Bean … and gone!
Today I bring you a tale of disappointment. I was going to kick off with some reminiscence of utter disappointment, but as I do that quite frequently, I thought I’d go a different route for a change. I asked Mrs IG for her biggest disappointment. I figured that growing up in the North, she would have a litany of sorrowful sagas. Strangely, they all seemed to start on the day we met!
When I first wondered down this road of gardening, one of my first crops was the broad bean. Now, I am a bean fan, and so tales of gluts sounded right up my street. The bean is a good friend of goat cheese, it’s a regular pal of the pig, and it loves the game birds, so I just couldn’t go wrong. Plus, when the glut really hit, I could freeze the beans. It was a win-win scenario.
On 14 February, whilst most of you were making love, I sowed my first thing ever; broad beans. I read the packet, I read the books, so I knew I was good to go. I sowed 12 in the Plantmaster, got 11, and was happy. I nurtured them and on 4 March they moved to a shed, going outside in the warmer part of the day.
I constructed the beanage, a purpose-built plot with climbing space and rich with well rotted manure. I lined it with newspaper to retain mositure and provide carbon. I did everything that beans like, because I like beans.
Finally, they were planted out, already a good 12 to 18 inches high, on 21 March. Now, did I mention that I love beans? Anyway, 11 plants seemed too few, so I also planted another 12 beans directly into the beanage at the same time.
If the night temperature fell, I was out there applying fleece like it was going out of fashion. I gave them a nitorgen feed, because although they produce nitrogen like the clappers, they need some to get kick-started. The established beans grew, the direct sown ones didn’t. I gave them up as a bad job.
It was in the last week of April that I saw the direct sown beans had come to life. Now, they rocketed up, soon catching up the planted out ones. Soon they were of equal size, and when they flowered, the direct sown beans were only about a week behind their more mature relatives.
When the first planting of beans started to pod, the direct sown ones followed, again about a week later. The pods swelled, and I was checking every day, awaiting my first taste of the beans.
My first picking was strange. The pods all came from the initial lot of beans, started indoors. Some pods had one single bean, fairly largish, and nothing else but a few dark seeds. Most pods just had four or five seeds. This was despite the pods being up to eight inches long, and bulging! I waited and waited, at least another three weeks. The pods got bigger. A few split. I went back and picked all the big pods, again from the initial batch. It was the same. I stripped the entire 11 plants. I ended up with 30 beans!
Here’s the thing. I picked 10 fat pods from the direct sown plants, and I ended up with 42 beans. Now, the plants have not been treated in any way differently, apart from sowing. I didn’t take off side shoots, they are in the same bed so got the same levels of water, and flowering was, give or take a week, at the same time.
I have heard two opinions on this. One is that they didn’t pollinate properly because there weren’t enough bees about at that time of year (does a week really make that much difference?); the other is that the beans didn’t set because of the cold. That’s despite them not flowering or podding until the weather was warm.
Sadly, either way, the reality is that the much anticipated bean glut failed to happen, and I have now become a bean miser, quickly eating or freezing any crop before visitors get to see them.
The other day my poor crippled mother visited to view the Idiot Garden for the first time. She paused in front of the beans.
“Oh my, look at all those pods.”
I quickly kicked her walking stick, told her to be careful because the ground was uneven, and steered her towards the towering artichokes.
Beans; can’t live with them, can’t live without them!