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Peas and beans again

Posted by Guy Barter on 02 Nov 2007 at 01:14 PM

Perfect autumn weather of sun, light rains and breezes left the soil in perfect condition for sowing peas and beans to grow over-winter.

Pea 'Oregon Sugar Pod' was sown in a triple row aiming for a plant every 9cm. The soil was raked over and pressed, but left uncovered so prowling foxes can deter mice form taking up residence. When the peas emerge a fleece covering to exclude those pesky birds as well as give a little extra protection will be put in place.

Broad bean 'Aquadulce Claudia' was sown through a black landscape fabric with one seed every 25cm. The beans being widely sown can be grown though a weed-control fabric where the more closely spaced peas cannot. Normally these would be left uncovered all winter, but with that hungry deer on the loose on the allotments I cannot be sure it won't try a crafty munch, so netting will be used once the beans emerge.

Spent climbing French beans were pulled and their canes recovered for storage where they won't rot over the winter. Unfortunately the warm wet summer has led to heavy rotting of canes and instead of buying my usual 20 new canes per year, I will have to buy at least 40 when the allotment trading hut reopens in February.

The lab-lab beans were a dead loss just coming into flower as the first frosts arrived. But the climbing purple-podded French beans yielded enormously and as I could not keep up with the ripening pods, there are many mature pods that have been saved for seed. French beans seldom out-pollinate so they should come true especially as other beans were yet to come into flower as purple ones did their abundant stuff.

There are still a few runner beans on the frost singed runner beans and I was interested to see the invasive alien harlequin ladybird (now established in southern England) devouring black fly on the beans. It seems this insect is not all bad.

Unusual crops are tried out now while they remain in perfect codition and before seeds are ordered for next year. Carrot 'Black Spanish', actually purple, mostly went to seed with a neglible yield. A few big roots were roast and retain ether colour with a fair carrot flavour. Red skinned carrot ‘Samurai’ also bolted but produced a modest crop of long thin roots with pink insides that were very sweet and also retained their colour when roasted – these are worth trying again.

To make room for the abundance of green stuff recovered as the allotment is cleared, a compost bin was emptied. I was sorry to see signs of rats taking up residence. Rat bait has been placed nearby.

Perennial weeds come to light as crops are cleared. These are winkled out with a fork and placed at the bottom of compost bins. With 1.6m of waste stacked over them they won't see the light again.

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