Category Archives: broadbean

may flies…

May has ended.  It was a month of lots of lovely summery weather and enough rain so as not to feel the pressure of watering the vegetable patches.   From now on we will have plenty of produce gluts from the garden.

We have been picking salads and herbs from the polytunnel since the end of April. I’ll add peppery nastursium leaves and turnip thinnings to tonight’s salad bowl.

Along with succession sowing and planting out, I have been pinching out the side shoots on the cordon tomatoes and removing the lower leaves up to the first truss.

In the heat of the polytunnel, scent volatiles fill the air.  I only discovered this year what a lovely perfume broad bean flowers have.  Having moved the plantings to the far end of the tunnel I was concerned that the bees wouldn’t find the plants.  I shouldn’t have worried.  The pollinators have been hard at work alongside me.  I’m always amazed to see the formation of the pods on the broadbeans.  These tiny beans along with the season first garden peas will be added to a spring risotto – tonight’s supper.

Working in the tunnel is a delight.  I often run my hands through the herbs for a free aromatherapy session – variations on dill, rosemary, thyme and sage. The sweet basil is starting to come through and I have been pinching out the tops of the pot sown Basil ‘Aristotle’ to garnish the risotto.

I have been thinning the peaches and apricots and the gooseberries are fattening.  We already need to think about preserving the abundance – kept in oil, artichoke hearts make a lovely antipasti…

and I shall gather some heads of the elderflower to make a cordial.

Summer is here.



grape expectations….

Oh, I was so excited to see tiny flower heads on the grape vines.

As I’m not very familiar with growing grapes, and thinking I might have to thin the flowers somewhat, I consulted the RHS and discovered that I have to remove ALL the flowers as the vines are young.   No grapes this year.

Ah well, plenty of other good things coming through.  The broad beans are flowering in the polytunnel…

and the first spears of asparagus have appeared, so I shall console myself with a soft boiled egg and asparagus soldiers tomorrow.

The lovely OH is hard at work handweeding the main vegetable growing area  and we even managed to squeeze in harvesting some young nettles for soup before the leaves become too tough…

The recipe was one from River Cottage.

Reading this week:  Kew on a Plate by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew & Raymond Blanc

undercover growers…

We’re supposed to be heading for warmer temperatures this week.  Hope so, as it’s been brass monkeys round here.  Which is why we’ve switched to clearing the polytunnel.  Of course, if I was Charles Dowding, the tunnel would be full of overwintered salads, rather than a fine crop of chickweed and grass that germinated from the compost added earlier in the year.


dsc_0029and after…

dsc_0034I’ve planted the first broad beans, (Sutton and Crimson flowered), into the polytunnel bed

dsc_0033which means I can sow another batch for outside thereby reducing the loo roll mountain that we’ve accumulated over the last year…

dsc_0043dsc_0046Again I’ve sown ‘Sutton’ and Crimson flowered as well as my last few seeds of ‘Bunyard’s Exhibition’ and a new acquisition ‘Stereo’.  According to Sarah Raven, ‘Stereo’ is ‘famously the best tasting, small, tender broad bean you can grow, excellent raw or cooked’ – so got to give it a go.

The lovely OH spotted this moth or butterfly pupa on the cover…

dsc_0031I’m hoping it’s something fabulous like a Painted Lady and not a cabbage white.  I’ll have to study the pupae on the UK Butterflies site.

It may still be cold but the light is absolutely lovely…





she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown



oh to be in england…

I LOVE the froth of Chelsea, and this year it was extra frothy as many of the show gardens went au naturel.  Funny that, as the english landscape is the result of hundreds’ of years of intervention.  Still – let’s go with the flow and get out and see the real stuff!

DSC_0534sublime views….

DSC_0637gorgeous planting palettes…

DSC_0574to the simply OTT

DSC_0599and full blown blowsy….

DSC_0594it’s all out there to have a look at.  FAB.

On the holding, we have been picking the spring veg. – salads, artichokes, asparagus, peas and broad beans.  When I was small, I hated broad beans – they came in the frozen mixed veg. that we had dished up with the Sunday lunch. I tried to hide the grey beans under something else, usually with limited success .  Now the broad bean is my favourite spring bean, mixed in with peas, what a treat!

DSC_0663DSC_0665Then, add home grown potatoes and herbs ….Sunday lunch, LOVE it…





digger man….

Ron the fence has morphed into Ron the digger.  He ran a quick eye over the to be ornamental garden and said the levelling and excavating for hardworks were eminently doable.  He’ll be back in a month or so with kit.

In the meantime the lovely OH and I have been doing our own digging in the main veg. growing area – our kit consisting of forks, trugs and wheelbarrow.  It’s getting there – a few more days clearing. We have time as the ground is still too cold for sowing.

DSC_0198The sowings in the polytunnel are doing well. Pea; broadbean; turnip; radish; tatsoi; rocket; various herbs; plus cut and come salad will be ready over the next month or two adding to the frozen fruit; apples; garlic; shallot; parsnip; potato; chard and sprouting broccoli we still have, all going someway to  fill the ‘hungry gap’.




Which is just as well, as a rat discovered the last of the autumn squashes; a rodent proof storage room in the lean to is on the list of OH projects.

I found a more welcome visitor the other day when I opened the windows to air the bathroom – Adalia bipunctata, the 2 spot ladybird.   In the interest of science I have added my sighting to the UK Ladybird survey.

DSC_0197For my nerdy project this year I have decided to insect spot ladybirds as they move quite slowly.  I tried to note bee species on the smallholding last year.

It wasn’t a success …..they fly around too much.

Reading this week: Meadowland: the private life of an English field by John Lewis-Stempel

oh the weather outside is …..

Tipping it down, yet I’ve been giving the peas and beans in the poly tunnel a thorough soaking.  Once they start flowering you need to make sure that they get plenty of water to enable the pods to swell properly.


The peas have already started to produce pods.  I’m always amazed at how good the pollination is in the tunnel.  It doesn’t take much.  I clocked a rotund bumble bee, perhaps a queen, visiting the broad bean flowers the other day.

On my recent trip, looking at commercial growers in Sweden, I found out that many of them use bumble bees, (Bombus spp.), in their glass houses and tunnels to ensure a good set.  The orchard growers are also turning to bumble bees because they will still fly in cool weather, down to 41F, in the rain, wind and on cloudy days, whereas honeybees stay in their hives.  Bumble bees also don’t get distracted by some other bee coming up and doing a waggle dance telling all his mates about a rapeseed field down the road.   Head down and get on with the pollination job in hand, that’s the bumble bee for you.  So I’m really, really hoping my visiting bee has made a nest somewhere in the polytunnel.

Fingers crossed.