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Dublin: 7 °C Monday 18 November, 2019

My 2017 GIY report: 'Aubergines – F. Great plants, no fruit. Must do better'

This is an exercise in self-flagellation if ever there was one but here’s my report for this year’s GIYing, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

I USED TO dread school reports when I was a child. Pretty much every report I ever got had the immortal words “Could Do Better” scrawled on it somewhere.

It’s such a loaded phrase isn’t it? In just three words it manages to convey a complex mix of mild satisfaction, irritation, disappointment and anticipation. I always resented the patronising tone of teacher’s comments, and how they’d always end with ‘Happy Christmas’ after sticking the boot in.

So, I suppose this is an exercise in self-flagellation if ever there was one but here’s my report for this year’s GIYing:

  • Aubergines – F. reat plants, no fruit. Say no more. Must do better.
  • Bean, Broad – B. An early crop in the polytunnel did well and a later crop outside meant they were abundant for months on end. He still can’t seem to work out if he actually likes to eat them.
  • Bean, French – A. Halved the number he grew last year to reduce the glut, but was still overwhelmed. Bag loads in the freezer. Amazing crop.
  • Beetroot – A. Remains his fave veg to grow. Was a little lazy when it came to harvesting the late season crop which is still in the ground and struggling against the frosts.
  • Broccoli, Calabrese – F. Didn’t get around to planting any… must try harder.
  • Brussels Spouts – F. Slugs had a good go at the transplants and then caterpillars killed the plants off. He’ll be buying sprouts this Christmas. A shambles.
  • Carrots – B. Good year for carrots, but didn’t grow enough of them and has run out already. That’s just not good enough. A little planning would go a long way.
  • Celeriac – A. Still has them in the ground, and got really decent sized celeriac. Great effort. A fantastic crop.
  • Celery – B. Still has celery in the ground in the garden. Lots in the freezer. Solid effort.
  • ChilliPeppers – A. Seemed to thrive this year. Dare I say, he’s cracked it?
  • Courgette – B+. Prolific as always. Made a promise to himself to not let them grow any longer than pencil length before harvesting. Did not keep that promise.
  • Cucumber – A. Brilliant year. Had way too many, but made some great chutneys and pickles.
  • Garlic – C. Considering how much he waffles on about garlic, his were underwhelming this year. Could do better.
  • Kale – B+. Great crop of Cavalo Nero. Playing a blinder in winter garden.
  • Kohlrabi – F. Started off well but didn’t stick to succession sowing regime. Slugs had a field day. Desultory.
  • Leeks – B. Has a great crop of about 30 leeks in the ground still. Sturdy performance.
  • Onions – C. Decent onions but, as with the carrots, just not enough of them.
  • Parsnip – B. Solid performer. Still has a good thirty of them in the ground.
  • Potatoes – C. Got blight on everything but the blight-resistant Sarpo Mira and wireworm was a significant problem. Much cursing in the kitchen when peeling was the result.
  • Pumpkin/Squash – C. A little late planting them and this resulted in a poor return – only harvested about 10 in total.
  • Salad Leaves – C. Good year with oriental greens and lettuce but didn’t sow any in August and September which made the season short.
  • Spinach – B. Annual spinach remains a big pain, tending to bolt at the earliest opportunity. Perpetual spinach is a safer bet, if not quite as tasty. Still churning out leaves.
  • Sweetcorn – C. Grew them in the tunnel and they did brilliantly but timed holidays badly and they had gone over by the time he got back. Unforgivable.
  • Tomatoes – A. Great year. 80 fine plants in the tunnel gave delicious toms from July to November, and a freezer full of sauces. Fine work.

Comment: Michael remains committed and enthusiastic, if a little sloppy and lazy at times. Though troubled by pests and inclement conditions, he soldiered on and is showing progress.

Output was a little lower than we hoped. We have high hopes for him for next year.

Recipe of the Week – Potato, Kale and Roast Garlic Soup

shutterstock_547844095 Source: Shutterstock

This warming winter soup from our head chef at HQ JB Dubois is a powerhouse of a healing veg soup.


  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 kg potatoes (any types will do)
  • 1 leek
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small pinch ground nutmeg
  • sea salt
  • 50g butter
  • 300g green curly kale or cavolo nero


Roast the whole head of garlic (skin on) covered with a drizzle of olive oil in the oven at 120℃ for 30/45 min until the garlic soften. Let the garlic cool. Cut the bottom part of the garlic head and squeeze out the roast garlic pulp…. Smells delicious.

Cook the kale in a large amount of well salted boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Refresh the kale straight away in icing water. Then drain the kale (this process is going to help to keep a bright green coloured soup).

Peel and chop roughly all the vegetables and sweeten them with the butter, nutmeg and salt on low heat in a large sauce pot for 5 min. Cover with 1.5 litres of cold water and simmer for 20/30 min until all the vegetables are cooked through.

Add the blanched kale and the garlic pulp and blend. Check the seasoning before serving.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

shutterstock_565771528 Source: Maria Dryfhout via Shutterstock


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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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