Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Review of 2010 - Part 4, Peas & Beans

I always start my early peas and beans under a cloche, which goes on the ground when I prepare the soil about two weeks before planting. This traps what little warmth there is during the day and helps germination. After the cold winter, this was even more important this year and the peas above were planted in early April. I also did a second sowing (without a cloche) one month later, in an attempt to extend the season.
I know I really bang on about this, but if you like peas, grow an old tall variety like this one - Alderman, which grows up to 2m in height. You get more crops for the same amount of land, and you stand a better chance of eating your peas instead of feeding the slugs. The only downside is the support needed - this year I used a framework consisting of canes with twine woven from top to bottom in between. It stood up well to the weather and wind, only subsiding gently towards the end of the season.
My bid to extend the cropping season did work; although the second sowing suffered a bit from the 6 weeks without rain, it recovered and we had peas into August (picture above). I still have a large bag of peas in the freezer.
The runner beans were started in toilet roll pots in the shed. I waited until quite late this year as we had late frosts, but they grew on well once they got going. The great thing about toilet roll pots is you just pop the whole thing in the ground. Unfortunately they went out just as the dry spell was kicking in, I did water them but they were a bit slower to get away.
I'm not really a big fan of runner beans; I grow them mainly for my Mother, who loves them. They were late due to the weather but cropped reasonably well into October. Most of mine ended up in vegetable soups, liquidised! The variety is White Emergo, a white flowered variety. These are supposed to keep good pollination rates even in a dry summer. This did seem to happen in the one dry summer we had some years ago, but I can't really remember the days when we had hot, dry summers any more!
The broad beans weren't good. I planted them under a cloche in March, which was late as I normally put them in in February. The soil was just too cold and we had been unable to prepare it due to the snow. They started well, as you can see from the picture, but ...
... just as they started to flower, we hit the dry spell and they struggled. The crop was poor this year; I think I started to seriously water them too late. I featured these poor plants in my review of the weather a few weeks ago.

So mixed results with the peas and beans, and a few learning points.

Next week, the stars of my plot this year - marrows, courgettes (zucchini) and pumpkins.
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