the small sweet yellow “Gold Nugget” cherries. And I have made a note to never plant marigolds in the greenhouse beds, they look lovely and provided early flowers for cutting but I keep tripping over them and they are smothering the basil!

tomatoes and marigolds

Sweet Pepper 'Lipstick'
Sweet Pepper ‘Lipstick’
Gardener's Delight
Gardener’s Delight

The raised beds, filled with moisture-retaining compost and manure, are producing prolific crops of mange tout and broad beans.

Witkiem Manita

“Witkiem-Manita” have proved prolific and very tasty, though the nettles that have crept in between them have made harvesting them a little more adventurous than I wanted.

purple podded peas

The purple podded peas have cropped well too, and are beautiful in their own right. They tend to go tough and stringy if you leave them too long, which is an issue when your attention is taken by tile removal etc, but happily when left even longer, to turn in to proper peas, they taste gorgeous again, so a definite winner.

Mangetout Golden Sweet

The mangetout ‘Golden Sweet’ are equally decorative and even more productive, though sadly the peas they form when left too long are not at all tasty, I need to try cooking them, which feels sacreligious but is the only way to avoid wasting the ones I missed picking when perfect. Note to self – sow fewer and at greater intervals next year, the second lot caught up with the first lot and they don’t blanch and freeze well!

collapsing bounty

The other major lesson is to build more robust supports. It’s funny, I got away with using bamboo and pea netting up at the old allotment site, which was very exposed, but the combination of heavy crops and the way that the south westerly gales howl down the hill from the park mean that everything is collapsing. I plan to build re-usable sturdy supports made of stained wood and chicken wire for future years. And lovely though the phacelia is, I won’t be sowing it in the main veg beds again, picking in such close proximity to hungry bees is not good for the nerves…

Elsewhere I am getting guilty pleasure from watching up to half a dozen Cabbage White butterflies at a time try to gain access to the cabbages and purple sprouting broccoli growing under the netting:

brassica cage

The sweet peas are growing well, though had longer stalks when they were getting more water – the scent floods in to the study when the door is open, pure heaven.

sweet peas and marigolds

I am pleased with how well the courgettes are producing, but again, the lack of watering – I assume – means they are growing slowly, as is the sweetcorn.

courgettes and sweetcorn


I have been more assiduous with the watering these past couple of weeks, so hopefully things will buck up a little. I really need to collect some seaweed to use as a mulch, but for some reason there isn’t as much on the beach as normal at the moment. Certainly the celeriac will need lots more water and a good mulch if I am to get a good harvest.

celeriac and dwarf beans

Which brings me to the beans. I can handle the fact that the beautiful lettuces went to seed and my failure to sow enough replacements, and I have plenty of beetroot for my needs despite the failure of the yellow variety to thrive, but I was hoping for a goodly harvest of french beans through the summer. We love french beans. I use them in curries and stir fries, steamed with chops or with a roast, raw in salads. But they have stubbornly refused to germinate, even with lots of watering. Some might have been too old, but others were bought new this year. I need to check my notebook. But I am not exactly excited when all I have to look at in the bean department at the moment is this:

Cherokee Trail of Tears

I’m stubborn, so I will be sowing some more, along with the oriental leaves and parsely, and really, I am very happy with my first year. Given how distracted I have been, and at a crucial point in the season, the kitchen garden still feels like a success. But the lack of beans really bugs me, far more than my epic lettuce failure.

Above all, though, I treasure the knowledge that we are here for the long term, so I can shrug and move on secure in the knowledge that next year the successes and failures will be different, that the learning I do this year will carry forward, that being able to walk out the back door and pick things works so much better for me than the larger space the allotment provided before we moved, and that above all, I don’t have to listen to a voice in my ear saying “but you’ll be moving soon, is it worth it?”.

56 thoughts on “A Shameful Lack of Beans

    1. Hi Sue, yes it will, and re tomatoes, have been surprised at how quickly the weedy ones have caught up, lots of fruit about to ripen now, which is exciting, pity so many of the sweet peppers are still sulking!

