Posted by: ceara08 | April 9, 2009

Give Peas a Chance!

HAHAHA!! What a great title!

This is the second article about gardening in a series by Monty Don.  (You sexy voice!  You could read me the phone book and I would be happy.  hehe)

This will go under “Plant Profiles.”   Why?  Because Monty Don writes better than I can and he did an excellet job.  So no need to reinvent the wheel.

For a bumper summer harvest of home-grown peas, beans and tomatoes, start planting now, says Monty Don in the second part of his teach-yourself guide.

The second part of my series on growing your own delicious, fresh, organic vegetables, is all about moving forward to the harvests that we associate with high summer. That is fully three months away but now is the time to get on and sow the seeds for the fruits that we will reap in July and August.

If you have never grown a single edible plant in your life before, now is the ideal time to get started. April is the perfect moment to begin growing vegetables, as the soil is warming up and the days lengthening to give us all that lovely light that we – humans as much as plants – need to flourish.
Vegetables grow best in full sunlight with rich, deep soil that contains plenty of organic material, which will both drain well and hold moisture. If this sounds contradictory, the ability to regulate and balance the water in the soil is a feature of ground that has lots of organic matter added to it. It does not matter what that is – manure, grass, leaves, clippings or whatever – but well-made garden compost is undoubtedly the very best thing for good vegetables.

However, whatever your soil is like, growing legumes of any kind will improve it for future crops. The leguminous vegetables that are easy to grow in our gardens are peas, broad beans, French beans – both dwarf and climbing – and runner beans. All these host a bacteria – rhizobium – that can convert the nitrogen that makes up around 80 per cent of our atmosphere into a form that can be easily absorbed by plants. In return, the plants feed the bacteria sugars.

As well as peas and beans, leguminous plants in our garden include lupins and clover. When any of these plants die there is always a residual amount of fixed nitrogen left in the soil which is available to other plants – hence the reason brassicas, which need plenty of nitrogen for their leafy growth, especially when they are young, follow peas and beans in a crop-rotation plan. They gratefully hoover up the leftover nitrogen processed from the atmosphere by the legumes. This use of legumes is a key part in healthy organic crop rotation and eliminates the need for nitrates – which are expensive, need oil to produce and are highly polluting.

Nitrogen is essential for green, new growth in plants, but too much creates an excess of soft, sappy growth. This in turn attracts aphids and fungal problems. Hence, a legume crop every two years (three growing seasons) is sufficient if it is followed by brassicas over the subsequent autumn and winter, and by root crops after that.

PEPPERS

Peppers, both hot and sweet, are grown in much the same way as tomatoes, although they are much less fussy about water, pinching out or feeding, and are very tough as long as they are kept warm. In fact, it is a mistake to feed them as this provokes foliage rather than the fruits. I grow mine in pots in the greenhouse and in borders outside, where they thrive in a hot summer.

Although the fruits come in many colours, most start out green and ripen to red and taste best when they are fully ripe. The hotter and sunnier it is, the quicker peppers will ripen.

MY FAVOURITE VARIETIES

Sweet: ‘Corno di Rossa’, ‘Ferrari’, ‘Sungold’ (yellow). Hot (chilli): ‘Early Jalapeno’, ‘Habanero’, ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’.

PEAS

Peas should not be sown if the soil is cold to touch nor into wet ground, otherwise they have a tendency to rot. I have found that a double row 9in wide with each 4-5in apart works best.

Either prepare the soil to a fine tilth and simply push the peas into the ground, or draw a shallow drill with a wide hoe, place the peas along it and then rake the soil back over them. There should be room between each of these rows to walk and pick the pods, which in practice means at least 3ft.

Peas need support to make picking easier. I like to use pea-sticks – which can be any kind of twiggy brushwood or prunings, although hazel is the best. However netting or chicken wire supported by bamboo canes woven into the wire and pushed into the ground works very well.

Do not over-water as they are growing but give them a good soak once they flower.

Pick the pods as soon as they are large enough to open which will encourage more pods to develop. They soon shrivel up in hot weather. Any peas too dried up for eating fresh can be stored for next year’s seed.

I see no virtue in short varieties other than their need for less support. Taller varieties take up no more space in the garden, are likely to ripen better and to crop more vigorously over a longer period.

‘Alderman’ is a particularly tall variety, reaching over 6ft in rich soil. Mangetout and sugar-snap peas are eaten pods and all.

MY FAVOURITE VARIETIES

‘Alderman’, ‘Feltham First’, ‘Hurst Green Shaft’, and ‘Carouby de Maussane’.

RUNNER BEANS

Runner beans are one of the favourite vegetables for British gardeners, yet, to my mind, are not as good as climbing French beans. However, each to their own.

They are grown in exactly the same way as climbing French beans (see below), thriving in warm, wet weather. Harvest the beans when they are 12in long and be careful not to overcook.

MY FAVOURITE VARIETIES

‘Desiree’, ‘ Streamline’, ‘Painted Lady’.

FRENCH BEANS

French beans (which are not French at all, coming from Central and South America) are Phaseolus vulgaris and include haricot beans, kidney beans, dwarf, pole, yellow, green, purple and blotchy ones.

Unlike peas or broad beans, they are frost-tender, and it is a mistake to sow them too early. The secret of sowing French or runner beans is to wait for warm soil that holds plenty of moisture.

I sow dwarf French beans in blocks, a hand-span apart, pushing each bean into the finger-soft soil. Slugs and snails are very fond of the young plants and can reduce them to stumps overnight. For this reason I always grow some in plugs and plant them out when they are established.

Climbing French beans are always superbly decorative with a choice of green, yellow or purple beans, and add essential height to the vegetable garden. By the same token they are ideal for limited spaces and grow well in a large container.

Like runner beans they need rich, water-retentive soil, so I dig a pit and add organic material before covering it back over with soil. I then build a teepee with four poles above it, lashed firmly together at the top, and plant a couple of beans at each corner.

MY FAVOURITE VARIETIES

Dwarf: ‘Roquefort’, ‘Purple Queen’, ‘Annabel’, ‘Purple Teepee’. Climbing: ‘Burro d’Ingegnoli’, ‘Blue Lake’, ‘Hunter’, ‘Blauhilde’.

BROAD BEANS

If peas can be slightly temperamental, broad beans are delightfully straightforward to grow. They are very hardy and can be sown as early as October for a late spring harvest, although I find that the first day in spring that the soil can be worked is early enough, with another couple of sowings thereafter until June.

Like peas, a double row, 12-18in apart is best, with the beans planted at 9in intervals. I use my ubiquitous scaffolding plank and crawl along it while pushing the beans into the soil down its length. Like peas, 3ft is necessary between each double row to allow room to pick.

Broad beans will need support to stop them being blown over. The best way to do this is to stick a cane firmly every few feet along both sides of each row and to stretch string between them so that the beans are trussed into an upright position.

Start picking the pods very early as broad beans are best when small and they will soon grow too fast to keep up with. Blackfly are an unsightly problem but do little harm. They are attracted to the soft growth at the top of the plants in midsummer so pinch these off once you see the blackflies collecting on the tips of the plants.

MY FAVOURITE VARIETIES

‘Aquadulce’, ‘Red Epicure’, and ‘Express’.

SQUASHES

The cucurbit family includes pumpkins, squashes, marrows, courgettes and cucumbers, and all share much the same growing requirements. They all like very rich soil, lots of water and as much warmth as possible. Pumpkins, in particular, are almost impossible to grow in a cold summer. However, marrows and courgettes are less fussy than cucumbers or pumpkins and will grow in cooler conditions.

The seeds for all are large and flat and should be raised in a pot in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. Grow the plants on in individual pots until they are a few inches tall and then gradually harden them off over at least two weeks before planting outside.

Plant out in a shallow saucer of soil (to collect and hold available water) with plenty of added compost. Allow at least 3ft between plants and twice that for pumpkins. Water very well at least once a week.

Cucumbers can be trained up tripods or trellises and I grow mine in pots in a greenhouse, each with a small bamboo tripod. Smaller squashes can also be grown vertically, although the support needs to be very firmly fixed.

Harvest courgettes as soon as they are sausage-sized, depending on how big you like your bangers, but never let them become small marrows.

Squashes and pumpkins will not be ready until September at the earliest and the remaining leaves should be removed by the end of that month to promote ripening.

Lift the fruits from wet soil and harvest with a length of stalk. If possible, leave them in a dry, sunny place for a week or so to ripen further, then store in a cool, dark place.

MY FAVOURITE VARIETIES

Pumpkins: ‘Muscade de Provence’, ‘Turk’s Turban’, ‘Jack be Little’. Squashes: ‘Uchiki Kuri’, ‘Orange Hubbard’, ‘Butternut Waltham’. Courgettes: ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Parador’ ( yellow), ‘Tondo Chiaro di Nizza’ (round). Cucumbers: ‘Obi’ (good for outdoor), ‘Paska’, ‘Crystal Lemon’ (round).

Original article link:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/gardening/article-1166461/Get-Britain-growing-Give-peas-chance-says-Monty-Don.html

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