Seaweed Time!



Not everybody has the luxury of living near the sea, but if you do, as I do, then after an autumn storm is the time to go and load up on seaweed.

The benefits are many.

1/ It is free

2/ It is natural and proven over thousands of years as a good all round fertiliser

3/ Slugs don’t like it because it is slightly salty

4/ It comes out of the sea so there is no danger of it carrying plant pathogens or stray weed seeds like home made compost

5/ It acts as a weed suppressing mulch as well as a slow release fertiliser

Apart from the fact that you might look a bit silly to some people, lugging seaweed up from the beach, it is perfectly ok. Although, with the growing popularity of vegetable gardening I think it is now regarded as less eccentric than it used to be, and this morning a lady approached me for advice on whether she should put seaweed on her asparagus; of course she should! It is also a perfectly legal activity, nobody owns the beach, or the seaweed.

I have know idea as to what the best seaweed is for the job. I assume that like terrestrial plants, each type has a slightly different chemical make-up and therefore adds something slightly different to the soil, so I gather a bit of everything. The smaller bits I spread around the greenhouse bed, bigger things like kelp, with thick stems and those funny roots, I put into the compost heap or dig into the vegetable patch, I sometime find these months later slowly breaking down in the soil, releasing nutrients as they go.

Bladderwrack tends not to rot very quickly, and sits on the surface for a long time, alternately drying and rehydrating with the weather so this becomes a slow release fertiliser, but in the mean time acts as a mulch.

As well as using seaweed immediately you can keep a bin of it, a bit like comfrey, and tap off the liquid as it decomposes then dilute it and use it as a general fertiliser, but beware, it stinks, horribly. This is best done in the spring and early summer time when you need it most, rather than now, in the autumn.

If you grow asparagus, then seaweed is a fantastic thing, you should pile it high on your asparagus mounds at this time of year. Asparagus is salt tolerant and you will be surprised as to how quickly it starts to soak in, leaving the tougher stuff as a mulch in the spring time to help keep the dreaded slugs and snails at bay.

With regard to salt. Seaweed is going to be slightly salty, but i don’t think I have ever had any ill effects because of this. This morning I gathered weed that has been rinsed slightly by overnight rain, but if you were worried then you could fill and empty the bin with fresh water just in case.Image

French Beans

Beans, Beans and More Beans

Well, so much for chillies, this post is all about helping me come to terms with my amazement at my bean plants.

I have grown beans before, a lot of them. I’m not keen on traditional runner beans, I find them all a bit tough and stringy and not a very versatile food to work with. But I have grown a lot of dwarf bean varieties, mainly the non climbing ones, sometimes some outside climbing ones, and normally with good results.

This year, however, I have, for the first time grown climbing beans inside the greenhouse, specifically Suttons ‘Blue Lake’ Climbing French Bean, and wow, what results.

They are still producing, more slowly at this time of year, (the clocks change in two days), but don’t think I have ever grown a food plant quite so prolific.

They were sown in early May, and soon planted out in the greenhouse bed, I was strict, and limited myselfl to 4 plants because of space, although in the end they did overwhelm a bit too much.

By early July they were producing, just a few each day at first, but quickly they got going and my half heated attempts at logging the weight of what was picked has told me that they have so far produced over 45lbs from 4 plants! Averaging roughly half a pound each and every day from mid July to late October.

Now who can possibly eat all this stuff? My wife was bowled over by the firsst couple of picks, there weren’t that many, and were treated as a delicacy, steamed and buttered, which prompted the comment
‘You can grow as many of these as you like, I could eat them every day.’
Roll on 7 days of exclusive bean eating and her response changed, didn’t want to see another bean, ever.

1680g of French Beans

Now, for me, one of the greatest joys of vegetable growing, next to eating them quick, seeing tiny seeds turn to dinner making machines, and getting stuff for free, is giving them away. So of the 45lbs of beans produced so far, most have been consumed by friends and neighbours. As mentioned previously, I do like something for free, so hopefully the favours will be returned with favours, odd jobs, party invites and wine, but the main pleasure is going a small way to feeding the masses for nothing, and seeing them happy too.

The techy stuff – germinate them in pots, somewhere warm, indoors in late March or early April, or later in the greenhouse.

Plant them out about a foot apart in a greenhouse bed. They will get big, bushy and rambling. They grew to the roof and along so put them at the back end where they won’t cast shadow over the rest of your doings.

I kept them well watered, especially on hot days, and fed them with tomato feed, along with most of my other stuff.

Pick them young, when they are about 5 inches long and before the beans inside start to fill out. Pick them frequently! At least every other day, to keep them producing.

Towards the end of the season pull of the bigger old leaves as they yellow to allow light in to combat mould.

Incidentally, I got into the habit of eating them raw, freshly picked, and they are very tasty, but apparently all ’round’ beans, as opposed to flat runner beans, are poisonous when eaten raw (remember the rules about cooking kidney beans thoroughly). Well Phaseolus vulgaris, the french bean, haricot bean, flageolet beans etc. etc. all have the same trait, as the beans develop they become more poisonous, untill the heat of cooking breaks the poison down. I had no problem, but go easy on eating them raw, especially if the bens have formed.