donderdag 24 april 2014

Broad Beans.

That things may turn out differently than you expected, we know we know. And yet every time it comes as a surprise.

Just take our broad beans. We sow them in different places. They grow up very different and there are some in very bad shape. And moreover it had also been raining very terrible hard, so that almost the entire crop was lying flat on the ground. You would think that the poor continue to do poor, and the good will be well. But no. The poor are now full with beans, and the good... I've cleaned them up because there was no bean to be seen. How can that be? This is food for thought ... would you have to give broad beans a good spanking, to live well and healthy? Or is it bit more subtle?

We buy our beans seeds in the foraging trade every year. They come in 50 liter bags and are sold by the liter or kilo. Everyone sows beans, so they are sold pretty fast. A single scoop is enough for us. Broad beans one sows in winter. It makes no sense to sow them in spring because then they will be overpowered by lice very soon.

I sowed my broad beans down in the valley north of the house, in the walled flowerbed Henry has made. We surrounded it with a fence to discourage our cat. And made a cloth at the north side to protect it against the winter winds.

I also sowed beans in pots, which I put in the shelter of the house. Enjoying the sun.

Then last year we started with the construction of a new garden on the southwest side of the house.

We want to create a seed bed there, covered with some greenhouse windows. For now we have improvised some cloth around it to keep the cat outside the fence.

All together it is just a job. Because there are quite a few large stones that you should get out off the ground first.

To get to know the ground we have sown some broad beans here also. Initially this seemed not to be a great success because the snails had discovered them soon. There is no fence that can stop a snail. We have picked a lot of slugs and snails and brought them elsewhere. And that helped. Since at a particular moment they where completely gone.

With some old compost broad beans overcome the slug damage with ease. This compost was very old and no longer suitable for the use of cultivation in pots, without manure. But for adding organic matter in the soil it was more than good.

The beans grow unevenly. But the flowers promise a good future. The plants have hardly been affected by the massive rainstorms, they have had to endure. This year we have no lack of rain. That was something new, in comparison with previous years.

The promise of many flowers, turns out to be fulfilled. The plants bear lots of beans. This is our best crop ever.

The beans in the planter in the valley are well protected and are very high. This seems to be good as well.

But unfortunately, at the very first rain (downpour) the plants where flat on there face. And of course now the wind did not come from the north or northeast, as in most of the year. Now it came from the southwest, with storm and hail.

The harvest is very disappointing also. The plants in the back, have come under pressure and contribute no beans. They get sun too little.

But yeah ... then the broad beans in pots ... What a beautiful plants! There are plenty of flowers and bees also.

But no ... do you see any beans? I do not.

Meanwhile we had a shade cloth hung to protect the other seeds against the fierce sun. Because the sunshine is hot, between showers. You can not leave plastic pots in the sun, as they get hot, then the soil in the pots gets hot. This obviously has implications for the plant.

The broad beans grew nice and protected. And that is precisely, not the right intention. Here also, the beans do not grow on the shady side. Only on the sunny side some grow. The temperature stays behind and the sun is still hiding behind thick clouds. It is a cold and wet spring. So very different than we might expect normally.

The plants without beans I removed, so the plants with beans get more light. The pots I have put in the sun, under the shade cloth away. Here, the beans can ripen quietly.

That broad beans do not need much, we already knew actually. And now we see how. They need no more then some red Portuguese earth, some old compost, adequate sunlight and sufficient space under there feet. It is a plant with a root system that is quickly expanding. In addition, it is a legume, which makes root nodules, bringing nitrogen into the soil. This root system gets stuffy in a pot very soon. It reminds me of a prisoner, who wants to break out. And it likes lots of water every day, to quench its thirst, while the pot is empty very soon. All this makes the plant grow but produce no beans. Nature is smart. If you have the idea that you can not reproduce your kind, you do not have children. For that matter, we can still learn from this.

If a broad bean plant is in the ground, it will always find its water anywhere. If it is not at the surface, it will find it in deeper layers. To sun and rain, It has enough. Storm and wind seems to keep its growth. Because resistance is doing to fight, to survive. And what a plant can do best, if it wants to survive? Right, make offspring ... beans.

It was not the intention, but it has become a nice comparison test. In the future I do not grow my beans in pots. And I no longer shelter it from the elements, with shade cloths and a quiet and wind free corner. Beans want to see the sun and have there feet in the free soil, with the head in the wind. I can imagine at some.

Something like this I have experienced with cabbage last year. A cabbage plant also wants to see more earth than it has available in a pot. Transplanting a 'miserable existence' in a pot, to the open ground in the valley behind the house, turned out to be a relief. They were like cows in spring, when they are led to the meadow. If cabbage plants could jump, they had done it. What they could do was to flourish, turn dark green and make a beauty of a cabbage. And that happened.

Well it was true, that the cabbage down in the garden were attacked more by butterflies. An egg was easily laid. But by checking for caterpillars, during the transition from poor to healthy cabbage, this suffering ended soon. For a caterpillar, a healthy cabbage seems to be not as far so good then a poor cabbage. Life is hard.

So there you have it. We have to take care of what is ill and must leave some fairly what is healthy and strong. So we also see that one can make ill what is healthy by unnecessary protection. It is our task to figure out what is healthy or sick. And in order to make it difficult, sick and healthy are relative concepts. Because what seems ill can be very healthy and what seems somewhat healthy can collapse under its own prosperity.

I have always had good experiences with other legumes, peas and beans in pots with (only) compost and in sheltered plant beds in compost. None of these experiences gave rise to any doubt for a good outcome for broad beans. So again this was a good learning.

To quote the late Dr. William Albrecht: "You have to have a vision. Unless you do, nature will never reveal herself."

I have noticed that you can get a vision by watching and trying to record, by trying to understand what is happening. Sometimes it succeeds. And along the way you collect a lot of knowledge.

One final note, not least: Once we sowed broad bean seeds, we had harvested from our garden the previous season. So, our own seed. We grew beautiful plants and beautiful flowers also... but no beans. Our conclusion was that the plants from which we harvest the seeds, must have been hybrid.
Here, however, the seeds all came from one bag. So...



April 2016:

Eventually we learned it anyway... Beautiful healthy broad beans we grow in our clayey soil, including a wheelbarrow old compost from a previous culture in pots. Sown in the last week of November, 20 cm. on the row and a minimum of 60 cm. between the rows. In February, they are already quite high, nicely with there heads in the wind. In March, we want to cut the tops, but it does not seem necessary, because there is almost no lice to be seen. In April, they are large enough to be picked. Thanks to the rain we did not need to water them so much. And it was not so hot that we needed a shade cloth. So the circumstances were favorable also...

May 2016.

In the last week of November 2015 we sowed 24 beans. Multiple stems grew from every bean; 3, 5 and occasionally even 7. All stems produced several beans; 5, 7 to occasionally even 13. From the 24 seeds we eventually harvested three full buckets with pods, of 15 liters.



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