Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Broad beans

As always - the more pink stars, the better it is!

Just for the record - all my broad beans are sown into multi-purpose compost in empty toilet rolls, mainly because otherwise the mice scoff them all! I try to plant them out (still in the toilet rolls - they rot off in the ground) soon after germination, when they're no more than an inch or so high.

Aquadulce Claudia: Grown 2007

This is the classic early sowing broad bean: it's bone hardy, and you can sow it in autumn to overwinter and provide the earliest possible crops the following year. Unfortunately my first attempt to do this ended in disaster: I sowed in October, and a particularly warm one at that, so the plants became too big and leggy and flopped, then rotted over winter. The crop was ruined (but no fault of the bean variety!)

I tried again, sowing straight into the ground in late February. This was a particularly risky strategy for me what with mice and slugs: I protected the crop though and despite some early apprehension I needn't have worried - they all came up. Large, healthy plants - but almost too large and healthy as they toppled over! These need support to do well.

Crop was heavy: beans were excellently flavoured but pods were only moderately well-packed. I can only put this down to the variety as growing conditions were pretty good. Otherwise an excellent variety and would happily grow again.

Bunyards Exhibition: Grown 2007
These will be my first foray into sowing straight into the ground - I'm planning to put them in as I start harvesting my early crop in June to provide a late-season crop, in the hope that the mice will be otherwise occupied and will leave them alone...

Green Windsor: Grown 2007
Germination was speedy and almost 100% from a March sowing. Grew steadily though very badly affected by blackfly so some plants underperformed as a result (despite pinching out tops - but perhaps a little late in the season?). Cropping started late-ish June.

Imperial Green Longpod: Grown 2006

These had a good germination rate and formed strong, sturdy plants. I planted them about 4-6" apart in a double row and didn't have to support them. The usual problem with blackfly was almost entirely eliminated as soon as I pinched out the tips in about May.

Crop was heavy and really excellent quality: flavour was outstanding and the young beans especially were very tender. Pods were well-filled and a good size. All in all - the best broad bean I've yet had the pleasure of growing!

Witkiem: Grown 2005

This broad bean was very disappointing for me. In its defence, there were a number of things against it: this was the first year I had the allotment in cultivation, so the soil was fairly poor (although the bed it was growing in was in the best corner of the plot). There was also a very late frost (after the beginning of June) which set back many of the crops in this year. But otherwise conditions were reasonable - not, for example, the drought conditions we had the next year.

The plants were a bit weedy and floppy, and needed a lot of support. They suffered badly from blackfly and I had to jettison a few entirely (despite pinching out tops). Then the pods came through medium-sized at best, and most of them with only two or three beans in them. At least the flavour of those beans I got out of them was very good. All in all a bitter disappointment: I might give this variety one more chance in better soil, but otherwise wouldn't consider growing it again.

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