The Expert Bean: A Tasty Trough

Welcome to the first in our series, ‘The Expert Bean’. Each month we’ll get some expert beans to talk to us about the ‘Green Bean Challenge’. This month it’s all about growing your own, so it’s over to expert bean Jane, who’s kindly dropped by to tell us about how she grew some yummy vegetables in a very small space and a very naughty dog.

Vegetable garden

Guest Post by Jane Andreoli

I used to have an allotment.  The other half and I took it on, expecting to relish the hand-to-hand battle with Nature, and the joy of wrestling our hard-won crop from the honest soil.  The realities were daunting.  The sheer physical labour involved in shifting a lorry-load of pig-muck into your trenches – quite apart from the smell – seemed out of proportion to the handful of warty potatoes we harvested.  The main crop in our allotment was nettles.  Pig-muck grows really good, strong, healthy nettles.

But the dream of picking my own vegetables persisted.  I missed the taste of home-grown runner beans and tomatoes.  So, we bought a trug.  It is waist-high (no bending!) and looks rather like a giant wooden cradle.  We put it just outside the back door, filled it with home made compost and sowed our seeds.  Considering that we only had a space the size of a single bed to play with, in an area that had very little direct sunlight, I was astonished at how much we grew.  I planted runner beans, mange-tout, beetroot, strawberries and cherry tomatoes.  The mange-tout were prolific.  I could step outside, fill a colander with fresh pods, rinse them and be eating them with Sunday lunch ten minutes later.  The runner beans were slower off the mark, but once they got going, they were amazing.  They grew faster than we could eat them, and soon filled the freezer. The final bag of frozen beans was ceremonially consumed at Christmas.

The beetroots were a disaster – probably not helped by me occasionally unearthing them to see if they were ready yet!  There was one that grew to the size of a marble, but the rest just didn’t thrive.  There was a lot of competition for root space, and it was clear that the peas and beans were having it all their own way

As for the strawberries and the cherry tomatoes – – – – I did wonder why my dog spent so much time rootling around beside the trug, but didn’t think anything of it.  Dogs don’t eat tomatoes, and surely the strawberries were too high for him to reach.  Wrong on both counts.  He was in canine Heaven having found a delicious source of snacks, unguarded and just dangling down from the Big Wooden Thing for any dog to take!  I found him, fast asleep on the lawn with a distended stomach and a glaze of juice and pips drying on his muzzle.  His coat was gleaming with health – presumably from all that vitamin C!  Next year I’m going to stick to beans and peas and buy my fruit in a punnet.

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