My seventh summer of French beans helps garden take shape
THE slugs have been helping me thin out the radishes.
They like to get involved every year, always beating me to the task to leave bare stalks poking proud from the earth.
I tend to over-sow now so the loss doesn't wipe me out entirely.
The variety I favour is 'French Breakfast' because they are always reliable croppers with a good crunch.
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I have experimented with the multicoloured packs but found the differing germination rates too unsettling. I want a uniform row.
It is part of the settlers' psyche to mark out 'our space' in the wilderness.
By planting our rows, gardeners connect to the very first cultivators who decided to deliberately sow seeds for harvest.
This is the seventh summer I have planted bean rows in this garden, but I suspect they have been grown here for hundreds of years.
The ground has spat out clay pipes from gardeners gone by. I love to see them and wonder what varieties these gardeners would have grown.
I imagine their preference was for runner beans rather than the French beans I favour.
But the method is the same, pushing supports in the ground year after year. Them using hazel lengths perhaps, and me, the imported bamboo canes.
I started the task on Sunday evening when the sun was still poking over the hedge which borders the garden and the field.
The soil was warm to the touch having soaked up a scorching day and I started to collect the canes yet again.
A handful of 12 for the uprights and three for the horizontal supports.
I am pleased by the immediate height and structure. It feels like the garden is properly lived in.
The flower borders are frothing with species like foxglove, wild valerian, ox-eyes and the newest recruit red campion, Silene dioica.
My decision to cultivate campion has been vindicated by a recent trip to the awe-inspiring gardens at St Michael's Mount, Marazion in Cornwall.
To reach the formal terracing and walled gardens, visitors walk through the wild flats on the south-east side of the island through bluebells and great swathes of red campion.
The gardens here are warmed by the gulf stream and bask in the heat held by the granite after the sun goes down.
The gardeners have made an art of knowing when to leave the natives and when to allow the incoming tropical specimens to shine.
I think wildflowers soften the boundaries of the garden. They grow where they want to grow.
These ideal conditions can make for thuggish growth but better to dig out an excess than coax unhappy species far from home.