Easy Vegetables to Grow: Beans, etc
These are extremely easy to grow, requiring no cultivation apart from periodic weeding. They make an effective summer screen with their tall, sunflower-like growths. They are particularly useful for camouflaging the compost heap or other similar unsightly garden objects. Artichoke tubers have a distinctive flavour and can provide an occasional alternative to potatoes. The tubers are planted in February, about 15 cm (6 in) apart, and are dug up as required from November to February.
Beans are one of the most valuable vegetable crops, and need very little attention after the initial preparation of the ground and can actually enrich the soil. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria in small nodules on their roots take in nitrogenfrom the air and convert it into valuable plant food; this is then made available to successive crops if the stem, leaves and roots of the beans are dug into the soil.
Preparation of the ground should be as thorough as possible; plenty of compost or well-rotted manure should be dug in a few weeks before the seed is sown.
The seed of broad beans can be sown in November to produce early crops the following spring. Further sowings should be made in February and March to provide continuity of supplies. The large seeds should be sown 25 cm (9 in) apart in two staggered rows, in shallow drills 6.5 cm (2-1/2in) deep and 15 cm (6 in) wide. ‘Aquadulce’ is one of the best for late autumn sowing. ‘Masterpiece Green Longpod’ is a green-seeded variety for sowing in February and March.
In exposed gardens where wind is likely to damage taller varieties, ‘The Sutton’ would be the best choice. This heavy-cropping dwarf broad bean grows only 30 cm (1ft) tall and seed can be sown in succession from February to July.
Dwarf French beans are easy to grow and the busy gardener may prefer them to the runner beans. They will need no staking or pinching out and will produce heavy crops of tender beans over a long period. They also retain their flavour and texture better than ‘runners’ in the deep freeze. ‘The Prince’ and ‘Masterpiece’ are two good varieties. Seed can be sown from mid-April to mid-July, 5 cm (2 in) deep in double rows. The plants should be thinned to 20-30 cm (8-12 in) apart. Picking the beans while they are young and tender will help extend the cropping period.
Runner beans are one of the most popular and worthwhile of all vegetable crops. The easiest way of sup-porting the plants is to train them up 2.5m (8 ft) bamboo canes; the canes are arranged wigwam fashion in groups of four, tying each group securely at the top. The wigwams should be in rows and about 45-60 cm (1—1-1/2ft) apart. Allow five or six plants per person. To obtain really heavy crops, deep digging and liberal manuring will be necessary, but runners will still produce adequate crops without this VIP treatment. The seed is sown outdoors in mid-May or in April; to ensure earlier cropping, cloches can be used to warm up the soil before sowing and left on until the seedlings are off to a good start. The seed should be sown 5 cm (2 in) deep, two seeds at the base of each cane. As the seedlings develop remove the weaker of the two.
Good varieties include ‘Enorma’, a really spectacular runner with pods up to 50 cm (20 in) long; ‘Prizewinner’, an exceptionally heavy cropper; and ‘Streamline’, an old favourite that is still widely grown. Most varieties of runner bean can also be grown successfully without staking, 8 the growing shoots are pinched out when they reach about 45 cm (1-1/2 ft) tall. As well as saving a great deal of labour, this will also result in earlier crops, although the total yield will be less than from plants grown by more orthodox methods. ‘Kelvedon Marvel7 responds well to this treatment.
Choose the globe varieties, as these will grow well in any soil, as long as it does not dry out in summer. Pull the roots as needed, when they are young and succulent.
Sow the seed 5 cm (2 in) apart and 2.5 cm (1 in) deep in rows 30 cm (1 ft) apart from late April to mid-July, thinning the seedlings to 10-15 cm (4-6 in) apart. Any roots still in the ground in late autumn can be lifted and stored in boxes of sand, peat or sifted soil through the winter months, provided they are protected from frost. ‘Detroit’, specially bred for summer sowing and quick maturing, is one of the best varieties.
This is a trouble-free crop that will provide you with regular supplies of ‘greens’ over a long period. Seed is sown outdoors in May, about 13 mm (1/2in) deep. The seedlings are planted out in June or July, 45 cm (1-1/2ft) apart in rows 60 cm (2 ft) apart.
Calabrese, which produces its large green heads, or ‘spears’, in August and September, is one of the best of the brassica crops for freezing. The delicious spears retain their flavour to a greater extent than most other green vegetables at sub-zero temperatures. ‘Autumn Spear’ is one of the best varieties.
Choosing a bush variety of marrow will save not only space but also the work of pinching out runners and side shoots. Plants are easily raised from seed, sown in groups of two or three where they are to remain. Each group should be 60 cm (2 ft) apart, and the seedlings thinned to a single plant at each position as soon as they have their first pair of true leaves. Marrows need rich soil and plenty of water. They should be harvested young, when they have a much finer flavour. Such treatment also results in longer and more prolific cropping.
Two varieties well worth growing are ‘Green Bush Improved’ and ‘White Bush’. Both, are good croppers, producing marrows of moderate size and excellent flavour.
For courgettes, sow the varieties ‘Green Bush’, ‘Zucchini’, or ‘Golden Zucchini’, all of which produce mini-marrows in abundance. Courgettes should be picked when they are only 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long.
The easiest way of growing onions is from ‘sets’. These are small bulblets, grown especially for planting out. The sets are planted just below the surface with only the tips of the bulblets showing, 10-15 cm (4-6 in) apart in rows 30 cm (1 ft) apart, during February or March. If any sets work loose (or are pulled out by birds) simply press them back into the soil.
Equally easy to cultivate are shallots. These should be planted during January or February in a similar manner to onion sets. Instead of producing a single bulb, like the latter, they divide to make a cluster of bulbs. The flavour of shallots is milder than that of onions and the smaller bulbs are useful for pickling.
The crops can be harvested in August, when the leaves die off. Onions and shallots should be stored in dry airy conditions. Properly looked after, they will keep until the following year’s crops are ready.
Everyone can find space for a few sowings of this useful salad crop. Early sowings given the protection of a cold frame or cloches in February will mature in four or five weeks. These can be followed by outdoor sowings in March and April. In July you can sow winter radish, with roots the size of a golf ball; these are excellent for slicing as an ingredient of winter salads.
Sow the seed 15mm (5/8in) deep in drills 23 cm (9 in) apart for winter radish, and 15 cm (6 in) apart for other varieties. Thin winter radishes to 15 cm (6 in) apart, and other sorts to 5 cm (2 in) apart as soon as they are large enough to handle.
For outdoor sowing, ‘French Breakfast’, ‘Scarlet Globe’ and ‘Red Prince’ are suitable. Two good varieties of winter radish are ‘Black Spanish Round’ and ‘China Rose’.
This is a useful crop to sow in June and July for winter use, preferably on a site where early peas or spring cabbage have been growing. Before sowing, give a light dressing (about 60 g per sq m/2oz per sq yd) of a general fertilizer to supplement the residue of plant foods left by the previous crop. The seed is sown in drills 15mm (5/8in) deep and 30 cm (1ft) apart, and the seedlings are thinned to 10-15 cm (4-6 in) when large enough to handle. Good varieties are ‘Golden Ball’ and ‘Snow-ball’.