As part of a concerted effort to ‘relax,’ my husband and I decided to forgo our usual Saturday routine of housework and other
crap we hate chores and headed out to a big garden sale. This garden sale was made extra special because it had a free (that’s right, free) sausage sizzle. We were there, baby. We lined up like the rest of the sad sacks with nothing better to do, and got our free barbecued snouts’n’entrails in bread, smothered in mustard and tomato sauce. A perfect artery-clogging waste of 10 minutes on a Saturday, probably resulting in 10 minutes reduced lifespan later down the track.
I have been wanting a hydrangea plant for a neglected shady corner of the front yard, and found one at the sale, along with a beautiful carnation bush, all for 30% off. We got out of the sale with a carful of mulch, plants, and potting mix for less than $80 and called it good.
This was the weekend that I vowed to remove the remaining broccoli plants to make way for the Summer seedlings. And yet, they are still producing more than a kilogram of broccoli heads and sprouts a week! So I decided to leave them a little longer, and to start slashing down the broad beans instead.
Some people do not enjoy broad beans, perhaps remembering the grey, overcooked bullets of their childhood. In fact, they are a delicous, elegant vegetable that is very useful in the garden as a soil improving crop over the winter time.
Broad beans, like all leguminous crops, are ‘nitrogen-fixing.’ Simply explained, this means that they draw down nitrogen from the air, and store it in little nodules in their roots. They use this nitrogen to feed the plant. Nitrogen-fixing plants are good for the soil, because when they die, the nitrogen in the little nodules is released into the soil, nourishing it. Runner beans, peas, and broad beans are all good crops to grow either before or after heavy feeding crops (for example, corn or tomatoes) to prepare the soil. I am planting tomatoes in the bed that held my broad bean crop, and I have planted climbing beans directly alongside the corn crop.
I picked half the broad beans and slashed down the plants, leaving the roots in the soil to release the nitrogen. I left the slashed plants on top of the soil, as although I am planning to mulch in the next couple of weeks, I did not have time this weekend. The pile of broad bean stalks will help the soil retain moisture in the meantime. I’ll pick the rest of the broad beans next weekend.
With the 2.5 kilograms of broad bean pods we picked (no kidding), we gave some away, and used the rest to make Jamie Oliver’s Broad Bean Pesto recipe. My husband patiently shelled and blanched and then skinned all those beans! He deserves a medal.
If you grow broad beans, or even buy them frozen, I recommend this recipe – delicious and easy (unless you have to shell two kilos of broadies).
The rest of my time outside was spent pricking out my tomato seedlings and replanting new seeds. I am trying yet again to grow watermelon. As with cucumbers, watermelons are my white whale. Hopefully I don’t suffer a similar fate as Ahab…but I doubt anyone was dragged to their untimely demise by a watermelon plant.