May shuffles in and all I can think of is beans. It is the month for beans. Beans for those of you who are new to gardening are a family with many varieties. There is a bean for every gardener and cook. A bean for every plate; green, yellow and rippled red are just a few.
There is no excuse not to try your hand at growing them.
There are two ways of growing beans as dwarf, which barely gets above your thigh and the space saving climbing bean that romps away up canes. In both cases make sure that the soil has been dug over and had plenty of compost added. I good tip is when planting out is to have a bucket full of water in which there are balls of scrunched up newspaper soaking. Dig a hole a trowels depth and toss in one of these balls of wet paper, place the earth back and direct sow with two seeds to one cane for support if climbing beans or two seeds to a station if dwarf; one for the plate and one for the slug. Slugs love bean shoots so be vigilant. This is the only downside of bean growing but once they are away the slugs lose interest. Wherever you plant, make sure that you can get to the plants easily and that it is sheltered from the worst of the winds. Beans won’t like being blown sideways and your neighbours won’t like having beans splattered across their double glazing.
There are dwarf and climbing French beans and climbing Runner beans. The latter says what they are, once they are away you will get crop after crop.
Harvest the pods when they are the length of your finger.
Don’t forget to water them when they flower. It is important that you do this and not end up mesmerised by the beguiling beauty of their flowers. That is the beauty of beans; you get a display, a riot of colour that will enthral the bees and neighbours, which gives way to crops.
If you want to get a head start or stagger your crops; a practice in which you plant under cover and when these plants are hardened off (a technique that means you leave the plants outside during daylight and bring undercover when dark for two weeks before planting outside) you can also direct sow into the ground in another row. This prevents you from ending up with a glut of beans that you will quickly be sick off. Anything that you have to eat a lot of tires the tongue. You can plant under cover by filling a three inch pot with good compost and sowing two seeds to the pot. When they germinate and have two real leaves on them, start to harden off.
At Pig Row we grow several varieties but these are a few of my favourites, Borlotti (www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk) a great Italian runner bean, magenta and green pods, can be eaten fresh or left to dry on the plant in autumn for use in stews and Italian dishes, the English stalwart of runner beans, Painted Lady (www.dobies.co.uk), beautiful flowers and a great tasting bean in warm salad, beside a roast and in a pasta dish and finally the magical Purple Teepee (www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk) that is purple podded but when cooked turns green. You’ll never overcook your vegetables again.