The Idiot Gardener

WARNING: This site contains information on gardening, brewing, curing meat,

building shit and hunting, all done in a piss-poor manner. It is not suitable for the

feeble-minded, the weak and lame, those of a nervous disposition, vegans and

vegetarians (and those other ones that only eat fish and the occasional bacon

sandwich - I think they're called 'hypocrites'), those who practice any

manner of folk singing or dancing, people named Colin or fans of Barry Gibb.

The great bean mystery

As many of you will be aware, last year was my first ever growing season, and the very first thing I grew was broad beans. These gave me a false sense of security, growing quickly and strongly in what was for me a record time; it had to be a record, because they were the first thing I’d ever grown.

The beans grew, got planted out into a specially prepared bean trench, and they lived happily in the Beanage without a care. Their pods formed, swelled and grew bulbous. I waited until I could wait no more. Then I picked and discovered that every pod was empty. They had swollen and even showed clear bean shapes along their length, but every pod was just like Old Mother Hubbard’s mythical cupboard: bare!

Last year I had a lot of successes, and I also had a lot of failures. I have either understood or at least been able to understand the reasons behind every failure bar one: the great bean mystery. Logical(ish) explanations include poor pollination due to too early a start, an overfeed of nitrogen, and even pixie activity in the Beanage area.

I did plant two lots, one under cover to be planted out (February 14th, funnily enough), and a second lot direct (late March). Both had empty pods. Okay, I might have been a tad to early, and we did have a poor showing from the bees, but no one can affirm the belief that this caused the sans-bean situation.

I also saw the young plants’ leaves turn yellow. I think that was due to overwatering, but my big book of knowledge stated it could be nitrogen deficiency. Now, we all know that beans are great nitrogen fixers, but they also need some to get going. I fed the young plants a nitrogen heavy feed. maybe that killed the development of beans in the pod. I don’t know why it might be the case, but as Is The Wiz suggested it, and she’s normally right, I have to accept it as a possibility!

This year I have changed bean variety, going for Masterpiece Green Longpod. I have already sown some under cover, as pictured. I have noticed that germination has been far slower than with the previous Aquadulce Claudia. I will also be trying a few slightly different things.

The Beanage is to be expanded this year. Last year’s area will be given over entirely to the curcubit experiment. Last year’s multiple disasters with curcubits has strengthened my resolve to understand these plants. The new Beanage (or Beanage 2) will be opposite the old Beanage (or Beanage 1 – you see, I still have a system). The two will then be linked with netting to allow pumpkins and squash to rest high in the air. It might work, it might not!

Beanage 2 will see broad beans, french beans and a new addition, runner beans. More details will be forthcoming when Beanage 2 is built.

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12 thoughts on “The great bean mystery

  1. Amy

    At least you understand the mystery. That must be very disappointing to open the pod and see absolutely nothing. Kind of like fishing and feeling the big tug and pulling it in to find nothing. Sounds like you have a good plan and I hope you can eventually have beans for dinner. 🙂

  2. ~Gardener on Sherlock Street

    Well at least you have theories. I vote for the pixies being involved some how.
    I planted beans last year in a new bed that I had loaded with compost. I burned them. I think four plants made it long enough to bloom but were then overrun by the spaghetti squash and shaded out. New plan for my beanage area too. Hope you get bees when you need them this year. Flowering plants do help to tease those bees to the garden if you can spare some space.

  3. Is the Wiz

    Dear Idiot, Thanks for your touching faith in me but calling myself Is the Wiz was meant as a joke… If leaves go yellow from overwatering, it shows in the lower leaves first whereas nitrogen deficiency will appear as yellowing between the veins of new leaves. I swear by Maxicrop, the seaweed concentrate, sprayed on as a foliar feed. It boosts plants without overfeeding them.

  4. Mal's Allotment

    Iggy, It’s to do with light and the length of the days. The fiendish little beans have a built in sensor for day length. Clever, Eh!

    To test this out you need some lights!!!

    Otherwise, if you can’t be fagged, just don’t sow them so early!

  5. Jess

    huh, now this would have been the best thing that ever happened to me when I was a kid and my parents would make me slave for what seemed like hours on a hot July day going down the rows and picking beans. Ours unfortunately, always had beans in them, so entire summers have been wasted for me in bean picking.

  6. Nutty Gnome

    I’m suspecting that you sowed them too early so they didn’t have enough light – hence their rapid growth! (ye gods, I sound like I know what I’m on about!)

    I’ve given up on broad beans as mine have been killed off by blackfly for the last 3 years just as they were almost ready to pick 🙁

    I am today sowing peas, mange tour, runners and dwarf french beans….plus a load of other goodies! Happy day 😀


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