The Bean Bed


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Friday, 6th July, 2007

beansEVEN WHEN IT’S RAINING, as it often is, I can walk down our new woodchip path (glad that’s finished at last) and draw under cover in the greenhouse. The choice of subject is a limited, but I’m happy to spend half an hour or so drawing our flourishing vegetable crops.

The broad bean is Witkiem-Manita (Johnson's seeds) 'one of the earliest and quickest to crop, giving tasty white beans over a long season'. We've found it far more productive than the Bunyard's Exhibition which we normally grow but of course a lot of this is due to the exceptionally wet weather we've had which has swelled the pods.

I sowed the beans in staggered rows just 6 inches between plants. This means that one packet of seeds filled in a 4 ft x 4 ft square at the end of our new Z-shaped deep bed. If you weren’t so pressed for space, you could sow them the traditional way, in a double row, 12 inches apart and about 4 inches between plants, leaving a 3 ft gap if you planted a second row. Two double rows would take up about half the space available in our entire veg garden so I’m keen on the deep bed method.

tomato flowersThe tomato (right), now in flower, is Moneymaker. We’ve planted two Moneymakers in the raised bed in the greenhouse, and one each of Alicante, Beefsteak, Sungold and the small sweet, old-fashioned tasting Gardener’s Delight. As it took a while to prepare the beds, I’d potted some of these on into larger pots of a peat-free, multi-purpose compost. Their leaves started looking yellowish, so they weren’t getting all they should have from the compost but I notice that now they’re in the raised bed the new growth is lusher and a deeper green.

I refreshed the soil in the raised bed (after evicting the ants, see previous diary entry!) by digging in plenty of compost from our compost bins and giving it a sprinkling of blood, fish and bonemeal for good measure.

Bella ItaliaLa Dolce Vita

My sketch of Chianti bottles on a corner table sums up the relief I felt in escaping from our routine for an impromtu pasta. Barbara had been at a meeting all morning, I’d finally started laying out the pages of a new book and we didn’t quite feel like grabbing a sandwich for lunch and engaging with our next chore so we set off to the Bella Italia at Birstall.

It comes as a surprise to discover that we do actually have the freedom to step out for an hour or two from our regular round of work, errands, appointments and gatherings. A rare event for us.

I like the artful way the designers have managed to conjure up a friendly Italian ambience, here in a corner of a retail park. But sometimes it works the other way; a professional painter and decorator who I work with on the scenery for our annual pantomime has worked in Italy fitting out bars as English and Irish pubs. These are skilfully distressed so that you’d assume they’d been there for years.