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Outdoors

Beans on the allotment

The beans that we sow first are broad beans. The allotment shop sells them loose during the autumn and we bought an envelope full and sowed two rows before Christmas. By the end of January they were looking good with plenty of healthy leaves, and a month or so later they were about a foot tall.

Here they are on the 17th April with flowers and a few bean pods starting to form.

At that time they were the greenest plants on the allotment as you can see. Patrick was talking to a neighbour (at least 12 feet apart) as a break from his never ending digging!

First picking 9 May – and so far no black fly

Then there are french beans and runner beans. The packets hold a huge number of seeds/beans and I normally sow about a quarter of them in modules. The rest are for successional sowing straight into the ground over the summer. The risk is that the later sowings catch up and all the beans will be ready at once. However in the past we‘ve just about managed to stagger the harvest so let’s hope it works this year too. And the good thing is that they can be frozen and taste fine especially in the winter when it’s a novelty to eat home grown beans.

29 April – Labels go in first then the seeds/beans. I put several beans (too many?) into each module pressed down into multi-purpose compost, lightly covered and then patted down. These photos look a bit of a mess – compost spilling out onto the green plastic covering the conservatory carpet but the beans don’t mind.

Then I covered the trays in cling film and put them in a warm place to germinate. This year I had a garden table set up in one of our bedrooms under a north facing window in front of a radiator which worked well.

These were the first to sprout on 5 May

They were ready to plant about a week later amazingly. But we had a spell of cold weather in mid-May with frosts at night so I kept the beans under cover over night until the weather changed. Here they are in their daytime spot outside, getting rather leggy, on 17 May

The next day I took them to the allotment. The first thing to do was to water each row where the beans would be planted. This is because Cambridgeshire is very dry – I often regard our climate as semi-desert which it certainly is in terms of average annual rainfall. It is only the moderate temperatures plus non-stop watering in spring and summer that allow us to grow English veg etc. I built the cane support for runners and climbing French beans as the canes went a reasonable distance into the now-damp ground followed by the bean plants. They needed a good watering. I know from experience that the slugs will go for them overnight so out came the pellets. The cane support seemed wonderful when I built it but as the weeks go by (and it’s the same every year!) I realise just how wonky it is especially compared with the meticulous constructions on other allotments.

To plant the dwarf French beans I dug a trench and poured water along it. Then I put each plant into the soggy bottom of the trench, digging out a decent sized hole with a trowel so they were planted quite deeply. Again they had a sprinkling of slug pellets to make sure they weren’t demolished overnight.

By the 6 June they looked like this……..

And they were in flower by 26 June

The weeds are very keen on the conditions that suit beans and lettuces as you can see below……

The dwarf purple French beans have a lovely flower. If you look carefully you can just see some miniature beans forming. I started picking in the first few days of July. And, as with so many crops, I’ll try to keep up to date with harvesting so the plants are encouraged to produce more.

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