Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Beans, sweetcorn and tomatoes

Activity on Sunday 22nd July.

There is plenty happening in Spring at the garden in terms of ground preparation and planting, but perhaps surprisingly it is far from a time of plenty, aside from salad leaves and a few leeks. The same cannot be said of the present, however! All of a sudden there appears to be lots to be had, with cabbages, courgettes, cucumbers, broad beans, chard, onions and garlic all ready, and that's not to mention the fruit: an abundance of black and red currents, strawberries and raspberries. The glut of fruit and veg almost happens too quickly for us to keep up with!

Allotment produce

In common with the experiences of other gardeners, not all things have been a success so far this year, however. The runner beans got off to an uncertain start: the ones that Ben and I sowed outside a few weeks ago have not been a great success as in some cases they were dug up before they had chance to germinate and in other cases the shoots were eaten off after they did so. I'm not sure who the culprits were! Not to be beaten, Anne planted some more in trays of six on 22nd June; varieties are Moonlight, Royal Standard, St George and Celebration. They have grown into healthy looking specimens in the polytunnel and the time has come to plant them out.

Borlotti and runner beans

Beans ready to be planted out

The borlotti beans we planted around a wigwam made out of bamboo canes a few weeks ago have turned out to be a bush variety, and so will not climb up the poles. This has left them available for some runner beans to climb up instead! These were planted to the level of the surrounding soil alongside the borlotti bean plants. Another wigwam has been constructed elsewhere in the garden where there was a bit of space in order to support some more runner bean plants. Construction of the wigwam involves pushing 12 long bamboo canes arranged in a circle about a foot apart into the ground, with a 13th pole placed in the centre. Each of the outside canes is pushed in at an angle so the cane is pointing out of the circle. When the canes are all gathered together with the one in the centre and tied together with a cable tie, the bow created in each increases the tension in the poles and the stability of the overall structure. These canes now support 13 healthy plants and all being well we should eventually have plenty of runner beans.

Gathering the canes

Planting a bean

Planting around the finished wigwam

On 5th June Anne and I planted sweetcorn seeds into three trays of six each. Sweetcorn seeds look a bit like unpopped popcorn. The trays were placed on the racks in the polytunnel and were checked for progress intermittently. This gave me the not-at-all-childish idea of a competition to see whose trays produced the most plants, particularly as my trays appeared to be winning at the time. The final scores were Anne 6, Tom 9, but the result was not to be clear cut. Anne had planted two trays of ovation and one of sundance, whilst mine were two trays of incredible and one of sundance. Six of Anne's sundance seeds germinated and only three of mine did. As we had planted different varieties the result was declared a draw! Our plants have been planted out in a bed in separate rows so that we can clearly see whose plants produce the most cobs. I resisted the temptation not to water Anne's plants in.....


It is amazing how quickly the tomato plants grow as soon as they are planted in the beds in the polytunnel and greenhouse. One seemingly never ending job is taking the side shoots off the plants so that they put more of their energy into producing fruit. Dave had a hot day of it doing just this.

Meanwhile, the battle against bindweed continues....

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