Hartley Magazine

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The Great Greenhouse Tidy-up & Autumn Sown Beans – Part 13

I’ve left the greenhouse to it’s own devices for the last few days as I’ve been working away. Normally I leave the key with a neighbour, who diligently waters everything in my absence, but most of the established plants are at the end of their cropping period so they didn’t need much attention really. Now it’s time to tidy up.

It’s not something I’m that good at and already the glasshouse has several areas stacked with gardening equipment, pots, trays and all kinds of useful things. I hate to throw things away and so anything that might be useful is ‘stored’ for future use. This means that there’s less growing space and it’s something I need to address.

October is very much a tidy up month in the greenhouse. I need to make space to overwinter any tender plants and establishing cuttings and I need somewhere to grow on the oriental veg that I sowed last month. Plus as I can’t resist sowing something in the autumn, I’ve got a few pots of broad beans to sow now. If I’m honest, although I love broad beans, I actually grow them more for their leaves than the pods that come later, and over the winter the chance to harvest even a handful of fresh broad bean leaves is irresistible. So my next task when I get time to get out into the greenhouse is not only to do some serious tidying up, but to also sow some broad beans.

The great thing about broad beans is that they are really easy to grow and they are hardy. A cool greenhouse is a great place to start them off and grow them on. Some gardeners swear by an autumn sown crop, for although they crop only slightly earlier than their spring-sown counterparts, they are usually more resistant to blackfly infestation as they flower a bit earlier in May/June.

You need to choose a long pod variety especially suited to autumn sowing. Aquadulce Claudia is the most popular one for this purpose. You can sow them in situ but I prefer to start them off in pots (rather than modules or root trainers that I would use for spring sown broad beans). I then overwinter these in my greenhouse. I pot them up as they develop, a pot size at a time, or they sit and sulk. I don’t heat my greenhouse at all, but if it is very cold I like to stand the pots on polystyrene sheets (salvaged from a new fridge delivery) and cover them over with fleece. If you plan to plant them out in the garden later, (I may just keep mine in the greenhouse for early spring greens) then dig in some well rotted manure or garden compost into the area you intend to plant them and cover over the soil with black polythene or old carpet to warm it up from January and then plant them out in March/April. If you’ve kept them fit and well, then they should romp away by then.