Monday 25 May 2020

Have a go!

First sweet peas just picked
Hmm-mm! We look - and - we smell. Its cousin - we eat. In fact, its second cousin, the Runner Bean, was originally grown for its scarlet flowers rather than as a source of food. Only later did it become the almost defining vegetable of the British. Elsewhere in Europe, what we call the French Bean, was favoured - and still is. Garden Codger rather thinks of beans, Runner or French, as an excellent starter project for anyone wanting to try vegetable growing. This is especially the case if they want to make it a family project that will interest children. Two advantages come to mind. First space: you need well less than a square yard. You could manage with a large pot or some other container. You could also work with a space between other plants in the flower border. Second, you get height - a key dimension in the well-planned garden

Not much space is needed - this is roughly 3 feet square
A little challenge
So I am hoping that I can entice some folk to dip their toe in the water - or, at least, their trowel in the soil. My example requires a space measuring about 90cm square (illustrated on the right). Readers may wish to adapt - bigger or smaller - or even a different shape. I shall be planting climbing French beans since Mrs Codger prefers their flavour. You could equally well be British and stick with your runners. And, should you prefer it, you could sow seeds rather than start with plants - obviously, the harvest will be a little later should you choose to sow seeds. I have reserved nursery plants for anyone who wishes to have them from me. Please get in touch - I would love them to be used

First four canes, tied at top
Do not feel nervous about the construction bit - making a 'wigwam'. It is easy to explain in two stages. The wigwam is made from eight bamboo canes (8' if possible, 6' will do for this first time) and some string. You will also need eight plants (or seeds) to finish the job

Step 1: starting the structure
Mark out a 50cm square and push in a cane in each corner - really firmly so they stand up on their own. Thus you have four vertical canes. Take any two canes and pull them together at the top so they bend towards each other. Tie at the top with string. Repeat with the other pair. Loop string around the tops of both pairs, pull them together and secure. (Although not essential, you will find a bit of useful tension in the structure due to the bowing of the canes.) 

All eight canes in place
Step 2: completing the structure
Mark the midpoint of each side of the square (yes, I was once a Maths teacher). This is where the remaining four canes go. Push the canes vertically in the soil. Then pull the tops together so all eight canes meet.  Tie in at the top, securing well. Bingo, you have the wigwam!

Eight plants should give a good harvest worth having

Step 3: plant
Using a trowel, plant a bean at the foot of each cane. On the inside of the square is better. As ever, water in well! And keep up the watering especially if the weather is dry. As the beans settle in and begin to develop the leading shoot will starting twining. Sometimes a bit of gentle persuasion may be needed so it heads for its own cane. You can do this with string - but do this just loosely. You will discover that the beans always twine  anticlockwise - never the other way. And here is The Garden Codger Guarantee - come July, and you'll never taste a better bean - French or Runner!

Now for an easier way
If you have got this far, well done. But there is an easier way: get a good size pot, put in two of three plants along with some sticks for the beans to scramble over. If you water well, you'll still get a result. And, perhaps, you'll be brave enough to do the full-blown thing next year. With gardening, something is always better than nothing! But, I would be pleased if at least a few folk try the challenge I've set. Remember, plants are available for the asking

A clematis that has surprised this Spring
Tomorrow - and today
... an invitation to join me on a wander about bits of the Codger garden tomorrow . We will have a look at few successes - and a few failures, too. We learn from both. In the meantime I suggest you get out the hose or the watering can. On SaturdayI found working in the blustery conditions quite unpleasant. Some plants - like delphs and chrysanths - suffered wind damage. I'm finding that plants are generally short of water especially those that are container grown. I've already been out and done some emergency watering as it promises to be a hot and a dry day 

Do please do join me again tomorrow when we look at ideas that have worked - and some that haven't

 - best wishes from the old Garden Codger

Speaking of surprises - an untimely amaryllis

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