BEANS

As I have finished all my digging it was time to start getting ready for growing my beans.

Last year’s harvest was great – we had not only freshly picked French and runner beans but also many other beans that I kept on the plants until they ripened and dried and then shelled and stored in jars for the winter. I still have some, they are delicious in soups or casseroles, even just cooked and served with tomato sauce like baked beans.

 

ONE RAINY DAY…..

…and everything looks much greener. I didn’t mind the rain today at all, the ground was so dry and hard it will take e few rainy days to penetrate a bit further down.

These courgette plants are doing very well, they’re just a small sample of the different varieties I have got there. The round one can grow to alarming sizes – last year one of them managed to get to 7 kg! It climbs so I’ll be able to see them well as they get bigger. I saved some seeds from my last year’s giant so these could do just as well.

There are not only courgettes climbing up the structures but also some climbing beans, alas, the blue ones lose their colour after cooking .

IT WILL BE A GREAT HARVEST….

…if these few courgettes, french beans and peas are anything to go by.

I’ve got a number of courgette plants and after last night’s rain they suddenly sprung to life and here we are!

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I grew some garden peas last year and made one big mistake – I didn’t protect them. Of course I didn’t have any as the pigeons were enjoying them too much. This year I sowed all my peas in one of my net cages and the result is here for all to see. They were just too nice to cook them so we just ate them straight out of the pod. I’ve got an idea for next year – I shall grow them again in a cage but this time I shall sow them close to sweetcorn plants and these can be their support. There’s an old method of growing things – ‘three sisters – usually runner beans planted close to sweetcorn and all that underplanted with squashes. Well, the way my squashes grow I wouldn’t be able to walk there so It’ll be just ‘two sisters’.

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And finally, I also harvested my first french beans. I like the climbing ones – much easier to pick!

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MODEST BEGINNINGS

When I first started working on the allotment I had just one half of a plot. I thought that it would be enough. Little did I know that I will have so much land in the end.

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This was the first bit of land – without any structures on it and rather overgrown!

The chairman just mentioned that the person who had the other half of my plot doesn’t want to work it any more and would I like it. I didn’t need any time to think about it because I realised that just a half is nowhere near enough for my plans.007

Every plot needs a shed – mine was made for me by one of the other allotmenters – out of pallets – talk about recycling!

First if was one more half then a bit more and end is that now I have two full plots and three separate halves. I have the luxury now of growing flowers!

I have finished puling the weeds, cutting the path edges, building the structures for growing beans and climbing courgettes and now all I have to do is wait. I even had time to put a huge flowerpot over one rhubarb crown to force it so we can look forward to some very tasty pink rhubarb later on…..

Not easy….

AUTUMN…

…is a very busy time. I think people who don’t garden think that I can just harvest my veg and leave everything shut for the winter.

Not so.

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Thanks to my friend Paul I have a great supply of seasoned willow poles – I just had to build another structure! I have ordered some new climbing beans for next year – both are from Sementi Franchi. One is Fagiolo rampicante bobis a grano nero and the other is Fagiolo rampicante albenghino.  They will grow here because I shall harvest them when the pods are quite dry and keep the shelled beans in jars for the winter, same as I did this year. They make an excellent addition to soups and stews.

You couldn’t have an autumn clear-out without a bonfire. I started burning mine yesterday but that fizzled out too quickly. It was much better today and by the time I went home it was almost all gone. I had to rebuild it to allow more air inside the pile of the branches etc but it certainly worked.

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The weather is supposed to be fine tomorrow so I shall just sort out what’s left and finish digging this plot.

Then it’ll be all done (but I’m sure I’ll find some more jobs on the plot)

SELF-SUFFICIENCY

I would like to have a few things to keep me happy and they would ensure that we could be self-sufficient.

Not in the exact order: a cow, some chickens and a few sheep and I would keep all that in a walled garden. Well, a woman can dream…..

But we’re almost there, even without these special items. Today’s harvest was:

I think the big tomato must be the biggest one I’ve ever managed to grow – 181 g!!

And this is just about the start, there will be many more. I found a way of bottling them in Kilner jars, gently cook them with some sliced garlic and olive oil, then add chopped rosemary and basil. When the jars are filled I sterilise them in water bath for about 5 minutes and that way I shall have a good supply of chopped tomatoes for the winter.

I tried Borlotto beans in the past but always used them young. This time I have let them dry on the vine; I will shell them as they dry and then store them in large jars with some silica sachets to reduce the moisture. Again, a very useful addition to winter soups and stews. They are very attractive when maturing, the pods are bright red before they dry and turn dusty purple.

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NOT ONLY SWEET…

….but also savoury produce comes out of this tiny kitchen. I seem to have a glut of runner beans and you can only eat so many. I like them a lot and have a number of different ways of cooking them but…

I found a recipe for a spiced pickled runner bean chutney and I must say thet it is one of the best! It also works with French beans and after a few months is delicious served with cold meat, cheese and anything you might like to eat with chutney.

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HARVESTED IN ONE DAY

I think the important thing is to keep picking a bit each day – just as I did yesterday. There were some more courgettes to pick, then I dicovered my climbing beans started producing and, of course, the pride of it was the humble potatoes!

After that it was the turn of my swiss chard – I pick it as very young and use it instead of spinach.

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Kale is doing well – Cavollo di Toscana, so that was next on the list…

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…and last but not least was my faithful rhubarb. That grows in any weather

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SECOND HALF OF MAY

Well, the weather isn’t too great but everything in the garden – or rather on the plot – is growing fine.

It was rather chaotic in the greenhouse and in the veranda at the back of the house – an organised chaos I must add. The veranda was used for hardening off all the plants before I took them to the farm to plant out and this method worked! Everything on the farm survived the move and is growing well.

Cabbages in the net tunnels, tomatoes, lettuce, Chinese lettuce, climbing beans are all fine. And then there are the hardy types who survived the winter out there – onions, shallots, garlic, strawberries, rhubarb and last but not least the potatoes and raddishes who are trying their best.

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TOMATOES

I have a number of net structures and the latest one, a beautiful, hand made cage was given to me last winter. I put it on my half plot and because there were cabbages in that area last year, I decided to plant my tomatoes there this year. I’m growing only the outdoor kind and the plum type – San Marzano, Roma etc. The plan is to make my own chopped tomatoes or even passata for the winter.

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There are 41 tomato plants in here and three tomatillo plants. All seems well.

Next job for today was planting my climbing beans. I don’t just grow runner beans – only a few of those – but a lot of climbing french beans and Borlotto beans – those I will dry and shell them, they are delicious in soups and stews.

There is one more variety to go out – Spagna Bianco. They are just fantastic, huge white butter beans and they last the whole winter. I still have some in a jar and I used a number of them for this year’s growing.

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And last but not least I have to mention my fruit trees. They’re flowering well, one is a crab apple and the other one an eating apple, we could have a good harvest.

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