5 Jun 2016

Bumble and Pod

Garden gathered
Not much, but at least there were flowers!
Supper of mint tabbouleh, steamed asparagus, salad + chive flowers, yoghurt and rhubarb compote. 


I've been struck by the 'hungry gap'.  I had this covered last year with plenty of kale, broccoli and chard to pick but this year I have failed abysmally. Blame has to lie somewhere so, yes, I am going to point my finger at the weather.  The mild winter encouraged my broccoli and kale to bolt in January, leaving me with nothing. Still, the bees enjoyed the early nectar-fest from the yellow flowers. The plants have now all been ripped out and composted leaving beds ready for the next crop.

But that same mild winter meant that broad beans sown in early February grew well in modules on my balcony. Although they were slightly sheltered from the cold wind, it was a chancy experiment as Karmazyn beans are not as winter hardy as, say, 'The Sutton' or 'Aquadulce', beans that are bred to be sown in November.  My beans were planted out in mid-April and have been flowering for the past few weeks - some of them already have small two inch pods among the flowers and the bumbles are all over them.  (This is unusual for me but perhaps less so for other gardeners; I've checked my notebooks and see that I usually sow later in mid-April.)



I've been checking on them regularly, not for pods but for the dreaded black aphids.  And this is where (finally) it gets interesting. I have squished a tiny amount of aphids on a couple of the plants but (dare I put this in writing?) they're otherwise aphid free. (For now.) This is excellent news as I haven't yet pinched off the top leaves of my plants which are insanely delicious steamed and served with a knob of melting butter and a grind of pepper.  The meal appeal dwindles if you have to wash a large colony of black insects off first.

Bizarrely, just across the path in my herb bed, less than a metre distant, the angelica is clogged with black aphids as is a nearby feverfew plant. Has anyone else experienced this selective colonisation or are your beans under attack?  Or is this one of the benefits of planting earlier?  If that's true, then early sowing is an experiment worth repeating.

Disgusting, right?  I'll spare you the extra large view of these photos. 

One difference that I've noticed is that my beans are radically shorter than in previous years when I've sown direct into the ground in mid-to-late April.  Karmazyn bean plants last year were a good metre plus tall by the time they podded, even after having their top growth removed.  This year, the plants are about 60cm (24 inches).  I've sown another few rows of beans as I was sent some Red Epicure beans by Marshalls to trial plus I had some crimson flowered beans leftover in my seed box. Let's see what will happen with those ... I'm guessing I won't be so lucky next time.

Oh, hey - the sun has come out since I've been typing!  Looks like it's going to be a fine day (at last!) so I'm nipping off to the garden to make the most of it.  Happy gardening Sunday!



18 comments:

  1. Nice post and pictures.
    My first row of Karmazyn broad beans, sown direct in April, are only knee high with lots of flowers, and so far free of blackfly.
    Thanks, and you too. xx

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    1. Ah, interesting. Thanks for the feedback, Flighty; it appears that I haven't gained much by my earlier sowing - other than keeping in the warm and dry to get my beans going!

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  2. Gorgeous red asparagus, it's sensational. Love the sweet peas as well, yours are far more advanced than mine. I especially like the dark plummy red and the bright pink together. My broad beans are one thing that seems to be doing alright. So far. I need to resow French beans though. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks CJ - although I think that there have been a total of only a dozen spears so far (from 5 plants) so I'm questioning whether I can justify allocating a whole bed for so little produce! The sweet peas were sown in December and overwintered on the balcony - I'm really pleased with them as I usually sow far too late! I'm woefully behind with sowing beans, must get on to that this week! x

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  3. gah, those aphids - yuck! I don't grow broad beans anymore, as I realise I don't like them enough to put up with the black aphids! ghastly! I do like their flowers and plants though.
    and I like that busy bee stuck in your flower :-)

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    1. Can you get hold of Karmazyn beans in Tasmania? I always thought I hated broad beans (took me straight back to awful school dinners) but grew some for other people here and discovered I loved them! They are totally delicious if you pod them when young, cook briefly and then take them out of the 'shell' before eating. mmmm, yum, yum yum! Try it! :o)

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  4. Sweet peas already, wow. We are stuck in the hungry gap too. Just salad things and herbs. Strangely we don't seem to suffer from black aphids on our broad beans (now why did I have to say that out loud?). Our problem is bean weevils which you seem to be remarkably free from. Our broad beans are also shorter than usual.

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    1. Hahaha - hope your comment doesn't jinx your broadies, Sue! I'm going to have to look up bean weevils now, not sure what they are but then the same was true of rosemary beetle until a few years ago, now I see hundreds of them (literally - grrrr!) I wonder why both our beans have grown shorter? Perhaps Martyn and his weather watching has some thoughts on this?

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    2. It's definitely the hungry gap on the allotment but today I picked the first salad and spinach leaves.The broad beans are short but I think I sowed The Sutton so no surprise there.Pods are forming and no sign of black fly-yet. I gave up on asparagus last Autumn after five years of waiting for three to five shoots every now and again. Love the sweet peas and will do the same and sow later this year for early blooms.

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    3. It's always a gamble to know how soon in the year we can get away with sowing as the weather can be (and has been) so changeable. I'm thinking the same about my asparagus - it's so delicious but a bit few and far between. I grew tomatoes in between the crowns a couple of summers ago and it didn't seem to harm the asparagus. Bob Flowerdew says that tomatoes and asparagus are good companion plants!

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  5. I'm definitely in the hungry gap but we are saving for the sleepers to re design the plot. I shall be able to plan for next year soon. My previous years when growing broad beans my plants never suffered but when my dad was alive his plants were covered. He only used to live round the corner! xx

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    1. My plants were absolutely smothered last year, Jo, so I'm glad of a reprieve. I hope you're making the most of a gardening break while your new veg patch is being designed - you'll have to stay away from wool shops for a while!! x

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  6. We have also given up growing broad beans because of the aphids, it's such a shame as the young beans are so tasty. We have tried growing them at different times but it hasn't made any difference. I have never come across red asparagus before, does it taste the same as the green? Sarah x

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    1. Last year, when my beans were covered in aphids, I bought a cheap pump squirter bottle and filled it with water with a squirt of Ecover washing up liquid. I then blasted the blighters off which worked really well. Worth a try, perhaps?
      The red asparagus is 'Crimson Pacific' from Victoriana nurseries; I haven't grown my own green asparagus and only eaten shop bought green so I have no taste comparison except to say that these spears are delicious. They are reputed to have a higher sugar content but also to be more prolific (which I'm not quite experiencing yet!). x

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  7. Apparently the earlier you sow broad beans the less likely you are to get black fly. I sowed mine last August (it was an experiment) and now they are about 6 feet tall and so far free of fly.

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    1. Wow, August - that IS early! I'm not sure that mine would survive a harsh winter but I have so many seeds that it would be worth a go as soon as I have some empty beds - thanks for tip!

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  8. I have your aphids. Do you want them back?

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  9. Oh...I loathe those black aphids, they don't bother my broad beans but adore the elder trees....I just love the smell of broad bean flowers.xxx

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