Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Growing Challenge


Kate's recent  visit to Seattle brought me to One Green Generation and in particular, Melinda's Growing Challenge.   Melinda started this challenge back in January 2008 and it is still growing....errrrm... getting bigger!!!!!! today.

The challenge, basically, is to grow one extra item, from seed, each year and write a post about it.

So for this year my nominated extra item is going to be broad beans.    I love broad beans but have never grown them before.


I chose a variety which is recommended for this area, Feve d'Aguadulce and planted then following some complicated instructions given me by another vegetable grower....simply poke them in the ground and rake the surface flat, then water.    So that's what I did yesterday.   I prepared a small bed, 1200mm x 1200mm (4ft x 4ft) and pushed the seeds in about 50mm(2") every 100mm to 150mm(4" to 6").  The soil was raked level again and then they were watered and now I'm just waiting to see what happens....  I seem to spend a lot of time waiting....

I couldn't decide whether I ought to put a mulch over them or not so at the moment I haven't.... I shall take further advice from someone, and then decide.

Of course, as I have already mentioned, my aim is to grow these beans and harvest enough to both eat some and save some with the intention of being able to start to exchange/give away seed next year.   As I said, now I'm just waiting.


Maggie said...

Broad beans are great we are picking them now, so you have to have winter I guess before yours will be ready.
I find the secret to waiting is to keep digging up more beds then planting more things. You end up so busy picking and cooking what is in the garden you don't notice how long they actually take to grow.
We are just planting tomatoes and basil. Yummy!

Kate said...

Good advice was given to you Ian, and nice you are growing a local variety which happens to be also available in Adelaide and commonly grown there.I will be picking mine when I get home and maybe I could come back and help you pick yours in 6 months time!Seems like a good excuse to return to France.

Melinda said...

Kate has brought me broad beans from her garden, so I will be growing them for the first time as well!

Wonderful that Kate's trip has brought us to know one another. So glad you've joined The Growing Challenge!

Patrick said...

Hi Ian,

Good luck with the broad beans.

Broad beans probably fix more nitrogen and improve the soil more than any other commonly grown vegetable. This has it's good and bad side, because while you'll be left with great soil for the next crop, you'll also be fighting all the weeds that like the improved soil too.

I don't think you want to mulch now, because the beans may not be strong enough to grow through the mulch in the spring. At the same time, be prepared for the weed battle, and after the plants become established you may want to use some mulch.

Something I had spectacular results with one year was to plant white clover together with the broad beans. White clover is excellent at smothering weeds, but not so aggressive it kills the broad beans. White clover also fixes nitrogen, and so the clover and beans help each other grow as companion plants. The year I did this, on heavy clay, I ended up with spectacularly rich and crumbly ground. That whole part of the garden became rich in biodiversity; worms, insects, etc.

The problem was the clover together with the broad beans only worked once. Since then I've tried but couldn't get the clover established or had black fly problems that killed the broad beans.

Does clover grow as a weed in your area? Clover requires a particular bacteria in the ground to be present, and if it grows wild around you this probably isn't an issue. If you think the bacteria may be in the ground, you might try planting some white clover seeds with your broad beans and seeing what happens.

Clover seeds are commonly available at agriculture seed supply stores, because farmers commonly plant it. You may have to buy a really big package of it, but it's not that expensive. I think a 250g package goes for about €5 here, enough for 100m2 or so. If you can't get it any other way, I can send you some.

If you do try clover, it will make things in the spring a little complicated, because you'll need to keep an eye on the weeds, but of course you don't want to pull out the clover. You'll need to let the weeds grow enough so you can tell them apart from the clover.

You can try other clovers as well, but these are mostly more aggressive than the white clover, so you might have to keep it under control by pulling some of it out as it grows.

In general, I encourage clover to grow in my garden. I have mostly red clover, which is very aggressive, so I have to pull it out or cut it back a bit sometimes, but it's very handy to let it grow freely in some parts of the garden to keep other weeds at bay. In many places I encourage it to establish itself and reseed.

I did a post a few years ago on broad beans:

Ian said...

Hi all,
Maggie, I'm slowly increasing my Vegetable plot all the time as Kate saw when she was here and will no doubt tell you when she gets home again. I'm picking the last of my tomatoes right now and the ones that are still green I shall use to make a chutney.

Kate,I hope the adviice was good, seemed ever so easy.... Aguadulce is actually a seaside resort in Spain and the Spanish border is only a couple of hours drive from here. Aguadulce means something like Fresh Water. Please do come back and help pick them, and then stay on for my thing in September, if you like.

Melinda, Kate's trip seems to have brought bloggers together from far and near. Good luck with your broad beans. Be careful though, if Kate brought them they might grow the wrong way and try to burrow through to Australia!!!!!

Patrick, thanks once again for such extensive advice. I'm going to give the white clover a try. Clover grows wild around here on our clay soil. Anybody know the French for White Clover??

Veggie Gnome said...

Ian, I usually prepare the patch where I want to plant or sow something (compost, manure, etc). Then I mulch thickly. After that I poke a hole through the mulch, put a little soil in, then plant the seedling or the seed in that hole. Or divide the mulch to make little rows to sow a row of your preferred vegetable, etc.
Hope that makes sense the way I described it. :)

Ian said...

veggie gnome, hi.
Thanks for that piece of certainly made sense the way you described it and I shall try that with my peas...which I'm due to sow in the next few days.