Adding Some Structure

Structure is necessary when it comes to planting – for support, shelter, and design.  Across the student plots a variety of structures have been popping up which fulfil at least one of the above.  It’s been interesting to see how varied these have been – from very natural structures made from branches or weaving, straight canes and twine and large pieces of 2×4 or tree trunks nailed together.  Everyone has their own vision and way of doing things and one of the great benefits from doing this as a group is seeing how someone else handles the same challenges.  You learn a lot from your fellow students!

Insect home Broad bean supports Raised bed sections Broad bean supports 2

The main supports at the moment are broad bean supports, but there are also insect houses, cloches and raised beds on the rise.  On my own plot it was finally time for the supports for my canes to go in for the sweet pea cordons.

Cordons base Cordons finished

I measured out my area, cut the black plastic out, laid down the stones and then used measuring tape and a line to figure out where the canes should go.  Whilst I would love to say they were all completely even there ended up being some which don’t look quite perfect due to the simple fact that bamboo canes aren’t all perfectly straight!  However, I was glad to get this ready as my sweet peas (Lathyrus odorata ‘Midnight’ & ‘White Supreme’) are well on their way and I wanted to make sure they’d stand up to our variable weather before tethering plants to them.

Coldframe Broadbeans

Talking of which… as my sweet peas are starting to get going I’ve put them outside in the cold frame – we’re a bit pushed for space inside the tunnels so the sooner they can be out of the way the better.  The broad beans (Vicia faba ‘Aquadulce’) have also taken the good weather we’ve been having as a sign that it’s time to get going – finally some green has burst out into the sunlight.  They’ve joined the sweet peas outdoors as they’re tough things and don’t need much coddling.

Not Quite Spring Yet

Bean Supports

This past few weeks has been a tutorial on the fact that the weather has such a big factor on planting and planning – I had hoped to get a few more things done for the plot but the beautiful sun we had at the beginning of the month has segued into rain and snow and (so the met office tells me) we’ve gale force winds to look forward to in the next week or so.  Definitely not the time to be putting up tall supports!

However, it really is time to get those direct planted broad beans (Vicia fabia ‘Aquadulce’) in the ground and, given their success in the poly-tunnel, I have decided that it’s also probably safe to put some mangetout (Pisum sativum ‘Bijou’) outside.  This is the first actual planting which has gone into the ground so it’s an exciting milestone, if the start of the real and proper ‘worrying’ which will likely grow from now until our plot vivas.

The beans have bottle cloches over them – with small windows cut in them to prevent overheating and to allow air flow, something which is beneficial for disease prevention in broad beans as chocolate spot has been a problem in the past.  It was Jono’s idea to do the slots – something I’ve never done before as I usually sow my broad beans in pots then plant out when its warmer or sow before the winter so the seedlings are tough enough not to need the protection.

The shape of the ‘triangle’ canes on the supports is mainly because it looked nice, but it turns out that they really help support the structure and I have a feeling, with the forecast high winds, that I’m going to need as much extra support as possible.  The string, as it’s done here, is for support – the beans will grow up and through it but it’ll allow plenty of airflow through them to prevent fungal disease.

This Friday we had our plot tutorials – a chat with the course supervisors, as well as advice and comments about how things are going so far.  My main worry is my sweetpeas (Lathyrus odoratus ‘Midnight’ & ‘White Supreme’) – they’re a large part of my design and if they don’t come up it’s going to be… problematic.  However, some of the ones which I’d thought had rotted have actually come through so I may now have almost double the number that I need.

If we get a clear day next week I’d like to sow some beetroot (Beta vulgaris ‘Albino’) – a white cultivar (no stains!) which is good for both the root and leaf.  I like to use dual purpose plants in my own garden – whether it be that you can eat multiple parts or if they just look pretty as well as having edible parts – or better all three (e.g. nasturtiums!).

Also this week: my Dianthus chinensis heddewigii ’Black and White Minstrels’ have germinated.  They’re something I’ve never tried growing before – it won’t be long until they have to be pricked out and moved into colder environs due to a lack of heated bench space, though, so I hope they are tough wee things!