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Vegetable Garden

Warning: Beans Don’t Like Their Roots Disturbed!

June 12, 2013
Healthy French Beans

Healthy French Beans

Have you ever heard the expression

“beans don’t like their roots disturbed”?

Well it’s true, they really don’t.

The photos accompanying this post show some dwarf French beans that were sown directly into soil in our polytunnel. This week I moved a few plants that were crowding the sweetcorn I’d sown them with (part of the Three Sisters companion planting).

Disturbed French Bean

French Bean that’s been moved

Within an hour the beans were looking poorly and several days later they still haven’t recovered. Hopefully I won’t lose them completely but it will be interesting to see if and how much the move has set them back.

French Bean that's been transplanted

French Bean that’s been transplanted

It’s not just beans that get upset. All members of the legume family can sulk if moved. Continue Reading…

Vegetable Garden

Growing Vegetables Under a Cloche

February 25, 2013

Photo Credit: Mr H of Subsistence Pattern Food Garden

If you want to get ahead of the game and start sowing early vegetable crops, a very effective way of doing this is to plant seeds or seedlings under a cloche.

This is something that growers in colder parts of the world such as Mr H. in North Idaho of Subsistence Pattern Food Garden has had to do by necessity if he wishes to grow his own food for more than a few brief months of the year (he’s self-sufficient for 365 days of the year incidentally).

In Ireland early peas, carrots and lettuce can all be sown outside under cloches in late February and this handy piece of vegetable gardening kit can be quite useful if you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel or windowsills to start seedlings off inside. A cloche can also be placed over potato or other frost tender plants if a late frost threatens and will prevent their leaves being burnt.

Fleece ClocheCloches come in all shapes, sizes and materials including glass, fleece or plastic or you can make your own and are most often used to give your crops an early start or a late finish.  They’re placed over the soil or crops, protecting them from frost, rain and wind.

Bell Cloches (Photo Credit Nutley’s Kitchen Garden)

It’s recommended that cloches have end pieces to prevent them from becoming wind tunnels – in the case of fleece or sheet plastic the ends can be gathered up and pegged down.  Remember to ventilate them too as the weather gets warmer – temperatures can get very high, very quickly. By covering your plants you’ve effectively made a mini greenhouse or polytunnel for them. The hoops on the long horizontal cloches can be made from metal, flexitube or wood.

It’s important to remember to water plants when under a cloche and that the leaves don’t touch the structure (just as in cold, in warm weather they may burn too).

To make your own mini cloches, cut the bottoms off clear plastic bottles remove the lids and push the top part into the soil over the seedling.

These bottles have the added bonus of protecting delicate small plants from slugs, birds and mice are another great way of recycling.


Do you use cloches to enable you to start sowing vegetables earlier or protect the plants from frost or do you wait for the weather to warm up?

Vegetable Garden

Product Review: BecauseWeCare Compostable Seedling Pots

February 25, 2012

rp_Becausewecare-Empty.jpgI was intrigued when I saw this new range of environmentally friendly, fully compostable seed pots ‘becausewecare TM’ available in Ireland. I was therefore delighted to receive a package in the post  from the distributor containing a selection of pots to try out.

Our choices are limited in the gardening world when we try to be ‘green’. Recycled plastic pots do exist (I love the colourful range by Elho)  but when it comes to seed pots we usually have a choice of:

a)  regular plastic pots
b)  peat based pots
c)  home made paper or cardboard pots

So, given our limited choices any initiatives to address this dilemma are worth considering.

The strange looking pots are made from a combination of cornstarch and biodegradable constituents that depending upon  conditions, will start to break down, taking two to six months to decompose in domestic circumstances, sooner in industrial compost.

The legume family of vegetables (peas and beans) don’t generally like their roots to be disturbed so these ‘becausewecareTM’ pots seem the ideal vessel to sow pea seeds into. The seeds can be planted into compost and then the whole pot buried into the garden soil once they’ve germinated and grown on for a while.

Although pea seeds can be sown directly into soil we have to patiently wait for soil temperatures to warm up (10 – 12 degrees). Sowing them into compostable seed pots is therefore a way of starting them earlier, giving them a head start as the seedlings will already be established by the time the weather’s warmer (usually from March onwards).

Seedlings will also have a better chance of surviving a slug attack if they’re planted out with several leaves on as opposed to germinating directly in the garden soil and having their leaves nibbled off as soon as they appear.

I started a tray of peas off in newspaper pots three weeks ago but to give me a succession of peas to harvest, was keen to sow some more today.

When you first pick up the pots they’re very flexible but as soon as they have compost in (I used a Westland Peat Free compost) they firm up nicely. The flexibility of the pots makes them very versatile as instead of sitting rigidly in a tray leaving gaps, I was able to fit more seed pots in than usual, using up all the space in my washed food tray. (The tray makes the pots easier to handle and means you can water the tray rather than the seed pots).

If I wasn’t using my usual cardboard or paper pots, I would definitely consider using these as an alternative. I’ve yet to see how well they compost once they’re buried in the soil but will be keeping a close eye on them over the coming months.

Eco-toxicity tests have been undertaken on these pots and have been shown to have ‘absolutely no harmful effects on soil as part of the degradation process’.

If you don’t want to bury your pots with seedlings in, you can of course sow seeds into them, remove the seedling and transplant as traditionally  done with plastic pots, rinsing the pots off and re-using them. These compostable pots are said to have a shelf life of two years and once they start to disintegrate, can be added to the compost heap along with kitchen scraps.

The “becausewecareTM compostable pots are available from a limited number of garden centres around Ireland (see the website for local stockists), or online from Irish Green Award finalist The Secret Garden Centre at €4.95 for 25 three inch pots.

Vegetable Garden

Pea and bean crops – do they contain enough nitrogen to benefit anything else?

April 4, 2011

Pea and bean crops - do they contain enough nitrogen to benefit anything else?I just thought I’d share this fabulous photo taken by one of the Goresbridge Community Gardeners, who captured a picture of nitrogen nodules on a field bean I took along to show the group last week.

Over the winter months I’ve been growing field beans in one of my veggie beds as a green manure. Green Manures are used as a means of adding organic matter back into the soil, and are particularly handy for people who’re growing veg and don’t have a ready supply of organic matter (compost or manure).

As members of the legume (pea and bean) family, they’re able to make their own nitrogen and are known as nitrogen fixers.  Legumes store it in little nodules (as can be seen here) and once the nodules have separated from the plant or the plant decomposes, the nitrogen is released and is available to other plants.  Plants from other vegetable families get their nitrogen from the soil, usually from plant debris (or from fertilisers).

Green manures from the legume family are therefore great to grow before anything from the brassica family (cabbages etc) as the big leafy green crops will relish the additional nitrogen and are unable to make it themselves.

*It might surprise many gardeners who are familiar with crop rotation that botanists now believe that the root nodules accumulate half of the total nitrogen and that it only becomes available to other plants when the nodules are removed from the plant.  This only happens when the plant is severely stressed from shade or drought or when the root dies.

Also, when the plant is young about 40% of the nitrogen is in the roots with the rest in the foliage and stems. Once the plant has flowered the reserves of nitrogen in the roots drop to 3-6% with 8-10% in the leaves and stems. The remaining 70-90% is stored in the seeds and seed pods.

What this means for most of us hobby gardeners is that the roots of the pea and bean crops that we have allowed to flower and fruit for the cooking pot are unlikely to be of any nutritional benefit to the veg following them in our crop rotations as is currently believed…. green manures are the key.

* Source Chris Beardshaw – How Does Your Garden Grow


Harvesting vegetable crops in early May

May 6, 2010

Harvesting vegetable crops in early MayGreat excitement in the Sewelly polytunnel & garden as veggies are almost ready for harvesting!

The peas and broad beans that were planted before Christmas are starting to appear so I’ll be digging out the recipe books soon as picking fresh produce always makes me want to try out a new dish.  This early harvest will help to fill the ‘hungry gap’ when the only other fresh veg we have to eat at the moment is purple sprouting broccoli.  I almost pulled it up after the snow as it was looking so downcast, but decided to give it a feed of fish, blood & bone and this is the result – five plants full of delicious florets (that were especially tasty in this evening’s stir fry). There are loads more tiny florets starting to appear beneath the large leaves in the next few days too.

The plan this year is to keep the polytunnel as productive as possible so that it earns it’s keep!

With that in mind we have shallots planted behind the peas & beans and the plan is to plant cucumbers once they’ve all been harvested.

I haven’t quite cracked full productivity yet though as the bed waiting for the tomatoes is still empty, and there’s a big space where the courgette is slowly growing.

My experiment of planting sweet corn early too hasn’t quite worked out – only three germinated (!) so I planted another packet last week in the hope that they’ll catch up soon now the temperatures are rising (there’s obviously a good reason why seed packets recommend a month for growing and late March wasn’t it).  The french beans have all germinated and are starting to grow rapidly too. We never had much success growing these outdoors as it just never seemed warm enough so hopefully will have better luck inside this year.

Meanwhile outside the strawberries are showing signs of flowering and the Red Duke of York first early potatoes are coming along nicely too.

I love this time of year!