A few weeks ago the new shoots on our runner beans were covered with blackfly. After consulting the wisdom of the Internet I sprayed the blackfly with a weak solution of washing up liquid. This seems to have slowed down the breading program of the little critters. Also, some ladybirds have appeared and seem to be making a meal of the blackfly. The runner beans have put on a lot of new growth and are cropping well. There are still a few blackfly around but I will leave the ladybirds to deal with them.
How to Cultivate a Lot of Home-grown Vegetables from the Smallest Possible Space.
A recent survey suggested that five million people wanted to ‘live the good life’ and keep chickens, grow some of their own food and somehow achieve a level of self sufficiency, writes the books author Paul Peacock. He sets about showing the reader in simple practical terms just how much is possible in the smallest space.
In the first chapter called ‘The environment of the patio’ Paul Peacock writes about the basics of growing in pots and containers. He tells us that containers should provide all the requirements for a plant to grow well with the added bonus of being able to move them around to suit your needs. As a plant grows too large for a space you can move it elsewhere, or you can rotate your pots so that the plants might get their turn of good sunlight.
There is some useful advice about watering. Rain that falls on the open garden will be soaked up by the soil like a giant sponge; where as much of the water falling on the patio will not benefit the pots and containers. For this reason they need more watering. Unfortunately any excess water tends to wash out the nutrients in the soil. For this reason they need feeding more. The suggestion is to water with a weak solution of fertiliser.
In a section on grow bags there is a useful tip for growing carrots; put the bag on its side and open the upper edge. We are told that carrots grown this way are long, thick and fantastically tasty. You can also grow potatoes this way.
The ordinary plastic bags from the supermarket are also useful to the patio gardener, writes Paul Peacock. You can hang them up by their handles and use them as impromptu hanging baskets. They are also good for lining wooden tubs and planters.
The gardening suggestions are easy to follow and clearly presented by an enthusiastic author. This is a great book for anybody growing their own vegetables no matter how much space they have.
Illustrations copyright Patio Produce.
The down-to-earth guide that takes you through the vegetable year.
In the introduction to this book author John Harrison says “When I set up my allotment website I became aware of how many people were growing their own vegetables for the first time. These new vegetable growers were looking for a simple, straightforward guide, written in plain English that told them what to do and when to do it.”
This is exactly what John Harrison has provided in the paperback sized book. Don’t expect a coffee table book with lots of glossy pictures. This is a handy sized, low cost book that you can keep in your potting shed to refer to as needed.
One suggestion that appeals to me as a self confessed idle gardener is “little and often”. Half an hour with a hoe one evening and half an hour sewing the next evening is better than planning an entire day in the garden at the weekend. This short time in the garden gives you time to wind down from the stress of the day.
The opening chapter answers the question “Why grow your own vegetables”. The first suggestion is that gardening is a wonderful form of exercise, and it saves the expense of going to the gym. Another suggested benefit is to the environment, because the food has not travelled far to get to your table. Then there is the fun and satisfaction you can get by growing your own.
In the chapter entitled “Where to grow and preparing to grow” the author tells us you don’t need a huge garden in which to grow your own vegetables. He tells of a friend who lives in a third floor flat and grows salad crops, tomatoes, carrots and beans on her balcony and even managed red cabbages in a pot. If you get on well with your small garden you might decide to expand on to an allotment as John Harrison did.
However small your garden, this book will help you to get started with vegetable growing.
We are getting some good meals from the runner bean plants. In fact the plants got so top-heavy that the frame began to look like the leaning tower of Pizza. I fixed it by knocking in some extra wooden stakes and tying the bean poles to them. I also tied some string from the fence to the beanpoles to take some of the strain.
Earlier in the year the leaves of the runner bean plants started to turn yellow. I looked at various remedies on the Internet but in the end I just let nature take its course. They grew through it and the plants greened up again.
There are still lots of flowers on the plants so with the current wet spell we are going through I am hopeful of some more good pickings.
This will be the fourth year we have grown runner beans in our garden. It is great to eat vegetables you have grown yourself and runner beans are a great choice for the idle gardener. Once they are established they produce a crop of beans over a long period of time. Last year we were picking beans until the first frost stopped the plants in their tracks.
Last year we tried Suttons Best of All runner bean and it produced delicious beans. There are still some left in last year’s packet so that is what I am using this year. I started them off in pots on the kitchen windowsill. They take about a week to germinate. Once the first shoot appears it seems to grow while you watch. They go from nothing to 2 inches in a day. Within a few days they have large leaves.
I planted mine in the garden this morning and now I have my fingers crossed that the slugs do not eat them. I like to be a green gardener and avoid pesticides wherever possible. Over the years I have tried various remedies to keep the slugs a bay including spraying the leaves with a garlic solution, putting broken eggshells and grit around the plant and surrounding the plants with copper pipe. All this has been to no avail. My theory is that tiny baby slugs come out of the soil next to the bean plant stems. It was heartbreaking to find the young plants stripped of their leaves and most of their roots. So last year I invested in some slug pellets. There is a warning on the packet that they can be harmful to pets if eaten in quantity and to scatter them thinly. They are blue in colour so hopefully birds will not mistake them for food but I wonder what happens if a bird eats a slug that has eaten a pellet? If anyone has a proven slug remedy that is not harmful to other wildlife I would be please to hear about it. Let me know in a comment to this post.
I have left the bean plants in their pots long enough to develop an extensive root system. Hopefully this will withstand a bit of nibbling from the wildlife for long enough for the bean plants to get established. The thing I can’t understand is that there are lots of plants with fresh green leaves that the slugs ignore. What is it about a young runner bean plant that attracts slugs?