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The beans keep on running

Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 15:38

MY RUNNERS are not has beans after all.
It looked very probable, after nearly half a century of preserving my father’s beans (planting them each year and harvesting the seed) they may finally and, very sadly, have reached their end.
Last year’s seeds were meagre and mice shinned up the sticks to bite off the succulent growing points and small leaves of all four varieties I grow each year.
But I am happy to report the seed harvest has shown plenty to keep things going and growing.
Keeping your own seed is a satisfying and free way of keeping your favourite varieties.
It doesn’t work with hybrids, which, when they are cross pollinated, will produce a new generation that is not true to type but it works with my dad’s old beans, the Canadian black I bought under the counter in a hardware shop and the whites given to me by a friend years ago.
One other method is to leave the roots in the ground to over-winter and come again.
Penny Weedon, from St Margaret’s Glade, Upper Ventnor, employed that method — by happy accident.
At the back of her mind was recollection that one of my previous columns said it can easily be done.
She had run out of time to plant seed but as she dug her raised bed she saw some tiny shoots of hope from the three plants of the previous year.
"So I left them and the results were the strongest, best and most runner beans ever," she said.
"I have been eating and freezing them every day since and they continued flowering well into September.
"I had to chop them back as they took over my front porch, so the postman could continue to get to the front door."
In among them were her baby achokas, which grew heartily from two-year-old seed she broadcast between the beans. They too went mad.
She asked around and an old Godshill resident told her he knew of a Chale farmer who dug up his and dried them like dahlia tubers and re-planted them each year.
Penny asked whether she should do similarly next year and I reckon it is worth giving it a go.
A goodly layer of well-rotted horse manure forked lightly in — carefully avoiding the runners — will both act as protection if we have a hard winter and rejuvenate the soil, which will be getting tired by now.
It might also be worth giving a monthly feed of something like a seaweed-based mix during the growing season, but not too much or you may end with too much leaf and not enough flower.
Penny was left feeling especially smug as her daughter-in-law in Kent planted hers the traditional way and they were an unmitigated disaster.
The lazy and lucky gardener triumphs again.
Pollination may well have been the problem but Thompson & Morgan told me its seedsmen have produced the first scarlet-flowered virtually self-fertile runner to counter the lack of pollinators.
Firestorm is said to produce an abundant crop of stringless, slightly thicker beans that are slightly sweeter and more tender than other varieties.
Its white-flowered counterpart is Snowstorm and both would have been handy when an old friend had the bright idea of growing early runners under glass to command premium prices but forgetting pollination problems.
Customers have given good reviews to two of T&M’s other beans.
Cobra is an attractive mauve-flowered climbing bean, reportedly with fine flavour, while Speedy is a dwarf, which is one of the quickest to mature and is extremely productive.


Reporter: richardw@iwcpmail.co.uk

 


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