Monday 13 September 2021

The clash of the Titans (beans, that is)

For the next two weeks, indeed throughout most of September, temperatures shouldn’t drop below 64 deg F here in sheltered Bath. The ‘Luz de Otono’ broad beans, which were giants even in their seed trays, are going to make rapid growth at this rate. And with no sign of frost the climbing beans look set to keep on producing.

I have found an excellent recipe for the likely glut of climbing French beans. It was written for runner beans but I don’t like runners. I don’t waste my time making wigwam frames for them. Therefore I’m christening this recipe ‘French bean & tomato soup’. If you grow your own tomato plants you are very likely still picking fruits by the ton. In which case you can make 3 cups’ worth of tomatoes as stated* or use the tinned variety.

French Bean & Tomato Soup

  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 pound beans, sliced
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes*
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • In a large saucepan, saute the onion and carrots in oil for approximately 5 minutes - until the carrots are softened. Stir in the stock , beans and garlic then bring the whole to the boil. Reduce the heat then cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. 
  • Stir in the tomatoes, basil and pepper. Cover and simmer 5 minutes longer.
  • Serve, eat and enjoy.

Meanwhile, after indulging in my vegetable-garden broth, a glance at the seed packet shows me my giant one-month-old broad beans are destined to grow over three foot tall. I’ll need the bamboo canes from the wigwams to help support them. But we may not get a frost until November so the climbers may need the sticks themselves … On the other hand with strong autumn winds the broad beans may well be rocked in their planting positions while the climbers keep producing. It’s the clash of the titans in the world of beans!!

Tomatoes can be kept in their growing positions until temperatures drop below 50 deg F. At which point it is time to dismantle them, remove the last fruits for ripening and discard the stems. The tomato-growing season is then over. By which time the climbing beans can still be going great guns as frosts don’t form until we reach 32 deg F. Oh to have more space! 

I plan to replenish the raised beds with fresh compost. One has lettuce and salad leaves growing in it. Another has leeks. Do I lift them and replant them after I’ve enriched their growing medium? I’m thinking it’s best to wait until this warm, dry spell is over and replant them when rain is expected and aim to disturb their root systems as little as possible.

The other raised beds are an easier matter. When the dwarf French beans are finished I can fully replenish the beds and leave them fallow until spring. 

What a busy gardening year this has turned out to be. My only real failure has been the spinach. And I can only think I was trying to sow old seed. 

When the battle of the beans is over I will try my hand at growing garlic. Some say plant in October, outside, where the frost can get at the clove. Others say ‘plant on shortest day’ ‘harvest on longest day.’ However it’s done I need space not just for the various beans but for garlic too!

Monday 6 September 2021

The exciting new broad bean

In my enthusiasm to plant ‘Luz de Otono’ broad beans I took up a climbing French bean plant which I thought was nearing its end. A few weeks ago I dug over my vegetable plots and manured them then covered the prepped areas with tarpaulin.But my climbers were still strong and tall. I dug areas around them for the broaders. As a new experience ( I live a wild life) and an experiment, I sowed the winter-cropping Luz de Otono beans.

This will be a first for me. Normally I either sow broaders in the autumn for early summer flowering the following year. Or I sow them for planting out in the spring of their pod-producing year.

About two weeks ago the temperatures dropped and last week I put the garden parasols away. I thought autumn was with us. After I’d sown my special broad beans in toilet roll inners I placed them in the greenhouse. I expected them to take weeks to germinate. It was still August then but chilly. I also had guttering drilled for drainage holes to be used as long ‘window boxes’.

The idea behind these late summer antics was that the climbing beans were still growing and taking up space I knew the broad beans would devour. But, I thought, by the time the broad beans are ready for the ground the climbers would have finished. Wrong. Or I could use the guttering as a temporary home for the Luz de Otono. Wrong. And I thought the broad beans would take some time to grow to planting size. Wrong. 


Yesterday, as I was preparing the guttering with compost, I checked the Luz de Otono and they were already huge. This is what comes of being used to growing dwarf beans. When trying to grow standards their height is that much greater even at the seedling stage. Our mini heatwave, our Indian summer, since September had brought on the broad beans quickly and,at the same time, the climbers showed no sign of giving up the ghost. It was nearly 80 deg F in the greenhouse. I was overproducing for the space I had. 

The guttering idea - a temporary home for my fledgling broad beans - was a non-starter. They were too big and the guttering was too shallow for them.

Today, which was another splendid summery day,  I removed the tarpaulins from the pre-dug patches in the veggie plots. The soil underneath was still moist from the day I’d worked it and prepped it. It was now or never. Could I plant twenty 12 cm high broad beans in the few spaces of pre-dug soil I had between my wigwams? Only one way to find out: 

Almost an hour after my haphazard planting the broad beans were in place. The wigwams were still intact and the various beans, of whatever genetic make up, would just have to fight for space. I could have taken up one batch of French dwarf beans that were growing in a raised bed. They are not as productive as the climbers but a few still have flowers and pods. But the broad beans are going to grow too tall to be properly supported in the raised bed… Back to squeezing them

in between the climbers. 

This is the problem when the seasons are adrift. Early summer was so cold, wet and late most crops and flowering plants were a month behind when they did get going. My climbers are still going for it. Maybe they would be slowing down now if they had germinated in mid-May. But they didn’t show their heads until near-June.

Now we have much warmer weather again everything is giving its last hoorah. And my broad bean seedlings are growing visibly taller by the day.

I could make temporary homes for my last ten Luz de Otono in 20 cm diameter pots.

But they will soon need to feel the soil under their feet rather than spend their short lives in pots.

And what of the hapless climbing bean growing up its single bamboo cane? On closer inspection I saw more flowers and developing pods on this particular climber. It seemed too cruel to throw it on the heap. It was still enjoying life, after all. So I hurriedly found a barren spot by my tangerine rose which had been mulched with bark but not prepped with manure. And I watered it in, there and then, cane and all.

Whether it survives its premature uprooting only time will tell. So much produce and so little space. It’s a good problem to have.