  1. It’s all about priorities at the moment, you guys are there for the long haul (yay!) and once the kitchen and other internal projects are all sorted you’ll have more time to tend to the rest of the garden, and blogging. But great to see that the kitchen garden on the whole have done well! Never mind the beans, for now anyway :)

    1. Absolutely right! I am sure there will be plenty of beans in my future, and it is good to know that I will soon have four rings to cook on rather than the two I have been managing with this past year! Lots more scope for interesting cooking.

  2. Janet you have been busy, it will be nice when the kitchen is done and it’s always good to find good reliable workmen, I look at all you are growing and see it as a lot, you have made very good use of your new veg beds,

    regarding seaweed I find in summer it is usually full of little creatures and often smelly, the best time to collect is in winter just after a storm, the storms often wash seaweed up, put on your veg beds then for the winter weather to break it down, or, you can put it in a bucket/barrel with lid and top up with water to make a liquid feed which you dilute to use, you can even do both if you get a lot, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, thanks for the seaweed tip, that makes a lot of sense, and I do like the idea of making my own seaweed feed, that will save me a fortune!

  3. What a great catch-up! It WILL all come together beautifully in the end. Having spent 17 months without a kitchen in a previous home, I understand the joy you felt when you could finally cook a proper meal! Your crops are all maturing ahead of ours – at this rate, you could probably put in some beans now and you’ll still be cropping before us!

    1. Yikes, I hope you get a harvest before my newly sown beans mature!! Seventeen months?! Hmmm, one year with one very small weird oven and two rings I have coped with fine, 17months, that is too long!!

  4. Hi Janet,

    You have been busy! ;)
    Hope your kitchen installation runs nice and smoothly… Although it’ll be the first in the history of building! Something always crops up and takes longer.

    I had a similar situation to you with your beans a couple of years ago, actually that’s also why I stopped bothering. And then once I did get some that sprouted they just stayed there. At about 15cm tall and did nothing for weeks and weeks. Then it was September and the end of the season. I think in the end I got 2 pods off them.

    Nothing has been grown here this year. Well, I guess that’s a lie. I removed all the compost from the bin and put it in a trug, where some Tomatoes have promptly sprouted… Quite a few, too. So I’ve left them, we’ll see if we get anything from them, but again it’s late in the season now so I don’t expect anything off them. But for now they’re brightening up a pot and once the house is on the market, most probably won’t realise they’re tomato plants, let alone way too small to produce anything.

    I too have Sweet peas near the house; in a pot right next to the back door. Best place, Smell lovely, look lovely, easy to collect for vases and again, put there for when we finally try to sell ;)

    (see a pattern forming here? Me planning to sell, but not yet building the courage to do so)

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing the rest of your garden!

    1. Hi Liz, I had to laugh at your description of building works – I agree, to me it is all about how the trades people cope when things do go wrong, so far this lot have been really great. Fingers crossed…

      The beans thing is weird because they have always been the thing that grew reliably well for me before, even in pots – and I so sympathise about the moving, not moving endless pressure. It drags one down, and makes planning and planting a pale imitation of what it should be, you have done so well to have such a beautiful garden despite the uncertainty.

      I have a little of the “it just doesn’t look right” thing, but I definitely don’t notice things as easily as you do, I suspect I am rarely still for long enough. More on the rest of the garden coming, promise!

      1. Hi,

        When my brother did his house, I think each job he had done took longer than planned. The kitchen was the worst and instead of being without an oven, sink etc for I believe 5 days they said it stretched into three weeks. We were washing pots in the bath and cooking only with the microwave/eating way too much takeaway.

        This year I’ve mostly missed the Peas. Really, missed the peas. They never make it into the house as I usually end up sitting on the grass munching away at them.

