This was the first year for a long time that didn’t start with buying way too many seeds for edibles. It was also a year in which I didn’t start February by making too-early sowings of the latest tomatoes and chillies I had decided to try. Fortunately I managed to lift my head above the parapet, so to speak, for long enough to order plug plants so we have had chillies and tomatoes in the greenhouse this year. I’m going to give up on growing the larger beefsteak style toms, this year it was ‘Black Krim’, and they just always seem to turn out spongy, somewhat tasteless and far from prolific. I am quite sure this is my failing, not theirs, but what we really love is picking and eating huge quantities of cherry toms. So more of them, more of what we love, less experimenting! I begrudge the greenhouse border space.

sungold tomatoes

‘Sungold’ has been its usual delicious and prolific self, and I really like ‘Blizzard’, which was new to me, and produces lots of medium size delicious rich red fruit, perfect for munching whole or slicing in a sandwich. I will hopefully grow both again next year.

blizzard tomatos

I only grew three chilli plants this year. The mild and apparently very stuffable ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’, which has only formed a dwarf plant and a grand total of three fruits. The largest of these has ripened, so I will be trying it this week. Can’t say I am feeling over excited about it, but I will be trying to over winter the plant in the hopes that I get more out of next year.

Chilliu Hungarian Hot Wax

Chilli number two was a medium hot type called ‘Joe’s Long Cayenne’. Much more prolific than ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’, with lots of quite mild very long fruit. They are taking a while to ripen, but I am enjoying them – again, I will try over wintering the plant.

Chilli Joe's Long Cayenne

Chilli number three was the most prolific, and the one I have used the most too, as it is quite hot – ‘Ring Of Fire’. Sounds more combustable than I have found mine to be, but a perfectly adequate substitute for Bird’s Eye chillies in the various Thai and Vietnamese dishes we so enjoy. Definitely hoping this over winters, as I could get a bumper crop next year.

Chilli 'Ring of Fire'

I am now in the usual state of waiting to cut down the tomato plants, torn between making space for the salad and oriental leaves I have sown in modules for over wintering, and picking tomatoes for as long as possible…


Outside the story has been more hit and miss. The potatoes (‘Cheri’ first earlies) were delicious but I didn’t do a good enough job of earthing them up, so I lost almost a third to going green. On the other hand, I seem to have (mostly) got rid of the Jerusalem Artichokes, and the Oka have been growing really well. Only a few flowers, but I love the way the foliage smothers all weeds, and the tubers, I know from last year, are delicious roasted with a little olive oil. One to harvest in the winter months.

oka foliage
oka flowers

Sweetcorn was a bust. I ordered ‘Golden Bantum’ from Otter Farm. The seed packet was supposed to contain between 12 and 15 seeds, so I was confident of getting a block of twelve plants. Instead, I discovered only 10 seeds, and only 8 germinated. And then the whole crop pretty much failed. That, I am quite sure, was my fault for not watering them enough – and for planting them out late – but I will be reverting to cheaper varieties next year.

I failed to sow beetroot, and missed it terribly, ate plenty of lettuce and various oriental leaves at points but also had huge gaps of nothing to pick at all because I was so haphazard about sowing, so I am very happy that the legumes did well again this year or it would have felt like a massive failure!

runner bean White Lady

We were eating broad beans and peas throughout the summer, and from August onwards plenty of French and Runner beans. The runner bean ‘White Lady’ is still cropping, and I only managed to direct sow about 4 plants, as that was all the seed I had left. Likewise on the French bean front I just sowed what I had left, directly in the soil (I usually use root trainers) and got a mix of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ and a purple French climber whose name I forget. Next Spring I will be stocking up on pea and bean seed, I’d love to hear what you recommend. I know I will grow ‘Stereo’ broad beans again, I love the white flowers, likewise ‘Trail of Tears’ and ‘White Lady’, but I would welcome suggestions of what peas other than ‘Onward’ to try, and if you know of a good sugarsnap, I’d love to know about it.

