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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Fruit and veg successes and failures 2012

Time to make a note of last year's harvest so that I can look back and compare in later years.

This wasn't a good year due mainly to weather and germination problems. It was really dry Jan through March, wet April through mid July, dryzabone mid July to mid September, and it hasn't stopped pouring with rain since! Hence much of the tree fruit which relies on insect pollination didn't do very well at all. The problems I had with germination and growing on of seedlings I already documented in an earlier post called 'Germination woes'. And then there was the first time Chateau Moorhen has ever been subject to ..... Slug Attack!


Despite later sowings being eaten by slugs, I sowed more than enough earlier and have loads pickled for winter use, yet still some in the ground!

Spring Onions
Did very well, although I find that the Japanese varieties don't germinate as well as 'White Lisbon' and 'Performer', the latter being the best performer! Again, I still have some unharvested in the ground.

Chinese Leaves/Cabbage
Earlier they were attacked by slugs and I was quite put off eating them as I found so many inside the folds of the leaves - now the slugs have gone and the last of this crop are still pickable despite having had -4C!

We did have blight, but by spraying with Bordeaux Mix we were able to keep the maincrop Desirees going for about a month after the blight appeared, so the spuds were of a decent size when harvested. The earlier Belle de Fontenays produced well. They loved the wet spring and I had much less scab than normal, and didn't need to irrigate them.

Soft Fruit - exceptional for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants (except blackberries, which weren't great as the fruit wasn't very juicy and there were hard bits in them, but it was their first year).

Loved the wet spring and produced tons!

Mange Tout

Broad Beans

French Beans
After a slow start due to germination problems they eventually grew well, and I had a pretty mixture of yellow, purple and green beans.

Only grew a small amount of pink Roscoff onions but they grew well and I've just finished them, having saved them more for salads rather than use them as general purpose onions.

Did fine, as usual, despite having rust, as usual! Rust doesn't seem to harm them and they store well. What I can report though, is this was the first year I had bought real garlic 'sets' (are they called sets?) from a garden centre, as opposed to planting any old supermarket garlic. Result? Absolutely no difference whatsoever.

Is still growing and flowering right now!

Cayenne Chillies
Did really well, and I had far more red chillies from four plants than I can probably get through in a year. I have dried them all.

Flat leaf Parsley
Was very slow to grow especially during the dry period mid July to mid September. After the rains came in mid Sept it started to really grow well and is still alive despite the frosts! It must be hardier than the curly leafed parsley. 

Mange tout in the foreground, peas in the middle
and broad beans at the back, all of which did really well

Peas and raspberries we had aplenty!

Belle de Fontenay on left, the last of the earlies,
and Desiree, the red ones on the right, the first of the maincrops


This is the first year in our eight years here that my leeks have not grown very big. I'm not sure if this was due to the dry conditions in late summer or not, because we normally have dry conditions at some point during the summer, so it's a bit of a mystery. I had two varieties which normally do well for me, 'Bleu d'Hiver (big French winter leeks) and 'Prizetaker', an English autumn variety from a packet of seeds that my mum gave me.  

Cherry tomatoes grown from seed didn't do well due to huge problems with germination and growing on afterwards, a fact I am putting down to the potting compost I was using. Eventually they came to life but were well behind, so many fruit never had a chance to ripen. The bought tomatoes were a disappointment, especially the heirloom varieties which produced very little fruit. The best all rounder and good producer and the one I am going to stick with as it has been good in previous years too, is 'Fournaise', a medium sized, nice round tomato that is good to either eat raw or make into sauce. 

We did have blight but kept it at bay with Bordeaux Mix. However the wet weather coming early in the autumn meant cooler conditions so I gave up and harvested the tomatoes green for chutney and ripening indoors much earlier than I would normally do. Some of the cherry tomatoes blighted whilst indoors.

Earlier flowering than the other plum trees, we managed to harvest a whole 1kg of fruit!

We have quite a few apple trees which flower at different times, so some managed to get pollinated during the wet spring, but overall it wasn't a very good harvest. 

Purple Curly Kale
I sowed a couple of weeks later than the previous year so the plants never grew that big. We've had a few meals from them but despite mild winter weather they just aren't growing any more. I found two plants completely bitten off at the base by my friends the mulots (burrowing mice), with a huge mouse hole around where the roots should have been. Never seen that before!

I can't grow radishes until after about mid August due to a problem here with flea beetles. The first few sowings produced OK, after that they either refused to germinate or were eaten by slugs.

Potimarron (pumpkin)
Not sure whether to count this as a failure or not! Not one seed from a brand new packet germinated and only two plants self seeded. Normally I don't even bother with sowing new seed as I'm usually hoeing off self seeded pumpkins galore. Then of these two plants, they produced precisely three fruit, which is a ridiculously low harvest. Still, it was better than nothing!

Jalapenos (mild chillies)
Oh they produced all right, but they were tougher than last year, so not so nice baked and stuffed. Don't think I will bother with them again.

Jalapeno in early Sept -
looked good, but was bit tough fleshed

A few courgettes, a solitary early tomato
and three different kinds of French beans

'Fournaise' - the only tomato that was
laden with fruit like this


Succumbed much quicker than normal to downy mildew (I think) so we had very few cucumbers, and this is after all the germination problems I had.

I've never known a year like it! I think I harvested about eight in total, from two plants. About four more were produced but just rotted. Normally we have dozens and don't know what to do with them all!

Grew well to start with but then just bolted quicker than normal - totally bizarre given the cooler wet spring which should have suited them. After that practically every seedling got eaten by slugs. Complete disaster.

The self seeded coriander germinated as usual in the spring, but never again afterwards. I had to sow seed and that had about three leaves then bolted, far quicker than normal. The next sowing barely germinated and those that did, were eaten by slugs. I expected loads more self seeded coriander to germinate after the rains came in September but it didn't! Really odd.

Piment d'Espelette (mild chillies)
Slow to grow and never ripened, and anyway there seemed to be two different kinds of chilli from the very expensive seed that I bought. Waste of time and money.

Parsley (curly kind)
Well that didn't even bother germinating.

I think I harvested about eight from one tree out of three trees! Our usual good performer, the Conference tree, had not a single fruit.

Apart from the damsons, out of the four dessert plum trees I think I picked about three red ones. 

These blossomed early during the warm sunny weather we had in March, so were all pollinated. However even my good tree in the veg patch which I keep well watered succumbed to black rot at harvest time which is so disappointing. Black rot is very common here and attacks plums too.

There seemed to be plenty on the trees; however there seemed to be many more thieving squirrels around because instead of my usual 1000+ I think I got about 50!

Slug eaten Batavia lettuce, some rare courgettes
and some tomatoes

Smokey checking out the tomatoes!

Cucumbers went like this in no time at all

I can't yet really report on the the PSB (Purple Sprouting Broccoli), other than to say that two out of the four 'Rudolph' plants have a few little sprouts appearing, but they are supposed to be an early variety (Dec/Jan) so they are late! The variety 'Red Arrow' seem to be quite healthy and robust too, but the unnamed variety have not done well as two plants are stunted and the crown of another has completely rotted in the wet. Time till tell.


  1. Great post, Mandy! I keep all of this in my head, but it is nice to have it written down somewhere.

    1. You have a good working head! :-) Obviously I still remembered all this but in a year or so I will have forgotten 2012 so thought it would be a good idea to make a note each year so I can look back and compare. Thanks for visiting, Michelle.