GARDENING TECHNIQUES: BEAN, DWARF FRENCH

Dwarf French beans, known also as kidney beans (the seeds are kidney shaped) make sturdy, large-leaved bushy plants up to about 2 ft. in height; stakes are not required. They come into bearing before the runner bean and continue producing pods in quantity throughout summer.

Pods and seeds are eaten together, cooked whole or sliced, and the dried seeds make an excellent winter reserve of food. Soil needs to be as rich as possible and the position open and sunny.

Varieties for earliest outdoor sowing include Superlative and Earliest of All. For the main crop: The Prince, Masterpiece and Canadian Wonder. For a later crop: Green Gem (dried seeds specially useful as haricots).

About 600 seeds go to the pint, and they germinate in about fifteen days.

Ready for Use.

Outdoor cropping starts in late June or early

July and continues to September. Winter crops are secured under glass by sowing and growing on in a temperature of about 60 degrees.

Soil Preparation.

Roots go down deeply, so deep digging is desirable. Vegetable refuse or manure should be worked in below the top 9 in. as far in advance of sowing or planting out as possible. Trouble taken here will be rewarded with long-period cropping.

When and How to Sow. Time to sow outdoors is governed by weather, soil and district. The shelter of a south-facing fence or wall allows of a mid-April sowing if the ground does not lie wet or heavy. These early plants will need protection from frost, provided by an overhead scattering of dry bracken or straw so long as die frost continues.

The last week in April is the earliest for main crop sowing, successive sowings up to mid-June prolonging the cropping season. Mid-May is the earliest date in a cold locality.

Make drills the width of the draw hoe blade and 2 in. deep. Space the seed 6 in. apart down the centre line of the drill and return the 2 in. of soil above them. Fill drills with water a few hours previous to sowing if the ground is dry. If the soil dries out speedily in summer – as it will do if light in nature – drills should be made about 5 in. deep, leaving a 3-in. deep channel above the covered-in seed for subsequent waterings. Drills should be 18 in. apart.

Thinning Out.

The plants are to stand a foot apart eventually, so thinning out is necessary. Those removed – carefully, with a trowel – can be planted to form another row, or rows. It is not always possible to depend on 10o per cent germination of this seed, hence rather thick sowing is advisable.

The alternative is to sow the seed a foot apart in the drills and sow a clump elsewhere, drawing on the latter to make good any blanks later on in the drills.

I Sowing in Boxes. If circum- stances make reasonably early sowing outdoors impossible, time is gained by sowing in shallow wooden boxes in frame or greenhouse. Fill the boxes with good soil (a layer of leaf-mould in the bottom if possible, for the roots to grip) and space the seed 2 in. apart and ½ in. deep.

Keep the seedlings close to the glass, expose to air as much as possible to keep them short and strong, and plant out in drills in May.

Watering, Feeding.

The advantage of deep drills is obvious in time of drought; these can be filled and not a drop runs to waste. Liquid manure or fertilizer given when the first pods are forming is a great help. A good artificial mixture for making up at home consists of superphosphate three parts, one part each sulphate of ammonia and sulphate of potash; give 2 ounces of the mixture per 5 yd. of row and water it in. If drills are not deep but level with the surface, hoe the artificial in before watering.

Use the Dutch hoe between rows to annihilate weeds and keep the surface powdery.

Growing in Pots. Dwarf French beans can be forced if the night temperature of the greenhouse can be kept at a minimum of 55 degrees. Pots about 8 in. across the top are half filled with a mixture of good soil and leaf-mould or stablemanure, seeds inserted I in. deep and 3 in. apart; the pots filled to within 1 in. of the top with a similar soil mixture when the plants are 6 in. high. Short, twiggy sticks will be required as supports, and full light is essential; also a moist atmosphere, secured by syringing with lukewarm water on bright mornings.

Pests and Diseases.

Slugs will be attracted by the juicy seedlings. Fresh soot scattered on the soil, and old soot dusted over the leaves, will keep them at bay. Red spider will endeavour to ruin greenhouse crops; a moist atmosphere and frequent light syringings serve as a preventive.

Picking the Pods.

These become tough and stringy if not gathered before seed starts to bulge the pods. Careful searching is required to ensure that no pods are overlooked and allowed to become old; these hinder further production.

Storing for Winter.

Seed for winter use as haricots is valuable; pods can also be dried or salted.

Preparing for Table.

Freshly gathered pods may be cooked whole, if small, otherwise sliced. They should be topped and tailed and the string down the side removed. Food value is high, proteins, carbohydrates, salts and water being present.

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