Climbing bean 'Cherokee Trail of Tears'

Everything is winding down for the year now, I have a row of Chines Kale and another of red kale ‘Rouge de Russie’ to thin out, and the garlic chives are flowering (thank you Kate!), but really I need to get clearing the other beds and mulching with seaweed ready for the winter. No purple sprouting broccoli this year, I just wasn’t organised enough, and the plug plants never seem to settle in well for me. Overall, not the total dearth of edibles I was fearing given how busy I have been with work, but I really hope to do more next year.

chinese kale and Rouge de Russie seedlings

You will probably see that I am playing with a different blog theme – I say ‘probably’ because I am still developing it, and keep changing my mind about various things, and may occasionally need to swap back to the old one if I break it… I have been wanting to put together a mobile-friendly blog theme for myself for a while now, one with a simple layout which allows me to use large photos without also having to have wide text columns. I hate it when text gets so wide it is hard to read. I’ve tried to make it faster to load too, particularly on phones and tablets. If you find anything annoying, or just plain broken, do please let me know! I hope to be adding bits and pieces to it over time, to make it more useful to me. I really want a nice way of adding plant profiles and associating them with borders in the garden.

Finally, some of you have asked what the new business is – no great mystery, we’ve set up a web design company, which I am slowly trying to grow. Its called ‘Mônality’, a play on ‘Ynys Môn’, which is the Welsh name for Anglesey, where we live. We hope to specialize in working with small businesses and individuals.

garlic chive flower

34 thoughts on “An odd sort of year in the Kitchen Garden

    1. Hi Charlie, I’m really glad you like the large photos. One of the things I love about vege gardening is that you start again every year, so there is always scope to improve on past failures, try something new, and make new mistakes. Enjoy!

  1. Don’t worry too much about sweetcorn, it’s been a bad year apparently. We’ve just had a tree felled over ours, but it was no great loss I can tell you.
    I love the big pictures on the blog. I’ve been fiddling with my theme too and it’s driving me crazy. Thought I’d cracked it but just looked at it on iPad.. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

    1. It’s not just me?! Oh, thank you Jessica! I was feeling rubbish about it to be honest, we love sweetcorn, so it was a big disappointment. Better than having a tree felled on top of it though ;-)

      Theme tweaking can take all available time and then some – good luck!

  2. I needed to zoom out, so I could get the pictures to fit on my laptop without scrolling. Appreciate that the font is then still large enough to read.

    1. Oh rats, thank you Diana, I thought I’d got that covered – I think I’ve fixed it, please could you have another look? Glad you still found the font readable, the older I get the more impatient I get with poorly sized text.

          1. :-) Thanks Diana, feels good to have got that sorted, I wanted everybody to have a good experience of reading the blog whatever they were using.

  3. I’m reading on computer screen and so love the large images (good enough to eat!) and the not so wide text (my WP theme has lots of space for pics but then too much for words ;( )
    Hope this does not sound patronising but have been overawed by amount of your produce given that you’ve been so busy with growing your business (as opposed to the business of growing) – am envious of you having runner beans from garden to pot – stopped eating these my fave veg when shop bought is the only option. Climbing purple Frenchies interesting too and so is the very unique Oka – looking it up no wonder it reminds me of sorrel!

    p.s. clever business name – wishing you both all good things in your endeavours Janet

    1. Hi Laura, oh good – having battled to make only the images wide I understand why most themes don’t do this, and why they therefore end up with overly long lines of text so that images can be a decent size. It is very much part of how WordPress creates the pages, and requires a decent amount of techy stuff to overcome it, so I am curious to see how many people think it is a Good Thing!
      I don’t feel in the slightest patronised, bless you, I was frankly amazed at how many beans we got from so few plants, they did amazingly well. I love growing Oca, beautiful and tasty and weed suppressing – a hard to beat combination! Thank you for your well wishes, just had some lovely feedback from the book stores that have been using Liz Kessler’s site while she is out there on her book tour which is very gratifying.