        We’ve just been delayed with sorting the house, mainly because of my brother going off to China for a few months, leaving his things in the spare room! He should be clearing it soon and then I can paint the bathroom and then it’s the scary part. Tidying and getting people round to give us quotes.

        1. Good luck Liz, I hope you are amazed and someone falls in love with your house quickly, the whole process is so unnerving.

  5. Best blog post title ever. If a lack of beans is shameful, though, I will never be able to show my face again. I’m trying the Asian long beans for the third year running, and still haven’t managed to get more than one or two beans per plant. (On the other hand, they were Very Long Beans.) Your gardens look wonderfully productive and varied. Congratulations on your (soon to be finished) new kitchen! Hope you get a chance to go play in the sea while the nice weather lasts.

    1. Hi Stacy, how lovely to hear from you! Asian Long Beans sound really interesting, will have to look them up. As to playing in the sea, am promising myself a week off once the trades people are finished before starting about even thinking about decorating, and new kayak on its way to bob around the bay in, a very restful way to enjoy the sea without sapping the energy banks too disastrously. Hoep your long beans surprise you with at least 3 beans per plant!!!

  6. Sod’s Law is in operation here, I think :-) New kitchen = lovely weather. It must be so frustrating to be trapped inside the house, however necessary it is ! Sure the new kitchen will be worth it !

    Clearly the veg is managing fine without you, and I especially love the purple podded peas ! Do they stay purple when you cook them ? Who needs beans !

    1. Hi Jane, yes, spot on, a definite example of Sod’s Law in action. As to the purple podded peas, yes, they stay purple, though they do tend to leak a little purple on to any veg you steam them with. Stir-frying them seems to keep the colour separate. Oh, and if you leave them to pod and then shell them, you wind up with purple fingers! Still, better than the purple French Beans I also love to grow which go green when you cook them.

  7. Ah, the joys of walking out the door and picking your own veggies! Having an alottment was nice, but I can see how your current arrangement is even nicer! Someday, I hope to move to a place with a bigger sunny garden. I love growing and harvesting vegetables! Good luck with additional renovations–I really like what you’ve done with the kitchen!

    1. I hope you get your dream garden of space and sunlight. And yes, popping out the back door and picking for the pot is perfect for me. Joiner is here doing his thing as I type, so should soon have a hob to go with my oven, beans can wait until next year!

  8. Having the kitchen you want is always what makes it HOME. Vegetables are probably always a mix of success and failure! This year I have already harvested the first crop of sweetcorn and the second will be ready next week, last year the heat meant I didn’t harvest any. You have lots to enjoy, why not try dwarf french beans, they grow much quicker and will give you a crop before the climbing ones are ready.

    1. Hi Christina, this will be the first time I have been able to design and get installed a kitchen that is perfect for the way we live, so yes, well worth the other sacrifices, as once it is in we can get on with enjoying it. I have sown more dwarf beans than climbers for exactly that reason, some seem to be responding to my more assiduous watering now that the worst of the work I have been doing is out of the way, so I remain hopeful – and always philospohical where plants of any kind are concerned! Life is too short to get very upset when something doesn’t perform as you want. There is always next year!

  9. That is SO true. Some years something will do well and you don’t even know why – that is worse than when you know.

    1. I agree, I hate the not-knowing, it means you can’t avoid making the same “mistakes” again…

  10. A lovely long catch-up post to read, Janet – thank you for sharing all your joys and trials. Sometimes it’s hard to know when enough is enough – I sowed tomatoes unsuccessfully for years until I realised the greenhouse was too shaded (new greenhouse in sunnier part of the garden = lots of tomatoes!), but only playing at veg I have now decided only to grow only those I can be reasonably sure of some success with, so no peas/broad beans/onions/potatoes next year! I always start my climbing French beans inside and they are doing OK. Hope you survive the kitchen fitting/visitors etc well enough to enjoy your garden and the sea!

