George says: Grow peas and beans in containers
Every time I look at the exhibits of peas and beans at the Bibury Village Show (above), I am reminded of my complete failure to grow runner beans. I've tried several times, but they always end up getting eaten by slugs before they've had time to start growing up the canes.
So the idea of growing them in a container - particularly a large pot that I can stand on gravel to deter the slugs - is one that really appeals to me.
The other thing that peas and beans remind me of is an old folk song we used to sing at primary school. It's called "Oats, peas, beans and barley grow" (sometimes "Oats and beans and barley grow"), and it basically tells the story of how the farmer grows his crop, with actions for each verse as he sows, waters and harvests. As a singing game, it's popular in America as well as in the UK.
In every verse, the farmer "stamps his feet and claps his hands, turns around to view his lands". I read somewhere that this is possibly a reference to Morris dancing, and that the stamping and clapping is intended to drive evil spirits from the land. I wonder if it works for slugs? Anyway, here's George:
What can be more delightful than picking your own vegetables then cooking and serving them within 30 minutes? That’s what’s called fresh, fresh, fresh.
To get started soak your seeds in a bowl of water for 24 hours to soften the skins. Then place one bean in a 9cm pot, and peas 3 to a pot. In 14 days shoots will appear, but grow them on until the plants are of a size ready to be inserted in a container.
Select a container with a diameter of around 24 inches (60cms), then fill with John Innes No 3. Select six canes for the beans to run up, place in the container in a wigwam shape, then plant 12 plants one each side of the canes. For peas put a number of pea sticks as a bushy feature then plant in 12 pots of peas, water in well and await growth.
The beans will run up the canes quickly and will soon flower. You then need the bees to pollinate. If you find that the bees have not been around in sufficient numbers, dissolve some sugar in water, put it in a sprayer, then spray over the beans. This will attract the bees.
The peas will look after themselves with the feelers clinging to the pea sticks.
When the plants have grown at a pace you will need to apply a high nitrogen feed around twice a week when watering to sustain growth .
Be careful to be sure your plants are wet because on rainy days the water will run down the heavy foliage and down the outside of the container. If the foliage turns yellow, the first thing to check is the wetness of the compost. If it's dry, the plant will be stressed, and if it's boggy the plant has been over watered.
For best results plant your seeds FIRST WEEK IN MAY. Don’t forget that a sharp frost can kill off your plants.
Place containers in a nice sunny position, and within a month your beans or peas will be forming in bunches.
Pick them straight off the plant and put them into the pot. One container will keep two people supplied throughout the season. You could be having beans and peas every day or giving some away. Enjoy your own vegetables!