  4. My vegetable garden didn’t do as well this year either, partly from the weather–first too wet and then too dry–and partly from my neglect. But I did have a good crop of green beans, too. I always plant bush beans, and this year I planted a new variety that we loved–some time I need to find the seed packet to remember what they were for next year! I like your new layout; I’m looking at it on my desktop, so I don’t know what it would look like on my iPad, however. I keep thinking I’ll change the looks of my blog, too, but never seem to find the time. Hope your new business is doing well!

    1. Hi Rose, thank goodness for beans, it seems! Sorry you had a poor year too, it seems as if a lot of us did, which makes me feel rather better! I think “bush beans” are the same as our dwarf French beans? Shorter-growing, need little to no support, can be quite prolific? If so, they are on my list of things to grow next year.

      Glad you like the new layout! Business is going OK, getting some good feedback about the sites we build, just need to find new ways to get our name out there more locally. Be interested to know what it looks like on your iPad some time, it looks fine on my Android tablet but I know from my experience on the website design side of things that oddities can occur on different platforms, however much testing one does before launching…

  5. An enjoyable and interesting post and good pictures.
    It’s certainly been a difficult growing year at times. My only complete failure was broad beans which were blackfly infested.
    Let’s hope that we all have a better season next year. xx

    1. Thanks Flighty, such a shame about your broad beans, they are one of my favourite things, so far I have been lucky enough to avoid the dreaded blackfly. The beauty of it is we all get to try again next year – and prepare for a new set of triumphs and disasters!

  6. Well, it looks like your veggie garden is doing just fine! I can’t believe the size of those beans! Yum! It’s time for my lunch, so you’ve convinced me to take a break for food. On another note: I LOVE the new design. I’ve been playing with ideas for my own blog redesign, but I think I’ll wait a few months for a major change. I appreciate simplicity and ease of use. To me, it’s a much more graceful form. Congrats on your business!

    1. Hi Beth, yes, those runner beans can grow absolutely enormous, but they don’t go stringy, in fact they are still really tasty even when the beans inside have started to make their presence felt – perfect for lazy or just plain busy veg gardeners!

      Delighted you love the new blog design, thank you! It can take a while to work out what you want, can’t it. For me it was all about a simple and very easy to read blog that showcased photos without anything else getting in the way. Mind you, I am already having ideas about how to extend it…

  7. Hi Janet. I immediately liked the look of the blog layout from the start – lovely big photos, and nice clear text space. All perfect on my iPad, haven’t looked on the laptop though. You really have been busy this year with your veg garden as well as the new business. Hope both continue to thrive!

    1. Thanks Cathy, good to know it looks OK on an iPad, I can only test on Android tablets, though this theme doesn’t use anything complicated that would make Safari cross. My veg garden has succeeded despite me rather than because of me this year, but it has been heartening that, even in such a busy year, it has been possible to grow enough tasty things to make it more than worthwhile. I am so glad I put in raised beds though, makes looking after it all so much easier!

  8. What a productive year you have had even if not 100% successful – lots of different crops to experiment with. I still like my climbing French bean ‘Cobra’ – always reliable, and had good results with sugar snap ‘Sugar Ann’ this year. How clever to be experimenting with different themes and styles for your readers’ benefit. I find the text is rather alarmingly large on the laptop (but I’ll get used to it!) and on Android mobile the page is fractionally too wide (missing perhaps a single word without scrolling sideways). Hope that helps

    1. Hi Cathy, yes, I’ve grown ‘Cobra’ before and really enjoyed it, thank you for the reminder! ‘Sugar Ann’ was my go-to sugar snap pea, I have no idea why I deserted her, I certainly haven’t found better. OK, they both go back on the list!

      Re text size on laptop, I think I must have missed something somewhere, it looks rather enormous on our old laptop too, but absolutely fine on my Android tablets and on my large computer monitor. Will investigate. As to Android mobile, even more odd! What phone do you have, if you don’t mind me asking? I don’t currently have an Android phone, so only tested on an iPhone and a Windows phone, assuming (wrongly, apparently!) that they were the tricky customers… Thank you for letting me know!