    1. Hi Cathy, thank you, it’s lovely to be back in touch, I’ve missed blogging and bloggers alike! Your greenhouse comment made me smile as one of mine is, it turns out, quite heavily shaded in summer, which has put paid to my plans for heavy crops of sweet peppers and chillies. Unless I can persuade next door to prune the lilac and fuchsia… I too have a no onions/potatoes policy, concentrating on productive crops that are expensive to buy. And I really should have started my French Beans off indoors too, it does work so much better. Next year!

  11. Oh now I wondered where you were and what you were up to Janet – the new kitchen is looking good. I can’t help noticing though that there seem to be as many empty wine bottles as empty milk containers not that I’m casting any nasturtiums. Your toms and peppers are looking most happy and healthy. I picked the first of my French beans on Monday. They were only on their third or fourth set of leaves at the beginning of July so I’m sure that yours will catch up especially if the weather continues in the same vein. Most envious of the fact that your kitchen garden is in such close proximity to your back door.

    1. Hi Anna, I laughed at your wine bottle comment but feel I have to explain that actually they are only there to dry freezer bags on, we are booze free this year – a foolish promise we made to one another but having got through nearly seven months of abstinence we are determined to see it through now. At least it means I have shed some weight, and saved some money! Anyway, having got that out the way (!), thank you for the French Bean encouragement, I shall remain optimistic, particularly as we have had loads of rain over night so that should perk things up considerably. And yes, the back door thing is pure bliss, worth the relative lack of growing space, at least for me. I think I would have been thrown off the allotment site if I had been trying to grow on one this year, it would be nothing but weeds!

  12. Busy bee, Janet! It looks as though you rigged up a pretty smart temporary kitchen for the works too, which must have made a difference. In our now-thankfully-fading memories, there was a time when we had to use a screwdriver at eye level to turn water on and off from a random bit of pipe, bits of wiring hanging down around us from the exposed joists above, along with cooking on a two-ring gas camping stove for months – thankfully that part was during summer, when it’s definitely a bit easier to live without the oven for a bit. But the first few weeks of being able to cook at last in a shiny new oven, ah bliss!

    Hm, the one year we didn’t grow marigolds in the greenhouse we had an infestation of white/greenfly. The marigolds are firmly back in the beds this year, still quite small at the minute, but I’m sure we’ll be reducing their numbers in a month…

    Our French beans have been pretty dismal this year, and our runners rather laggardly, though the first fruits are now setting on some plants, while others are miles behind.

    Your plot looks remarkably productive for the first year, especially with so much else going on! I think you’re doing really well, beans or no. Your chillis and peppers are really advanced: I didn’t get any peppers to germinate this year, and only one of my chillis has any fruit yet as I sowed them very late, without any excuse such as rebuilding the house! :)

    1. Hi Sara, thankfully we only had a couple of days fiddling about with a screwdriver to turn water on, no wonder it has taken a while for those memories to fade! Apparently I should have a working hob by the end of the weekend, electrician permitting, which has me very excited.

      Interesting what you say about the marigolds, perhaps I just need to grow fewer, the poor basil hasn’t stood a chance, but I don’t want white/green or purple flies, which have indeed been blissfully absent. And thank you so much for telling me that you have had a bad time with beans too! Maybe it is just the effects of the cold spring, I am sure the only reason my tomatoes are doing so well is that I was able to keep them in the relative warmth of the conservatory for so long, and I am equally sure that the sweet peppers would have done much better had I pampered them in the house itself. The Gardener’s Law applies – there is always next year!

  13. Wow, your veggies look wonderful! You may be discouraged at the lack of french beans, but everything else looks great. Every year is different in the vegetable garden, I think, and there are always some disappointments. My green beans have been producing well this year, but my peas were a total failure. And I’ve learned a lesson about planting marigolds, too–I planted them close to the squash this year, hoping to deter squash bugs. But they’ve grown so tall they’re shading out the peppers! I’m debating whether to pull some marigolds just to let the peppers have some sun.

