Gareth Austin on growing the Dig In French beans
Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about the Dig In French beans. If you have had any problems growing them or have any advice to share, you can add your comments at the bottom of this entry.
Vicky Page from Warwickshire asks: I planted out my seedlings late May, but they're still not flowering and some of them are barely halfway up their poles. I water them a little daily, I dug compost and fertiliser into our heavy clay soil when I planted them and have fed them twice. Is there anything else I should be doing?
Answer: Hi Vicky, good to hear you're trying the Dig In seeds with us! I wouldn't be disheartened by your progress. When planting work in some general fertiliser, such as bone meal, and some garden compost. I regularly sow French beans to ensure a good regular crop and many gardeners sow more crops in July for later harvests. French beans don't like to be too well watered and can be easily overwatered so ensure the soil is kept moist, try mulching with some wet newspaper to conserve moisture around the root, you should only have to water on a weekly basis. Perhaps you're being too good!
Julie McLellan asks: My runner beans have grown well with plenty of flowers. The new beans seem to have been nipped off before they have had the chance to develop. There is no evidence of insects or infection on the plant. Usually I would have had a couple of meals of beans already - but this year nothing. Any ideas?
Answer: Julie, this is a tricky one. It could be three things. First, could be birds nipping them off? Secondly, it could be slugs. Thirdly, it could be as a result of the flowers not being pollinated properly, this could be down to the recent hot dry weather. I'm thinking it's most likely to be option 3, if so, work in lots of garden compost when planting, and mulch around established plants with garden compost to conserve moisture. For slugs, make a copper ring for around the base of each plant, slugs and snails won't cross copper. For birds, tie a carrier bag on the plants to scare them off. Let us know how you get on!
Hazel Halliday from Kent asks: I have been growing the beans from your seeds with great success but suddenly there are black dots under the leaves, I am not sure if they are blackfly as I do not know anything about bugs, any ideas please?
Answer: Hi Hazel, let the doctor see the patient! Email us a wee pic and we'll post it for other Dig In gardeners to use as a reference too!
Dave Richardson from Sutton Coldfield asks: We have been inundated this year with blackfly which appears to have killed some of the runner beans and the broad beans. We have sprayed but to little effect. Is there a sure fire way of controlling blackfly?
Answer: Hi Dave, blackfly can be a serious problem on beans, however, don't be disheartened. An age-old technique is to pinch out the tips of the new growth at this time of year. Blackfly seem to be attracted by the colour of the new growth so many gardeners find this effective. Where you have an attack it's important you act early to avoid the pests breeding uncontrollably. Try blasting the plants with a fast jet of water from the hose, to try to wash as many off as possible. An insecticide purchased from your local garden centre may be the answer, however. A useful plant to grow throughout the vegetable garden is the common French marigold, this is excellent at repelling aphids and other pests due to its strong perfume. You may still be able to pick up some of these at your local garden centre too.