Yesterday, we lamented the weather and as if by miracle, or simple bloody mindedness, the weather has veered the other way today. You can see the shadows on the ground in the photos, it's that sunny. Ssh! It is luring us into a false sense of security, no one say the word, 'summer', at any point for the next three months. Stricken the word from the records, the weather gods are listening and they love to mess us around. So, the other day we cleared the ground and put up the supports for the beans, you do remember that rant don't you? Where were you? That's no excuse, stand up straight, eat your greens and pay attention. To plant beans, you will need: (1) some string; (2) a knife (seriously, we are not allowed near the secateurs after the last debacle with them), (3) bean plants (preferably grown under cover, now little but strong plants after hardening off), you can sow seed direct but that brings us to, (4) slug pellets (organic or napalm, your choice). Yes, sow seed and feed some bloody slugs, they're everywhere this year and they are breeding like cats. We found two in the glasshouse yesterday, at it. At least they died happy.
So, here's your ball of string and knife. The photograph isn't for you. It's evidence that we actually had the knife in the back garden because you can guarantee that tomorrow it will have done a moonlit flit. Gone. Buggered off. To turn up in the strangest place possible in another two weeks. Is that a garden knife in your toilet roll cupboard, Mr & Mrs Oldham? Why, yes it is, we keep it there for stubborn movements, one of us jumps out at the other brandishing it and Bob's your Uncle, no more constipation. As if. The vegetables we get through.
Anyway, this is what we do ever since we saw it done at Sissinghurst. The idea behind it is that the beans cling better to the string but the string allows them to sway in the wind and this stops any breakages. The bean stalk flexes with the weather. Nifty idea transported to our garden.
We run a long piece of sting around two inches (that five centimetres in Euros) above the soil level along the length of the bean supports. You will notice that we only do one side, again we have seen this before, it makes harvesting easier but also we have to get to the hedge in late August to cut it and our bean patch this year is around thirty-eight foot long with around forty bean stalks - the variety, Isabel, which is supposed to give bumper crops - so, we should be okay for beans without doubling up the rows. These beans are destined for preserving as dilly beans, such was our success with ditching French Beans last year and using runner beans instead, we have had several people put in orders for them. We ate the last of them only a month ago and Carol's Mum wanted some. She's even sending us her glut of runner beans to preserve. We will have beans everywhere. However, this does highlight something we decided over winter, to grow crops we could eat but more importantly, in that wartime spirit, preserve.
When you have run the string the length of the bean support, tightening as you go, we do it in sections so we can tie it off. Don't be a hero and try to run the string the entire length, we guarantee you'll catch it with your feet at some point and garrote all your beans. So, every third or fourth cane, tie it off, cut some more string. No, it's not gentle on your back but take your time, have a cup of tea, drink some wine but not too much you're holding a knife. You will notice our bean support is an A frame, that means you can now tie a piece of string to your bottom string line (see above photo) and run a new piece of string up to the heavens or until you hit that cross bar on the A frame. Tie it off and repeat along the length of the support.
Now, we plant two seeds to a pot and you are always told to select the strongest plant and discard the weaker one. This still holds true, except there are very few weak runner beans, the hint for this is in the name, they are not known as 'having a sit down' beans. They romp away. So, we plant the entire pot, normally two beans between two string supports and then train them in (see below photo). This works for us especially when it comes to: (1) weeding; try getting a hoe between runner beans can be problematic and can result in crying when you slip and slice off the plant. Now we know where they are and we can avoid it, and; (2) feeding, yes runner beans like any flowering plant will need some comfrey juice. If you don't know how to make it where have you been? Haven't we had this talk before? Stand up straight, eat your greens and click here to see how it's done (the temptation writing this line was to say, 'Where have you bean?' bum-bum, bad pun, go to the foot of your stairs).
So, your beans are trained onto the strings and you know what, they do cling better. Especially if you use the hairy, furry type of string, sometimes referred to as jute. This is the string that rots down after a season and actually improves your soil. It was a windy day, yes the weather gods were listening and someone did whisper, 'summer'. We know who it was, we know where you garden, there will be a van around to take away your secateurs in a jiffy and you will spend weeks looking for them. Mwahahaha! You can see in the photo below half of the length of the bean support and the beans are holding their own rather than when on poles or canes having to fiddle around with string tying them in. Who wants to fiddle around with string? Oh, hang on...