Bean canes and gardens

Despite adding three new beds to our vegetable garden, effectively doubling the capacity since last year, we have almost run out of space. The garlic, onions and some of the brassicas, beans and peas I planted last Autumn are not yet ready to harvest and new plants are waiting to be planted out. Mainly squashes. I sowed ten seeds each of butternut and patty pan and all of them came up. We're going to try to grow them in large containers rather than plant them directly and we are hoping to use less space and improve on last year by getting them to grow up a mesh frame.


Last year we planted the squashes too close together and let them grow out flat along the ground. They invaded the paths, spread to other beds and it was difficult to get close to the beds to water them during the draught. When it started to rain many of the fruits rotted off and some of them developed a grey mould.  Maybe growing them up mesh will help improve the harvest.

phoca thumb l Squash in containers

I had been worried about the Autumn planted cauliflower (Aalsmeer AGN and Orkney F1, plants)  and spring cabbage (Advantage and Spring Hero) but apart from those initially flattened by the cat they have all done well. All those nights going out to cover them with fleece has been worth it!

Two of them, in addition to a less dense central flower head also grew a sort of sprouting flower. I don't know if this is due to the variety (no idea which of the two as in my planting log I only recorded Aalsmeer) or something I did "wrong". Whatever, the sprouting cauliflower is delicious and The Webmaster (who doubles as the chef) has created a delicious dish using the sprouted heads and their stalks mixed with okra, tomato puree and a blend of spices. Unfortunately we haven't grown the okra. Another time maybe. phoca thumb l Cauliflowers

phoca thumb l Pea pods

I now have six beds. The latest is somewhat shaded by a hazel nut and two apple trees but our extensive reduction over winter of a rather over grown hedge along the bottom of the garden has let in more light than last year. The bed is now full of potato plants and we are hoping for the first early variety (Casablanca) to be ready next month. We were rather reluctant to plant potatoes as in our last phase of vegetable gardening we never completely managed to dig up all the potatoes and they came up like weeds for years, but with no really edible crop. 

Apart from beetroot we didn't grow any root vegetables last year but with the extra space I thought it worth trying. In the past I've never been successful with carrots. They were either swamped with weeds or deformed by our stoney soil. Undeterred I have tried again and so far so good. Being retired I have more time to spend weeding and I'm hoping my hard work pays off. I have three nice looking rows of carrots, including a row of Amsterdam Forcing 3 Sprint carrots I started indoors in mid April and planted out in third week of April. 

Rather over ambitiously I also sowed parsnip, salsify, celeriac and kohlrabi. The salsify and kohlrabi germinated and are beginning to develop although unfortunately the cat dug up some of the kohlrabi and then the dog destroyed more of the seedlings when it chased the cat. Never mind, I have a few still growing. Most of the salsify germinated but nothing from the parsnips and celeriac so far. I think it may have germinated in the mini-heatwave at the end of April and then died in the cold snap that followed. I'll wait another couple of weeks and then designate the space for something else.

The seed company sent free leek seeds with the order. I sowed them in trays at the same time as the carrots and planted them out at the end of April. Not something I had though of planting but once the seeds arrived, well, why not?

The broad beans and peas I planted last Autumn and kept in pots in the greenhouse over winter were moved outside at the end of March when they started to flower. They rather took me by surprise. I didn't plant them out but left them in the pots. Probably a mistake because a week later they were half as tall again and top heavy. It was also difficult to stake them up. The pots are far too small but by the time I realised it seemed too late to repot them or plant them in the ground. I've been watering and occasionally adding plant food and they are producing peas and beans. I have already started picking and eating the peas and the broad beans look almost ready to pick.

So far no pods have appeared on the same varieties I planted directly in the garden at the same time although the beans are now in flower. In an attempt to spread the harvest I sowed a new batch  of peas and broad beans directly into the garden on 25th March. Almost all have come up and are looking strong. 

Last year we were reasonably successful with runner beans but hadn't planted many, so this year we have doubled the number and gave them a bit more space and now the end of the garden looks like a shanty town of canes.  The rest of our bean garden has been filled with two varieties of dwarf french beans, mascotte and borlotto, which are progressing nicely.

We have also been busy in the greenhouse, but that is for another time.