This week I decided to get cracking on my runner bean trench. As the beans will be grown up wigwams, it’s more like a square ditch. Apparently you dig a hole where you’re going to plant your beans, and fill it full of stuff that will rot down, hold moisture, and hopefully make those beans go flying up the canes, providing bumper crops all summer long.
I set to work, and have to say digging the trench took me briefly back to my childhood, as before long I’d produced a structure that resembled a massive sandcastle.
On quizzing my friend who keeps three allotments, I learned that the sort of things you need to fill your trench with are raw kitchen waste, such as peelings and teabags (not potato peelings though), newspaper and manure. All week I’ve been happily by-passing the compost bin, and chucking all my peelings straight into the trench, ready for the layer of chicken manure and newspaper that would be available when I next cleaned out the girls.
All winter I’ve wondered to myself how it’s physically possible for just three hens to produce the amount of waste that they do. However, that’s all changed now I’m on ‘Operation Bean Trench’: I’m positively egging them all on to plop out a bit more.
The layering sorted, I suddenly realised that as well as the runners, I hoped to be growing borlotti and French beans this year. So I whizzed off back into the garden, spade in hand, and two more trenches were prepared in no time. I’m hoping I have enough scraps to fill them all before the beans are ready to go in.
The digging over, I set off into the greenhouse to sow the beans. After all, a bean trench is simply a hole full of rubbish if you have no beans to put in there. A quick furtle around the seed box produced a handful of runner beans I’d dried and saved from last year, half a packet of borlottis that were left over and some runners and dwarfs that had been purchased at the end of last season in the sale.
I grew borlotti beans last year as I’d never heard of them, and from then I decided that they would be a regular occurrence in my garden. Picked and dried, they last for ages in the store-cupboard, and they’re a brilliant addition to a stew.
However, this idea was nearly thwarted – on closer inspection it became clear that the borlottis hadn’t braved the winter. They appeared to have got damp at some point, as some had tiny sprouts and all were coated in a thin film of mildew. Nonetheless, I decided to plant them up, and let them take their chances in the greenhouse with the others. I reasoned that in the soil anything could happen: in the bin they had two hopes – Bob Hope and no hope.
So, my collection of beans planted, labelled and watered, it’s now just a waiting game to see what pops up.
This one was in the Hinckley Times on 29 March: