Thursday, 18 October 2012

Digging A Bean Trench

On my allotment plot near St Ives Cornwall I'm following a 4 year crop rotation system.

More details of crop rotation on a future post - but basically this year the top beds on my plot were planted with potatoes - now the beds rotate on to beans for the next year. Having the same crop on the same bed year after year (with some exceptions) can increase the risk of pests and plant diseases - and this certainly applies to potatoes.

It can also exhaust the soil - something that commercial growers overcome by adding lots of artificial fertiliser  - but I'm trying to grow organically - as far as is practically possible.

These beds were manured in early spring - but as spuds are a notoriously hungry crop and use up a lot of nutrients - its probably a good idea to replenish. Also beans love growing on rotting or rotted organic matter. Some crops - such as onions or carrots don't - so the planned beds for those will be left alone for now.

Digging a bean trench is a fairly simple job - helped by the fact that we have a manure heap on-site. Ten tons were delivered to St Ives Allotments early in the year and there is still a fair bit left. Its now really well rotted down after the best part of ten months in the sun and rain - well - mostly rain in Cornwall this year !

I started by clearing the bed of weeds and then digging a trench along the planned row of beans - about a spade width across and 8 inches deep.

I then simply chucked fork loads of manure in - filling the trench up to about three quarters of the depth. If you don't have access to manure an alternative is well rotted compost. Some also suggest adding a layer of newspaper at the bottom of the trench as it can help moisture retention.

I then back filled the soil over the manure and trod it down gently.

Then repeated the whole process on the other side of the bed where the other row of beans will go in.

Finally - I raked over the bed and picked out any remaining weeds, grass roots and stones that emerged. Job done !

All now ready for planting - in this case I've put in Autumn sown Broad Beans - more on their progress soon.

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