December 2015: Notes from the garden shed

Never look back!  2015 was a difficult year for gardening the Skip garden due to the move that had us spread across two sites and the need for some heavy watering but now we’re fully in the new site and thinking about the future, writes Paul Richens.

Did you know that the UN has designated 2016 as the ‘International Year of Pulses’? I didn’t but I plan to fully embrace it! Pulses are the dried seeds of legumes such as peas and beans.  They (the UN) are aiming to ‘heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition’ – wow lets go!

So what do we know about legumes in the Skip garden? Actually quite a lot, primarily we use them as the number one crop in our crop rotation system. They are what we call ‘soil builders’ as they add nitrogen to the beds by making a home for microbes that are able to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the air – not a bad trick!

Legumes are the second most important family of crop plants, 23,500 recorded species (8% of all know plants) generally we grow two over the winter - broad beans (The Sutton, a dwarf variety) which we’ll harvest in the spring before the blackfly get going and a winter pea (Twinkle) which is harvested for fresh sprouts during the dark days. 

Then during the summer season a range of dwarf French beans as these do better in our windy site although I have grown ‘Hestia’ a bush runner bean – mostly because of the lovely white and red flowers. 

So what are we planning for 2016? The Heritage Seed Library has some varieties to make your mouth water, as does the Organic Catalogue so lots of good choices to be had.  I might even try some climbing beans in the orchard skip – who knows!

Happy planning and dreaming of a perfect 2016 growing season.

by Paul Richens