July II: the bean season so far

In 2017 I have grown overwintered Aquadulce Claudia broad beans; Enorma Runner Beans; Cobra French climbing beans; and Cupidon dwarf beans.

The broad bean harvest occurred for 3 weeks from June 9th, with the haulms lifted on 29th June to be followed by Musselburgh leeks. Early pinching out limited the effects of blackfly. Harvests were solid, not spectacular. It is unclear if sowing beans W-E is better than N-S.

The Cupidon dwarf beans, sown in early May, germinated spectacularly after saving my own seed in 2016 and completed harvest by 27th July, with five plants retained to save new seed again. Planting in an equilateral triangle lattice of 30cm side gave reasonable yields of 12-15 beans per plant. A second sowing in early June failed to germinate, and a direct sowing around the Summer solstice saw 7/9 seedlings emerge, for a crop hopefully in the first half of September.

The Cobra climbing bean crop, also grown using home-saved seeds, produced a spectacularly early crop on 29th June after an indoor sowing on May 6th. The crop is nearly over now after four weeks of productive cropping, with the bottom beans on the best plants left to mature as seeds for 2018.

The Enorma runner beans suffered in the June and early July heat, failing to set pods due to overly warm night time temperatures. Since mid July, however, a regular harvest has been made, which shows no signs of stopping.

As a result, July was the month of French beans, whereas August will be the month of runner beans.

The lesson I have learned this year is that splitting the French bean sowings into two batches will be valuable. How do do that with pole climbers is yet to be ascertained.

The second lesson is that saving french bean and broad bean seeds biodynamically in 2016 yielded good crops in 2017. They are easily made, there are no delays to subsequent sowings and germination rates and time to harvest improve.

The final lesson concerns the efficacy of Marigolds in preventing blackfly on pole beans, a tip I gained from gardeners in Uxbridge who were selling plants to raise money for charity. Two plants at each end of the sticks, no blackfly, hurrah!

Author: Rhys

Rhys trained as a research biologist, working for a decade in the cancer research charity sector, before completing an MBA and working in management consultancy, technology transfer and early technology investment spaces, mostly working with UK academics to turn their scientific discoveries into value for society. AS a younger man, he was fascinated with mountains, both climbing them and ski-ing down them. Whilst living in Scotland, he completed a round of (then) all 277 Munros, the independent mountains over 3000ft originally complied as a list by Munro. He also spent his holidays representing the Ski Club of GB, as a Representative and Party Leader between 1990 and 1997. During that time, he found to his bemusement that he was able to predict, without understanding fully why, to a remarkable degree of accuracy, when good snow conditions would occur in the Alps, gaining an unworthy reputation for predictive genius in 1990 when predicting the evolution of the 1989/90 winter in Wengen, Switzerland for his CEO boss. He used this skill for the next seven years to ensure that he enjoyed powder snow pretty much every time he went ski-ing. An MD student he was training in Oxford also impressed his wife by taking Rhys' advice about when to take her to Italy in the mid 1990s! In recent years, Rhys has turned his mind toward how to grow prize tomatoes, winning several prizes in local and London shows and has, in the past 3 years, moved toward taking over a 50 square metre urban vegetable patch, which he has turned into a no-dig area since autumn 2014.

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