Monday, April 24, 2006

Buckets and beans.........

In the first two years on my tenure at RC, I grew dwarf french beans, using the normal ground dwelling varieties, but I didn't really find them to be very satisfactory to be honest. They take up a lot of ground all summer, and are very delicate - even the gentlest of accidental tugs when picking beans risks killing the whole plant.


This year I have decided to go for the a climbing variety called Blue Lake, and hope to get better results. Anticipating a dry summer, I have tried to make watering more efficient, buy burying a cheap 98p plastic bucket (B&Q's finest) with two rows of holes drilled round the sides. The beans will then be planted inside the canes, around the bucket, so that water can be applied direct to the roots, without waste and evapouration. Scientific(ish) tests show that a full bucket takes a little over 2 minutes to drain away into the soil, and this seems about right to me.

Actually, I'm pretty sure it will work OK, as I always water my runner beans from beneath, via a length of kitchen waste pipe buried in the bottom of the trench, again with holes in it. A simple "L- bend" connector, and an upward length of pipe left protruding above the soil at each end, allows me to stuff the hosepipe down to root level. A good few miniutes soak, twice a week, is far more effective in hot weather than daily surface watering. Several people at our site water their bean rows this way, and you can spot them at a distance, by the luxuriant green growth all summer long.

8 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

Two brilliant watering ideas in one post. I shall try them both!
Do you use any sort of trench composting beneath the beans as well? Cheers. Raspberry update coming soon.

7:22 am  
Blogger Greenmantle said...

Your servant sir!

When I first put the row up in it's current position, ready for last year's crop, I dug down about 2-3 spade depths, into the sub clay, broke this up a bit, and worked in a bag of compost. On top went plenty of growmore, and a layer of grass clippings, then the topsoil back in. (The pipe sits on top of the compost layer.)

This year, I'll probably just dig it out down as far as the pipe, and chuck in a load of rotted garden compost.

If you are watering from below via a buried pipe, you can also afford to heavily mulch the top surface with grass cuttings, which will help mositure loss dramatically.

Another good thing to do with runners, is when the beans have finished, cut the stems off at ground level, and leave the roots in the soil. Dig them in next year, and they will release all the nitrogen their "root nodules" captured, back into the soil.

"They" say that the optimum time to leave a runner bean row on one spot, before moving it to a new site (assuming you get no serious diseases) is 7 years.

Also, spray the blossoms with a fine mist of water in hot weather,(FINE!I said, not a drenching)to help them set beans.

I also grow Morning Glory flowers at either end of the row as it helps attract pollenators.

And that's about all I know about runners beans!

8:21 am  
Blogger Allotment Lady said...

GM - that looks very posh. Sadly with a quarter an acre and no water - except for a couple of tanks which collect it off the pigshed roof - and that gets used up asap - or evaporates - none of my crops get watered - and it is a challenge here in very dry East Anglia.

Blue Lake is a great variety to grow - nice and tender and a long cropper you will like them.

I do all the things you do in you comment except the watering bit.

But what I do do is to dig a trench a spit deep - (all I can manage - sometimes a little bit deeper) late in the year. Over the whole of the winter I fill up the trenches (4 x 25ft) with all my kitchen waste - and chicken waste - and allotment type waste like leaves from the brussles. It is amazing how quickly it drops down from one week to the next and I really heap it up.

A number of weeks ago I added pig muck and horse muck and it soaked up all that lovely rain. Barley straw is really good for soaking up and retaining water.

Have just covered it over reading for planting up.

It is a bit colder over here and windier so mine will probably go in a bit later than yours.

9:51 am  
Blogger Greenmantle said...

I take my hat off to anyone who can grow all year with hardly any water Al - I don't think I'd have the strength to try - I'm a bit of a watering obsessive you see

9:56 am  
Blogger she who digs said...

Hi GM,
I'm interested in what you say about leaving you beans in the same place for 7 years (!) as everything I've read about allotments has said about 4 year crop rotations! Do you rotate any of your other crops?
Considering your ingenious watering system, I can see the benefit of not moving it very often! SWD

1:21 pm  
Blogger Greenmantle said...

Hi SWD!

Yes I do rotate everything else. I must admit I don't work to specific plan or owt, but I do make an effort not to plant soemthing where it has been in the last 2 years. I'm only on my third year, so it's quite easy to remember what was where previously.

I think the point to leaving runner beans in situ for a while is partly to do with ease of construction etc, but mainly to do with nitrogen enrichment of the soil. Beans are voracious consumers of nitrogen, but the they also help to replace it when the root material breaks down.

3:23 pm  
Blogger Petunia's Gardener said...

All of these runner bean instructions sound a bit demanding. But, I've got the seeds already and I'll give it a go. Thanks for all these tips!

4:26 pm  
Blogger Rebsie Fairholm said...

Cor, that buried pipe system is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately I've already put my runners in, so I'll have to wait and try it next year. D'oh!

I think you'll find the climbing beans more worthy than the dwarf types ... they make much better use of the growing space, yield better and you don't have to bend over to pick 'em. I discovered their merits a few years back and now they've become a nerdy obsession.

10:11 pm  

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