  9. I love the larger photos! I have become disheartened with summer vegetable gardening. I have so much more success with winter vegetables – fewer bugs and more pleasant temperatures. Last year our collards lived right through severe frost. We have collards, lettuce, and swiss chard planted now. Potatoes and onions will be planted in late winter. Next spring I will plant only tomatoes. No doubt I will weaken and plant beans and squash…I love sweet corn but have never had success.

    1. Hello Deb, good, glad you are enjoying the large photos – I wondered if some people might find them too large, but I am guessing if they do they will be too polite to say! I had to look up collards, apparently the closest thing to them that we grow here is kale, something I am looking forward to finally getting used to growing and eating as it will keep us going through the winter months and look beautiful too. I don’t grow onions, but I will grow shallots from seed again, they were really easy and very tasty too. I love the way you anticipate “weakening” next year and planting beans after all. I always find myself weakening on something, but I think that is one of the joys of growing annual veg, you can allow yourself to “just give it a go”, because every growing year is different. I have it in mind to try growing some trailing squash up one of my support frames next year.

  10. The heat of a chilli depends far more on the amount of water they receive and the heat of the year than the variety; our extra hot dry summer means mine are almost impossible to eat! I keep misjudging how much I put in recipes! Everyone says tomatoes were bad this year in the UK (too wet). I do agree that one of the joys of vegetables is that each year is a new start. I like the grey background on the comments, definitely much easier to read.

    1. Hi Christina, yes, I always tend to underwater my chillies to encourage them to be hot, the ‘Ring of Fire’ chillies are perfect for us, but the long ones seem to vary from one to another quite dramatically, probably a sign of my erratic watering lol… Glad you find the comments easier to read. Are you finding the site any faster to load?

  11. Even with limited time your Kitchen Garden was wonderfully successful. I had pole beans up until the middle of October and some zukes too with tomatoes. Love the cherry tomatoes too. Sweet and easy to make a fast sauce out of…good luck with the new business!

    1. Hi Donna, the cherry toms don’t last long enough to make a sauce out of, they are munched at a phenomenal rate! Thank you for the best wishes, just collected some more work which is nice!

  12. I enjoyed reading about your veg growing Janet, it is always interesting to see what other people are growing. I had a brassica failure this year, Cabbage Whites decimated the lot. Sweet corn was hopeless too. Never mind, there’ s always another year. I suggest a purple T& M mange- tout called ‘Shiraz’. If you harvest it young you can eat it raw.

    1. Hi Chloris, I have terrible trouble with brassicas, and hate using the netting required to keep the wretched cabbage whites out, so am determined to stick to winter greens only. I do love that there is always the following year to get optimistic about, hopefully we will both be reporting bumper sweetcorn harvests in 2016!

  13. The new layout is nice and gentle on the eyes Janet but not that it wasn’t previously. I read your post with interest as like you I’ve cut back on seed sowing this year and also seem to have been away from home a lot. Like you I didn’t sow beetroot this year which I really regretted. I do like the sound of the runner bean ‘White Lady’. When it comes to French beans I usually grow ‘Cobra’ which dripped last year but unusually struggled this year. My borlotti beans however have done rather well. I can also recommend the purple podded ‘Blauhilde’ French bean.

    1. Oh good, thank you Anna! I like ‘Cobra’ too, though I’ve not grown it for a while. Curious that it struggled this year. ‘Blauhilde’ has gone on the list for next year…

      I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the success I have had sowing direct, I think I will experiment with more next year too, it does cut out a lot of hassle.

  14. Wow Janet! A whole new look–I love it! I couldn’t get enough of the detailed, large photos this time. Of course, I love looking at vegetables in general, especially when I know the grower, so the photos were just wonderful. You know what I liked especially? The photo of your hand with just a little dirt on it—holding the bean! The essence of what we do, right there. Congratulations on a lovely and very generous kitchen garden this year.

    1. Thank you Susan, it was the larger photos I really wanted to be able to support easily, as I enjoy them when I am reading other people’s blogs, but I get lazy about clicking on them to expand them, particularly if I am busy. I laughed at your comment about the dirty hand in the photo, but you are absolutely right, and I currently have disappointingly clean finger nails, I clearly need to get out in the greenhouse and fix that!

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