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Bean (and pea) feast

Posted by Guy Barter on 08 Aug 2008 at 09:34 PM

Peas and beans are the mainstay of my midsummer allotment crops; Pea ‘Ambassador’ grown for shelling produces two pods per node on tall leafy plants that put up a good fight against weeds.  The pods this year area little short – it is always much better to have 10 peas in a pod than 6, as shelling is so much easier.  ‘Balmoral’  has longer pods and lots of them but on shorter plants that compete less well with weeds. However, the edible podded snap pea ‘Cascadia’ is the most productive pea, which again grows tall and leafy, is delicious and I could grow only one pea this would be it.

Peas are not very high yielding.  Official yield figures for peas are about 400g every square metre and broad beans are much the same, while dwarf French beans yield nearly double at about 750g and I would guess that edible-podded peas approach dwarf French beans (no official figures are available).  Climbing French beans probably crop a little more heavily but nowhere near as much as the 2000g produced by a good crop of runner beans.

Like the pea season,  the broad bean season is on its last legs.  The main crop of ‘Witkiem Manita’ sown in March is nearly finished, the follow on crop of small seeded ‘Scorpio’ has been gathered and the final sowing of ‘Witkiem Manita’ has set a good crop and is just going over mature.   Scorpio has very tasty small beans, but I still think the bigger, more vigorous, ‘Witkiem Manita’ gives the best results overall.  If my eyes don’t deceive me this is the bean used for the August supermarket crops of broad beans and I hope to get similarly good results at this difficult season.  Old books recommend ‘The Sutton’ for this period but I was deeply unimpressed by its late performance last year, although it gave fair results from an over-wintered crop.

The  French beans raised indoors in April have been gathered.  The direct sown beans from early May are almost over and the May sown is in flower now, while the June sown crop are 20cm tall but have yet to flower. As dwarf French beans are much the same in my view I just bought one big bag of 'Scuba' with some purple 'Royalty' for pretty.

 To follow them July-sown yellow and purple climbing French beans are climbing their wigwams and to follow these late sown runner beans have reached the top of their canes

Both peas and broad beans are being cleared away now with time for a second crop before winter.  It is well to have plenty of plants on hand to follow on, and my stock of cell trays has been re-sown with courgettes, cucumbers, beetroot, calabrese, cauliflowers, herbs, kohl rabi, oriental greens, and salads ready to go out into the newly cleared ground.

In the meantime courgette, French bean and runner bean seeds have been dibbled with a length of 25mm dowel through the holes in the landscape fabric through which broad beans have been grown.  It is amazing how well seeds germinate under this treatment as long as they have some slug control applied at the same time.  Without cultivation the soil has lost no moisture and the soil compacted by the dibber and the subsequent consolidation of the soil over the seeds by a clenched, gloved fist leads to rapid germination and growth, while the landscape fabric keeps the ground weedfree.  If all goes well, and remains deer-free, these will be cropped in October.  A covering of fleece boosts temperatures by a couple of degrees and excludes deer, which happily appear insufficiently enterprising to push aside the fleece.

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