Tuesday, 14 April 2015

A Runner bean trench

I'm always looking for new ideas on how I can improve what I grow. There's always plenty of advice and inspiration about, some bright new ideas and some age old tricks that your grandparents might have used.

One that I haven't heard of prior to this year is a runner bean trench. The principle being that instead of adding your moisture retentive waste to the compost heap you bury it all in a trench where you are going to plant your runner beans. It makes sense really, beans love and need moisture particularly when coming into flower, the buried waste will provide them with this and over time release nutrients into the soil and more importantly feed the plant.

Perhaps I should explain further as to why I'm paying so much attention to my runner beans this year. Last years were perfectly fine however they all came at once and frozen runner beans just aren't as good as fresh. The season was fairly short and they went stringy quite quickly, maybe my fault for not harvesting them as young as I could of certainly something I'll aim to do this year. Also I had intended to enter these beans into the local village show, one in particular was looking hot favorite for the longest runner bean until the chickens got loose and pecked the end off. This has prompted me to invest in a pack of just ten seeds of a variety called 'Stenner' at a price you would normally pay for two hundred seeds. It sounds obsessive I know and I questioned myself when I bought them but if that's what it takes to at least get one entry into the show this year it'll be worth it.

Rumour has it that the beans should be massaged from a young age to ensure that they are perfectly straight. Now that does sound a step too far but don't be surprised if you find me hidden amongst a runner bean bush come midsummer.

Anyway having  recently combined two compost heaps to free up a site to start another I had plenty of material that could go into the trench. If your more organised than me you wont have put your runner beans canes up yet hindering your access to dig the trench. I was a bit keen a few weeks ago and after a particularly rough couple of weeks with the weather I was desperate to add some structure to the garden. Pulling a few canes aside I dug a trench about a foot deep and and put about six inches of half rotted material form the compost heap. This was mainly straw, kitchen waste and cardboard.

You can just see the broad beans in background starting to shoot up. These were started off on the windowsill and planted out about three weeks ago. I added a few organic chicken manure pellets to the trench and back-filled it with the soil I had originally taken out. This year I have eighteen canes so planted two beans either side of the first six canes. The rest will go in successionally throughout the coming weeks. This used up the rest of last years seeds so in addition to the show stoppers I 'll have to get another pack. Three varieties is a good thing though, it's part of the reason that we grow our own so that we can taste things that you just can't buy. I probably won't buy last years seeds again they were okay but I just felt they could be improved on in flavour so now I'm looking forward to finding a new variety to try.

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