    Kitchen remodeling is such a chaos, but I know you’ll be so happy with the results.

    1. Hi Rose, so true, and one of the good things about a vege garden, one year’s failure is another’s runaway success! I didn’t plant any squash at all this year, but I want to try a trailing variety up a support next year, not quite sure how to get marigolds to help there! I reckon it would be worth giving your peppers at least a little more sun, the harvest should be much better that way. Kitchen starting to look really good now, some worktop in place and some handles fixed, a great novelty to be able to easily open the drawers!!

  14. Little wonder that you’ve not posted lately, and there’s me thinking that you were probably busy in the garden and then going for a paddle in the sea afterwards to cool down.
    I know how you feel about a lack of beans as that was my problem last year. Thankfully this year is a lot better as I’ve been enjoying the broad beans, Witkiem Manita as yours are, with dwarf French and runner beans to come.
    Happy gardening, Flighty xx

    1. Hi Flighty, I wish! Though I have been out in the kayak a couple of times at weekends. I think I might get some dwarf beans in a couple of weeks, fingers crossed. Glad you are having a beany year!

    1. I know! As an incentive we have finally bought a good second kayak and a waterproof camera, so am hoping to get out soon and test both thoroughly, just to make sure they work well ;-)

  15. Your veggies are looking great and I love your sweet pea area! Great to see how you’re getting on both inside and outside :)

    1. Thanks Anna, I really must get picking on the sweet peas or they will all go to seed, kitchen chaos not conducive to flower arranging, even in my haphazard style…

  16. You’ve been busy, hope the kitchen comes together soon, it doesn’t seem to have distracted you too much from your garden, your veg patch is looking great and you have lots of crops. Am sure you could squeeze in a sowing of some more French beans. My were a bit erratic with germination too.

    1. Hi Annie, really pleased with how the kitchen is looking, I even have a working hob now, very exciting! Am definitely chancing sowing more beans, and keeping my fingers crossed for a really warm September and October…

  17. I use a Soil Inoculant in the soil when I sow beans and peas. I will tell you it has made all the difference. My beans are growing like crazy and producing great amounts of beans…peas were great too. Worth a try.

    1. Hi Donna, thanks, I will have to look in to that, not come across it before, though in fairness I think the lack of water and the age of the seed is more than explanation enough for the poor performance.

  18. What a shame about the beans. I’m having similar trouble this year, mine all rotted due to rain so I’ve only got a couple plants. Although the kitchen must be a pain I’m sure, how wonderful to have it done up proper. You are going to be sooo happy when it’s finished. We need to redo our kitchen and I’ve been putting it off going 4 years now. the though of having no stove or proper sink for months has me dragging me feet.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I sympathise with you putting off the Great Kitchen Project. I was fortunate, in that there was only one week between disconnecting the old (and rubbish) stand alone cooker and my new oven being connected up, even though the rest of the kitchen was still in flux, just because the oven housing was on its own and so could be fitted first, not needing worktop etc. around it. Plus I had a couple of portable induction hobs, which I’d been cooking on ever since we moved in anyway, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I am going to have a go at a late sowing of beans, just in case, but hey, there’s always next year!

  19. Typical isn’t it – best summer for years and you have to spend it indoors. Your tomatoes are doing very well – ripening already. Mine are rubbish this year – very disappointing. Not sure why this should be.

    1. Hi Elaine, we did bunk off yesterday and took the boat out round to the next bay, which was magical. But yes, our timing sucks! So sorry about your tomatoes, that seems most unfair, since I have been less than assiduous in feeding and watering mine yet they are producing great fruit now. These random happenings – or non happenings – are what makes gardening so unpredictable I guess, though I always find it frustrating when something doesn’t work and I can’t work out why. At least I know exactly why my yellow mange tout are now mostly gone to seed – I grew too many and didn’t pick often enough!

