Bad weather beans and clobbering carrot fly

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BEANZ meanz lousy weather – at least it does whenever I plant them out!

There’s a game of chicken which breaks out among gardeners when we get into June: “There can’t be any more frosts/gales/plagues of locusts. The plants are hardened off. If I don’t get them in the ground now, I’ll not get a good harvest...”

Last year, drying winds shredded my St George runner beans and it took them a month to start and recover – with a poor crop as a result.

I’m hoping for better things this year.

I’m growing two types of runner bean – Moonlight, which is supposed to perform in poor weather with low insect numbers and a trial strain from Thompson & Morgan which could be an entirely new variety, or a test on an established line.

They’re both being grown in a raised bed, on a traditional 8ft wigwam row and in large pots on a sunny, west-facing wall.

I enriched the soil in January by digging a trench and filling it with newspaper and kitchen waste. It rots down, providing hungry beans with a rich source of moisture retentive, organic material.

You can still mimic this effect by digging in well-rotted manure or compost when planting.

I’m also trialling some dwarf beans for T&M. Once again, they’re an experimental variety - let’s hope they do better than last year’s Purple and Golden Teepee, which were a style-over-substance purchase.

I am trying to reduce problem of wind with beans (if you’ll pardon the pun) by surrounding the frame with assorted bits of Perspex and an old shower screen.

It does nothing for the aesthetics of the garden, but it might make them settle in better.

MY carrot trials seem to be going OK. My garden’s plagued by carrot fly, whose larvae invade the roots, ruining the crop.

As the adults can only fly about 60cm off the ground, I’m growing all my carrots in large tubs.

Autumn-sown Nantes Frubund is looking good at the minute in barrels, as are (another) trialling variety from T&M. I’m taking no chances with these ones, growing them in tall tubs under Enviromesh. If the carrot flies manage to get in after that amount of effort, then they deserve to eat them more than I do.

Last weekend, I sowed Flyaway, which claims to be carrot fly “resistant” (not repellent), mainly because you sow it relatively late in the season, which helps.

It also has low levels of the chemical which attracts the flies in the first place (and which you release when crushing the foliage as you then them out).

Companion planting with rosemary, onions and sage is also supposed to “confuse” the carrot fly. It’s best to do any thinning in the evening, when the insects are less active.

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Aquilegia, or columbine, (pictured) is a cottage garden favourite, but this dark purple and white variety (of unknown origin) has self-seeded its way around the beds - and it couldn’t be more welcome.

It flowers a little later than most mixes which are finished by now.

It contrasts nicely with the variegated lemon balm, sedum Autumn Joy and the purple-leaved, pink-flowered weigela in the background.