Its time to plant beans – both climbing and dwarf varieties as well as carrots, lettuce, peas and spring onions. Warmer settled weather means the big productive summer plants like aubergine, capsicum, chilli pepper, melon, pumpkin, sweetcorn, tomato and zucchini can all go into the ground. Remember that zucchini, melon and pumpkins love space to roam so you may need to sacrifice an existing plant or two to clear space for these hungry heavy croppers. To keep fresh greenery on the table it is worth sowing and planting salads, dwarf beans and fast growing herbs like basil, coriander and parsley every few weeks to ensure your harvest continues through summer.
Tasty salads should be easy to pull together and a welcome change from heavier winter dishes. Florence fennel, broad beans and fresh peas as well as perhaps an early zucchini or two change the look and flavour of meals to something lighter and altogether more summery. New potatoes are more of a realistic prospect as winter-sown spuds start to reach their productive phase. The first strawberries start to blush in the late spring sunshine and early blueberries are ripening – you may need to cover plants with mesh if you are to ensure these delicious berries get to your plate before the birds spot them.
Companion planting puts plants together for their mutual benefit. A great example of this is what’s known as ‘The three sisters’. Originating from native American growers, ‘The three sisters’ sees a ring of half a dozen or so sweetcorn plants with a squash or cucumber planted in their midst and a couple of runner bean plants growing up around their outside. The beans clamber up the corn and tie them together whilst fixing nitrogen into the soil. The corn benefits from the extra nitrogen and provides a climbing frame for beans and squash/cucumber. The squash/cucumber climbs on the corn and its broad leaves provide shade at the base of the corn – keeping roots cool and shading out weeds. Three plants growing together and giving to each other in the process – perfect!more
"Pinching out the growing tip of climbing beans, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squashes and zucchini plants when they get to about a metre in length encourages plants to produce more side shoots. These side shoots carry more of the flowers that produce fruit. "
Climbing beans can grow up to 2m and they need support to carry them to a productive harvest. Bamboo canes, trellis, reinforcing mesh are all suitable materials. If you are thinking of growing beans up a wigwam made from bamboo canes then push 6 to 8 canes firmly into the soil to form a circle about a decent stride in diameter. Bend the tips of your canes to the centre and tie together. Then go round the canes and add extra runs of twine for beans to clamber up. The same principle goes for a longer structure where a succession of crossed bamboo canes are anchored in the soil side by side with a cane running along the top for stability and horizontal runs of twine tied along them at intervals for beans to grab onto
CHECK OUT CLIMBING DEVICES
Young seedlings are very sensitive to drying out thanks to their poorly developed root systems. One breezy or sunny day without moisture can be an end to weeks of successful sowing and growing. Water early morning so soil absorbs moisture before it all evaporates during hotter parts of the day. Ideally water should pool temporarily on top of the soil before it disappears – this is a good way of ensuring that you have given a particular area enough moisture for plants to remain hydrated through the day. Use a sprinkler attachment on your hose or a rose at the end of your watering can to prevent delicate seedlings from being washed away. Mulch all bare soil where possible but avoid much around newly sown seed or it will smother small seedlings.