  20. So much going on at your place! Don’t beans need warm weather? My first batch were devoured by ravenous bunnies and my second batch grew slowly until the temps started climbing. If it’s cool enough for sweet peas, is it too cool for beans? I would love to have sweet peas but they die in our hot summers.

    1. I think you are right about the warmth when it comes to French Beans, but runners should have been OK, and lots of my dwarf French beans were sown once the weather warmed up. I think it was the lack of watering and the fact that I direct sowed them rather than my usual thing of starting them off in the greenhouse. Shame you miss out on sweet peas, but there again you get to enjoy so many wonderful plants that I can only enjoy virtually, through your blog!

  21. Sounds like you’ve settled in for sure and made so much progress in your first year. The purple mange-tout look very trendy. The courgette flowers catch my eye as I’ve seen recipes for stuffing them but never had the chance.

    1. HI b-a-g, thanks, it is all very different to when we first arrived a year ago, something I keep having to remind myself when I get frustrated with the slow rate of progress! I’m not sure about trendy, but the purple podded peas are certainly very tasty, a definite winner for us. I keep seeing recipes for deep frying stuffed courgette flowers too, but I have to admit to disliking deep frying (I always seem to get splattered with grease) so I have still never done it…

  22. It is all looking good, including the incipient kitchen. I thought we had lost all our beans when the slugs descended but they are fighting back, all except broadbeans. We always grow broadbeans and we always have a great crop. Not this year. No idea why!

    1. HI Elizabeth, thank you, I have to admit to being a tad impatient with myself and with my ability to keep on top of things in the garden as I would like, which is daft really, and we are really enjoying eating the fruits of my sporadic labours. Deepest sympathies on the broad bean front. Funny how there is always something that fails on any given year, just so frustating when it is a much favoured and usually successful crop. Down with slugs, I say, I have been lucky, very few here this year, but I’m sure they will be back with a vengeance next year. Oh, and am loving cooking in the still unfinished kitchen, so much more space, and a proper double oven at last! And four whole rings to cook on!! Luxury…

  23. Your kitchen garden looks amazing and very productive and you’ve been so busy with other things. It’s a pain getting work done at any time but at least when the weather is nice you don’t need to cook so much and can rely more on salads. I’m tentatively thinking it might be time for us to move. It isn’t ideal timing but I feel we’ve out grown the place we’re in and I could do with some more outdoor space. The idea of upheaval and not knowing whether to start things in the garden or not though doesn’t thrill me.

    1. Hi WellyWoman, it is so nice getting positive comments from people when all I see is my colossal bean and lettuce failures! Good luck with the moving thing, I so sympathise with the “is it worth it” dilemma in the garden with that hanging over you, I lived like that for four years, and it drove me mad! I hope you work out the where and when more quickly than that. The one thing I would say from my experience is that given the vagaries of the whole house moving process, OK, perhaps don’t start major landscaping adventures, but don’t forgo the pleasure of new plants and planting either. If nothing else a little time spent with muddy hands can work wonders on the stress of buying and selling, and it is amazing what you can take with you when you move. So plant bulbs in the Autumn with a clear conscience!

  24. Your chillies put mine to absolute shame, Janet. I normally grow them in pots and they do OK but this year I thought I’d put them into the greenhouse bed and they are absolute and utter pants. I’m going a little green here looking at yours. (That first kitchen shot is very fashionable y’know; the distressed look – I might even say shabby chic, except I hate that term). Dave

    1. Eek, I would have thought chillies would do well in the beds, I have been delighted at how well the toms are doing planted in greenhouse beds rather than my usual pots. Ah well, next year – you for chillies, me for beans. Lots of beans. Which I will then cook in my clean and tidy and not at all shabby chic kitchen! Although I do rather like the sage green that was one of the layers uncovered in the stripping out process…

  25. Janet, I wonder about the saltwater in the seaweed, is that a problem? I know what you mean about a kitchen remodel! We did that in Virginia in ’99 then it was redone after the hurricane in ’03. Remodeling is a big stresser….but well worth the end product!

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