The runner bean seedlings, having reached several inches in height, have gone into the ground. I’m quietly pleased with them. Despite what I said at the time, I wasn’t entirely sure how well the seeds we had saved from the last few bean plants would turn out, as some of them didn’t look to be in wonderful condition. Nevertheless, all of the runner beans we have sowed so far seem to have germinated happily; the green bean success rate is about 60%, which isn’t too bad either.
Last night, when the runner beans were planted out, was positively balmy. I woke up to a rainstorm, and had to rescue the next batch of pea seedlings from complete drowning. Still, at least the beans will have been watered in well.
After being lazy for far too long, this week I have finally managed to get our second batch of potatoes into the ground. Another potato bin, the same as the first, was acquired from a certain Swedish-Dutch furniture giant; its base was thoroughly perforated; and I delved into the cupboard under the stairs to find the bag of Red Duke Of York seed potatoes we bought from the Riverside over a month ago now. Unfortunately, I discovered a bit of a problem.
Some authorities on potatoes, you may already know, suggest chitting your tubers before planting. Leave them in a suitable spot, undisturbed, to get to work growing shoots, to give them a bit of a head start when they get in the ground. Other authorities say they’ve found chitting more trouble than it’s worth, because the chitted shoots are rather too prone to damage and can easily break off, leaving a potato with no more eyes and no more chance of growth. All of these authorities say that: if you do chit, plant the tubers when the shoots are about a couple of inches long.
Well, with our second batch of potatoes for this year we didn’t get any choice in the matter. Going under the stairs to find them, I discovered that they had managed to thoroughly chit themselves, all around each other and through the sides of the bag they were in, to a good six or seven inch length. Getting plantable potatoes out of the bag, without breaking the shoots off was an incredibly delicate job; and I hate to think how much I damaged them when backfilling their planting holes and firming them in. Still, most of my earthing up has already effectively been done, I suppose. It remains to be seen if any potatoes will result.
Nevertheless, the first batch of potatoes is doing well, with a good showing of richly-coloured dark maroon-green leaves coming up from at least two of the tubers. The coriander seeds I mentioned in the last post have germinated well, after about 10 days on the windowsill; and the runner beans I sowed at the same time are now all a good few inches in height. It will be tempting, if we get a warm Sunday in the next few weeks, to get my tripod out and try doing a time-lapse video of the runner bean vines coiling their way up their poles.
The frost has really started to come in in the past week. I’m learning which parts of the garden are hit by it the hardest: the sheltered area between shed and house stays frost-free the longest, and the other side of the shed, where the bee house is, also seems to stay fairly sheltered. The middle of the garden, and the prime planting area, get hit the hardest, although so far this winter the perennial plants seem to be largely bearing up. Fingers crossed.
After I planted the garlic, three weeks ago, there were a few small cloves left over from the bulb. Today, I planted those up in the containers that, this year, we grew carrots in. The carrots – more of that free BBC seed – did not really grow very well, possibly because the containers are a little small. We will see how the garlic does: we’re starting, in these containers, with the least-viable-looking cloves already, so there won’t really be any scientific conclusions we can draw from it.
The three-weeks-planted garlic hasn’t appeared above the surface yet. K says I’m being silly, looking regularly, because at this time of year it won’t break the surface for months. But, still, I keep looking to see if sprouts have appeared.
Today, we cut down the remaining wizened bean plants, having made sure we had saved all the potentially viable beans for sowing next spring. With the beans and their canes missing, the garden has lost all its height, and looks very empty all of a sudden. Very bare, compared to June or July.
However, the cycle goes around. In the post, the other day, a garlic bulb arrived.
Carefully peeling off the papery skin revealed a tight-packed spiral of fat cloves
This is a softneck variety, Solent Wight, chosen because it’s meant to be a particularly easy variety to grow in southern England, as you might expect from the name. The cloves were planted up in a couple of our largest containers, moved to the sunniest side of the garden along the wall of the house; in spring a thin sprinkling of annual flower seeds might go in between the garlic stems if there looks to be enough space for them. In 8 or 9 months, if all goes well, this bulb will have turned into ten or more ready for drying and eating.