Champion runners – the finished article

A while back I sowed a mighty array of beans that had been lurking around in the seed drawer. Two varieties of runners: some from last year’s crop and a packet of ‘Galaxy stringless’, some dwarf French and a handful of borlotti beans.

Ready, set, go…

I’m delighted to announce that first off the blocks by a long shot are some beans from last year’s crop that were saved and dried. These are actually third generation now with an impeccable pedigree. Their grandfather was from the same batch as Larry: 3rd prize-winner for the longest runner bean (in good condition), 2010 Earl Shilton Vegetable, Flower and Produce Show. A couple more years from now, and I’ll be able to market these bean seeds as Heritage. With their history, they should be worth a fortune…

Next up were The Galaxy stringless. These by comparison seemed to have no sense of urgency about the whole ‘life’ thing, and just sort of ambled into the world.

The French beans weren’t quite so lucky. Only two of them popped up, and the first was swiftly eaten by the elusive slug that’s hiding out in the greenhouse. I was ‘helping’ the second one out of his cumbersome seed shell, when I got a little heavy handed and managed to snap his head off. Luckily, I have a cunning backup plan:  A couple of French beans now have my name on them, thanks to the Leicestershire Garden Exchange Facebook group.

The borlottis unfortunately told a different story. True, the seeds were damp when I planted them, but I gave them a chance with all the others. Not surprisingly, none germinated. So last week I was on the great borlotti bean hunt. It soon became apparent that there was not a national surplus of them. Three garden centres later, I spotted the last packet. Like a woman on a mission, I charged across the shop, whipped them triumphantly off the display and off to the checkout.  Beneath the smug face, I couldn’t help berating myself slightly for eating all last year’s crop, and not saving a handful to plant.

So, now we have beans, they need something to grow up. At the weekend I assembled two wigwams over the bean trenches prepared earlier in the year.  Weed suppressant fabric went down first, to (hopefully) keep the weeds down, the moisture in, and the soil warm beneath. The runners are all in (slightly mixed up the varieties, but hey ho). Apparently it can still be a tad early for them, so I’ll keep a beady eye on the weather and be ready to nip off and cover them up if needs be. The borlottis should be big enough to plant out in a couple more weeks, so they’re still in the greenhouse for the time being.

Appeared in The Hinckley Times on 17 May 2012

The start of summer?

Flinging open the blinds at the weekend,  it was great to see that our old friend the sun had decided to pop back and pay us a visit. With not a moment to lose, I dashed off into the garden before he changed his mind.

After all the rain, there were a gazillion and one jobs I could be getting on with. The greenhouse is overrun with plants which need moving on at some point, the weeds are taking over the universe, and the bean wigwams aren’t going to pop up by themselves.

First job was to plant out my sweetcorn plants that I bought from a garden centre last week for the unbelievable price of 10p a plant. I wasn’t planning on growing it this year, but they just jumped into my trolley when I saw the price.

Next, I set to work on the beans. The broad beans are looking rather pleased with themselves, and I think I may end up with rather more than I bargained for. Thinking that not all of them had popped up over winter, I shoved a few more in – and lo and behold, they seem to have taken the hint. I put a cane in at each corner of  the bed and wrapped some string around, to keep them in place.

On a roll now, I built a runner bean wigwam along a similar vein. First I put some black weed suppresant fabric down to (hopefully) keep the weeds out, the moisture in, and the soil warm. Next up came the canes, and before long I had myself two handy frames for the beans to climb up. I planted out the runners (slightly got the two varieties mixed up, but hey ho…).

Two bean wigwams

The borlottis can live in the  greenhouse for a bit longer,  as they’re still small. You may have noticed the peas romping away behind… we have a few tiny pods already, which is all very exciting. The last little jobs were to plant out some rudbeckia and nicotiana plants, and to mow the lawn. That all done, I’m pretty chuffed with how the garden’s looking at the moment…

From the house looking down

The pond and the veg plot

The fish look happy

Champion runners

I planted a mighty array of beans a week or so ago. I had some runner beans that I saved and dried from last year, and some Galaxy ‘stringless’ from a packet.  Next up were half a pack of borlottis that hadn’t done so well over winter and were a tad damp, some with sprouts, but I planted them up anyhow to take their chances. Last but not least were some dwarf french beans that have been in the seed drawer for an indeterminable amount of time, and really needed to be used up.

Ready, set, go…

I’m delighted to  announce that first off the blocks are the runner beans I saved from last year’s crop, which incidentally had come from plants saved from the year before’s plants. We are now on to third generation runner beans… I’ll be selling them on eBay in a year or two’s time, as ‘heritage plants’.

My fortune awaits…

First off the block... champion runners

Wigwams and waste for a batch of borlottis

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.

The bean trench

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: