Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Spring showers

The title of this post is a complete misnomer, because spring showers is exactly what we did NOT get over the past month. April in the UK was the driest month on record. Southern France here we come, because that is the climate we seem to be moving toward here in England, thanks to global warming. My artichokes should like it, if nothing else.

Not that I didn't enjoy the freakishly fine weather, but on behalf of my garden I was getting quite desperate for rain. Anyone who is depressed by rainy weather should take up gardening, they would find their attitude changing dramatically.

But fortunately the rain has finally returned, and my beans are starting to peak their little heads through the soil. Or rather enormous heads - the size they emerge at, no wonder it takes them so long to sprout. I may end up with a bit of bean overload this year - my mother sent me heritage beans from the US, and I just had to try them all.

Those are Calypso, Florida butter speckled, Peregion, Kentucky wonder, Rattlesnake, Christmas lima bean, and a Borlotti thrown in for good measure.

2 of 5 pole bean teepees, and bush beans in the background

Some of these beans can be eaten fresh, but I'm planning to dry most of them (other than some French beans, which I will make into pickled dilly beans). I'm a bit worried about how I'm going to go about drying beans - they need space for aeration. My parents threw bushels of beans in their garage to dry, but living in an apartment I don't have a huge amount of space. I'm thinking of rigging up some sort of shelving system in the hallway using vegetable crates, which should make me very popular with the neighbors.

I also have high expectations for pumpkins and squash. I have one whole bed devoted to zucchini, patty pan squash, Halloween pumpkins and courge musquée (the enormous French pumpkins). I'm also growing acorn and butternut squash with the pole beans, in a modified 3-sister pairing. This is a traditional American technique growing squash, beans and corn together - the beans climb the corn and the squash provides ground cover. But I was afraid the corn wouldn't do well enough in this climate to provide support for the beans, so I'm just pairing beans/squash and corn/pumpkins.

I'm growing so many beans and squash because I love them, they are easy to can or store through winter, and perhaps most importantly, they are so much easier to grow than fiddly cabbages! (I planted a bed of broccoli, brussel sprouts and Chinese cabbages, but they are already being devoured by pests, and I don't how much will be left for us. Only humans, it seems, turn their noses up at cabbage).

Another crop that will no doubt draw some uninvited guests - the strawberries. We look well on our way to having a bumper crop this year, so with any luck there will be enough to go around.