BASIL

Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a half-hardy annual with aromatic foliage which is gathered in July-August, tied in bunches and hung up to dry. The stems are cut immediately the flowers appear and the fresh leaves can be used for flavouring soups and sauces. Sow in April-May under glass and transplant in June on to light, rich soil, setting 8—9 in. apart. Plants can also be transferred to a warm greenhouse in September and potted up for winter use.

BEAN. This well-known vegetable comprises three main groups, the broad bean, which is a hardy annual, the French bean, including kidney and haricot types (all half-hardy annuals), and the runner bean, strictly a half-hardy climbing perennial but usually treated as an annual.

Broad Beans:

Probably the hardiest of all vegetables in this country, succeeding on practically any soil, although where the ground is deficient in potash, growth is stunted and the leaves have a scorched appearance. They probably give best results on moderately heavy land. Sow in drills 3 in. deep and 9 in. apart. Allow two drills 9 in. apart to a row with not less than 2 ½ ft. between rows. Sowings may be made from late February to mid-April for succession. Late autumn sowings of varieties like Aquadulce Claudia and Seville are feasible on light, warm soils, especially in sheltered positions. Seed may be treated with a thiram seed dressing before sowing to prevent damping off. Good varieties include Longfellow which gives 8—10 beans to the pod without special cultivation, Red Epicure with chestnut-crimson seeds and a particularly good flavour when cooked, the red beans turning a straw colour, and Dobie’s Dreadnought. The Sutton is a dwarf variety to about 10 in. It is useful for cloche work.

French Beans. These are tender and even on light soils the first sowing must be made in late April — on heavy land wait until early May. In the north they are a chancy crop and should not be sown before the end of May. If July is a wet month, most of the flowers will drop which means few if any pods.

Light, rich soil is best for all types of French beans. Sow thinly and about 2 in. deep in 10 in. wide drills. Thin out to 6 in. apart. If sowing more than one drill, space 2 ft. apart. Bushy twigs should be used for supports, otherwise the seedlings may be damaged by heavy rain or wind. When they are about 1 ft. tall spray with clear water to help the pods set. Good varieties include The Prince, very early, with long, almost stringless pods, and Table Talk which is absolutely stringless and very tasty even when the beans are getting old.

The climbing French beans crop more heavily and over a longer period than the dwarfs and should be grown in double rows, about 4 ft. apart. They are earlier than runner beans but less vigorous, and are best supported by bushy pea sticks rather than poles etc. as they do not climb in the same way as a runner. Tender and True (also known as the Guernsey runner) is recommended. The golden butter bean (also known as waxpod, pencil-pod, black wax, and Mont d’Or) has golden pods, which are very appetising when cooked whole. There are dwarf and climbing forms. Do not confuse with the ‘butter beans’ sold by the grocer which are the dried seeds of the Lima bean, a species which seldom grows satisfactorily in this country.

Dwarf Haricot Beans must not be picked green. The pods are left until they turn brown. The plants are then pulled up, dried off in an airy shed and the small white seeds eaten as required, after soaking in water. Comtcssc de Chambord Improved is a good variety. The seeds of ordinary French beans like Masterpiece and The Prince can be grown to provide haricots.

Soya Beans are sometimes used in this country as a substitute for ground almonds. A flour is also made from the beans, which are a valuable source of protein. They have many other uses, e.g. in the manufacture of plastics, and paints, and oil production, as well as cattle food. Soya beans can only be grown successfully in Britain in a very hot summer and cannot be considered a commercial proposition. They may be sown in late May ½ in. deep and thinned to about 6 in.

Runner Beans:

These require ‘doing well’ and should be given deeply dug, generously-manured soil enriched with compost, peat, hop manure etc. Sow from mid-May to July for succession, 2 in. deep and 6 in. apart in a double line, the drills being 15 in. apart. If sowing more than one row, space 6 ft. apart. Rows should run from north to south.

Bean poles are the best means of support. Train the young stem round the pole: the tendrils will then grip as the height increases. One pole should be allowed for each seedling, and the poles tilted so that they eventually cross one another, say 4 ft. above soil level. Then lay stakes horizontally in the resulting V from one end of the row to the other and tie very firmly. There is apparently no method of straightening crooked runner beans! When the runners reach the top of the poles, pinch out the growing points. Spraying with clear water in hot weather helps to set the crop. Premature flower drop in rainy weather can sometimes be countered by watering with sulphate of iron ( ½ oz. in 4 gallons of water, giving about 4 pints per yard run of row). Although runner beans crop more heavily in hot summers, they should never be allowed to become dry at the roots. Mulch in hot weather with damp peat, hop manure or lawn mowings.

Runner beans are sometimes ‘dwarfed’ by dispensing with supports and pinching out the tops when 1 ft. tall, and again as necessary so that the plants develop into bushes. The resulting crop suffers in both quality and quantity and the only doubtful advantage is that the time and cost of erecting supports are no longer problems.

Crusader, Dobie’s Earliest of All, Dobie’s Yardstick, Scarlet Emperor and Streamline are typical of the long-podded varieties. Princeps is shorter in growth than other varieties and is decidedly earlier. The beans are smaller but come in large clusters.

Pests and Diseases of Beans. Black fly on broad beans is one of the chief bugbears of gardeners and allotment holders and is known under several names. These include bean aphid (the scientific name), black army, collier and dolphin. It also attacks runner arid French beans, spinach, turnips, rhubarb, sugar beet, dahlias, marigolds, nasturtiums, poppies and various weeds including shepherd’s purse, docks, thistles, knapweed and goosefoot (fat hen).

In autumn the aphids migrate to the eunonymus (spindle tree) or viburnum, laying eggs which remain over the winter. During spring and summer they smother the tips of the bean shoots in a black mass. They increase very rapidly, especially in warm weather (when a major infestation may develop almost overnight) and spread from plant to plant, sucking the sap from foliage, stems and flowers. This reduces the vigour of the plants, as well as distorting and stunting the pods. On well-drained soils where autumn sowing is feasible,.the seedlings will make good progress and set the majority of flowers before attacks materialise (the rows can be protected in winter with cloches). If an attack occurs, pinch out the tips of the beans and spray or dust with a nicotine, gamma-BHC (lindane) or derris insecticide. Really thorough spraying or dusting is essential as black fly is only killed by direct contact. This will destroy the parent insects which migrate fairly early in the year from their winter quarters and are accordingly on the plants some while before the main attack starts.

The Pea and Bean Weevil which eats round patches from the edge of the leaves is occasionally troublesome on beans. See PEA—Pests and Diseases. Chocolate Spot is rather similar to potato blight and is caused by the fungus Bo try lis cinerea. Symptoms are chocolate or brown spots and markings on leaves and stems. It is more common on field plants but is sometimes troublesome in gardens and allotments during a wet June, although rarely serious.

This disease is usually found on soils deficient in potash. Sulphate of potash should be applied before sowing broad beans, if chocolate spot has occurred the previous season.

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