Archive for the 'Peas and beans' Category

The in-laws cometh… to save my arse

20110604-090635.jpgFrench beans are go today. About the only thing I’m bang up to date with. Most everything else is behind schedule.

I won’t whinge about the weather again. Ok, I will. It’s been bloody awful. Ants are destroying everything on the plot because the soil’s so dry. God knows if these beans will survive.

On the plus side, my in-laws are coming to stay in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to this. Counter-intuitive, I know, but bear with me: they’re keen vegetable growers. Thus I’ll shortly be benefitting from much-needed help from clued-up gardeners. And I’ll be working them hard for their supper.

*cackles evilly*

Almost as welcome as rain.

Posted on 4th June 2011
Under: Peas and beans | 3 Comments »

If you want peas, prepare for war

peas sown in gutters

To riff on Vegetius, you’d better get ready for major hostilities if you’re planning on growing peas.

I gave up sowing them direct years ago. Waste of time: They’re either eaten by rodents before germination or destroyed by bean weevil just after.

Even if you raise them in plastic guttering (as above) and transplant, you’re locked in combat thereafter with pigeons, slugs/snails, pea moth and just about every other evil bastard on the vegetable plot.

It’s astonishing that this was one of the first mass-cultivated vegetables in Europe, an essential staple for Greeks, Romans and our mediaeval ancestors. Most of the others (parsnips, wheat – or rather, spelt) aren’t too tricky to grow. But peas are a heart-breaker.

I’ve no idea how they kept the pests at bay. Cicero, who goes on a bit about home vegetable growing, offers no clue. Nor, as far as I can see, does Varro.

So, because this is the web – and you simply never know who’s reading – here’s a question to any experts in prehistoric and/or Classical agriculture that may occasionally dip into soilman.net:

Just how did the Romans kept the pigeons off their bloody peas? Any ideas?

[Fine point of interest: Varro goes into great detail about cultivating grapevines. If you’re organic and grow grapes, you may find his hints and tips useful]

Posted on 1st May 2011
Under: Peas and beans | 21 Comments »

Peas be with you, cos I’ve got bugger all

peas in podI stumbled on this photo from last year and breathed a heavy sigh.

I did get a harvest of peas last week, but only enough to feed two concentration camp internees. Or perhaps one anorexic… on a diet.

Mind, I don’t feel so bad about the peas as I do about, say, the lousy onions. Peas are always a bugger to grow well, even in ‘good’ seasons. You’ve got the disgusting pea moth, whatever you do. And in my area, pigeons target pea plants with single-minded ruthlessness.

As I’m fond of saying (this year, at any rate): there’s always next year.

Posted on 20th July 2010
Under: Peas and beans | 14 Comments »

Ripped out all the weeds… not

French beansFirst visit to the allotment in 9 days. I’m not proud.

Worked like a demon to pull out about 20% of the weeds (1 hour’s work), plant out the remaining sweetcorn seedlings (30 mins), plant and net the cauliflowers (90 mins) and stick in these beans (20 mins).

So, success. And yet…

The whole place is still swamped in bloody weed. I’m too ashamed to show you the pictures.

Ah, sod it. I’m not really. I have no shame any more. So you can look forward to explicit, unexpurgated and red hot pictures of weedy allotment hell in the next installment.

Don’t say I don’t spoil you.

Posted on 12th June 2010
Under: Peas and beans | 5 Comments »

French bean seeds… for next year’s crop

French beans in pods French beans prepared for storage

Hate shelling beans. After only seconds, your neck starts to ache. Then your fingers get cramp. It’s about as much fun as a wet weekend in Crewe.

But it’s worth it, because this is next year’s French bean crop. Store them in a cool, dry place, in paper envelopes, and all should be well.

If you’ve never saved seed before, beans are a great place to start. It’s almost impossible to cock it up; they pollinate easily, and saving the seed is a simply a question of leaving the pods on the plants until they’re huge… then picking and drying them.

Jeez, even I can do it.

Posted on 4th October 2009
Under: Peas and beans, Seed saving | 7 Comments »

A typical basket NOT from Tesco

Peas and courgetteA pretty standard basket of veg picked on the allotment at the moment. Lots of peas, LOTS of courgettes.

I’m always struck by the absurdity of those supermarket TV ads competing for prices on ‘a typical basket’.

Whatever they’re punting, it’s not my idea of a ‘typical basket’, that’s for sure.

Posted on 24th July 2009
Under: Cucurbits, Peas and beans, Summer | 7 Comments »

First cooked peas in five years

Fresh peasIn five years of allotmenteering, I’ve never cooked a single pea I’ve grown.

They’ve never got near the pan – too sweet and delicious. These only got cooked because I left them a fraction too long and they lost their sweetness.

They were OK. But on balance, I wish I’d scoffed them raw. As usual.

Posted on 12th July 2009
Under: Peas and beans | 6 Comments »

“Unhand me, grey-beard loon!”

dwarf French beans

Some folks at my plot site are eating beans already, but mine went out rather late (May is one HELL of a month for a gardener, isn’t it? I chase my tail 24/7 trying to get everything sown, brought on, repotted, planted out, watered, weeded etc etc etc).

This lot will soon be glutting along with everything else, and relatives will be shrinking from my pleas to take courgettes. In late July I become like the Ancient Mariner; I accost total strangers in the street to recite my allotment travails and beg them to relieve me of a marrow.

PS For anyone interested in the business of journalism – what I do with my professional hat on – you may have something to contribute to the conversation about journalism’s online future I’ve been having with Simon at Freelance Unbound.

When I’m not worrying about my courgettes, this is the Big Topic that troubles/concerns/maddens me. It’s fallen to my generation of editorial folk  to ‘fix’ a system that’s been more or less stable for 500 years – but which is now comprehensively broken. And none of us has much of a clue what to do.

Posted on 5th July 2009
Under: Peas and beans, Summer | 3 Comments »

Eyeing pods: Hurst Greenshaft

Hurst Greeshaft peasThese have been a long time coming. They’re still not ready,  of course, but at least the anticipation can begin.

There is nothing – nothing – so delicious as fresh peas. They’re just stupendous; fresh, sweet and irresistible.

I always intend to make complicated salads and soups with them. Dainty morsels drizzled with this and puréed with that. But I never get round to it.

Peas don’t make it as far as a pan. I shell them and scoff them raw, watching TV with Mrs Soilman on the couch. Usually in vast quantities, such that we suffer noisome digestive repercussions.

Ah, summer.

Posted on 21st June 2009
Under: Peas and beans | 6 Comments »

French beans, variety ‘Soilman’

French beansHere’s the last lot of seedlings to go out on the plot. They’re dwarf French beans that started out as Purple Queen but have been selected by me over two seasons.

I’m expecting this, the third generation, to be ultra-vigorous and productive, because I’ve saved seed beans from the strongest, healthiest plants. I’m trying to do more of this a) to save money, and b) to help diversify our vegetable varieties. Find out more about this from Patrick’s pages about seed saving, and the seed savers network.

But it’s all academic unless I can get them planted out… which isn’t easy in this useless rain. Why useless? Because it pitters and patters in dribs and drabs without actually getting down to the plant roots.

We had a ‘thunderstorm’ this morning that delivered precisely half a centimetre of rain. Half a sodding centimetre. I could piss more than that.

Posted on 7th June 2009
Under: Peas and beans, Rants | 10 Comments »