3 October 2014

3 October 2014

how to grow peas and beans, and transplanting our tomato seedlings

Planting peas and beans

  • It’s important to make a strong frame to grow your peas and beans on (not only for the weight of the crop but also to withstand winds). Rob uses four 2-metre-long untreated hardwood stakes to make a teepee-like structure. An alternative is metal waratahs. Secure garden jute twine at the top of the stakes, then wind the twine round each individual stake and round the whole structure to make a climbing frame for the peas or beans.
  • Jute is a natural vegetable fibre and can be thrown in the compost along with the peas and beans when they’re spent.
  • Peas and beans need good drainage, so if you’re not growing them in a raised bed, make sure you mound the soil up high.
  • They also grow well in an alkaline soil, so a good dressing of garden lime will make a significant difference.
  • We suggest sowing seeds in between seedlings to extend the duration of the growing and harvesting period. Seedlings grown now will produce crops before Christmas, whereas the seeds will be producing around Christmastime. Plant seedlings round the base of the teepee first, then place the seeds in between about 5 centimetres apart. Press the seeds down the depth of your thumbnail. Water in well.
  • Rob likes sugar snap peas because you can eat the immature ones (pods and tiny peas inside) as snow peas in stir fries, or shell the mature ones as you would regular peas, or when they’re just the right size you can eat the crunchy shell and sweet peas inside raw or lightly cooked.
  • Peas and beans are part of the legume family. They contain bacteria called Rhizobia within the root nodules of their root systems. These bacteria have the special ability of fixing nitrogen from atmospheric, molecular nitrogen into ammonia. Ammonia is then converted to another form, ammonium, usable by some plants. This arrangement means the root nodules are sources of nitrogen for legumes, making them relatively rich in plant proteins. All proteins contain nitrogenous amino acids. When a legume plant dies after harvesting, all of its remaining nitrogen, incorporated into amino acids inside the remaining plant parts, is released back into the soil. In the soil, the amino acids are converted to nitrate making the nitrogen available to other plants, thereby serving as fertiliser for future crops. This is why legumes are sometimes referred to as “green manure”.

The next stage for our tomato seedlings

  • Five weeks ago we sowed a tray with tomato seeds, as well as a row of beetroot and a row of basil (which is only just appearing now).
  • The tomato seedlings are now ready for stage two, which means pricking them out and transplanting them into individual pots.
  • Make sure the seedling tray has dried out so the soil falls off the roots easily.
  • Fill up small pots with a good potting mix. Cut a small clump of seedlings out of the tray with a knife. Shake the soil off the plants, separate them out, then carefully, holding the plant by the leaves, make a hole in the soil with a piece of dowl (or similar) and drop the roots of the plant into the soil.
  • Tomato seedlings do best when they’re planted almost up to their necks. This encourages root growth and makes the plants strong. Label and water them, and place in a warm, sheltered position for around another 4 weeks.
  • There’s no rush to get tomato plants in. They’ll do better when temperatures are consistently higher. But if you’re keen to get your tomatoes in now and you live in a warm region, then remember three things: put your stake in before the plant, feed the soil with calcium (lime if soil is acidic or gypsum if soil is neutral) and plant the tomatoes deeply to encourage maximum root growth.

Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes