This week we started sowing more of the tender crops. We started with French bean Beurre de Rocquencourt, a dwarf wax bean bearing pale yellow pods. Whilst the outdoor crop of climbing French and runner beans will provide a heavy crop over a long period, they take some time to develop. A dwarf bean will produce a crop rather more quickly as they do not need to put on so much vegetative growth before they bear. I am hoping to find some space in the polytunnel for our first crop, which might also help a little. I could, perhaps, have sown a couple of weeks ago, but beans are tender and there is still a possibility of a frost, even in the polytunnel. I sowed in pots, several seeds to each, rather than direct, as I sometimes do with beans later in the year. In pots they are easier to protect from the cold and from pests.
The next tender crop we attended to was the sweetcorn. We sowed two batches, one to be planted out in the polytunnel and one for outdoors. That grown undercover ought to crop first. Also, we are growing two different varieties – a hybrid variety, Lark, that has performed well for us in previous years, and an open pollinated variety, Golden Bantam. This is the first year we are growing an open pollinated variety. For sweetcorn, there would appear to be some clear benefits to modern varieties, especially for the commercial grower; they have higher sugar levels and maintain them for far longer. The old sorts convert their sugars to starch so quickly that they are best cooked soon after harvest. Open pollinated varieties are now scarce. In fact, none of the mainstream seed merchants stock a single variety. However, a couple of varieties can be found online, and I picked up some packets of Golden Bantam at the flower market in Amsterdam. From what I can tell, both varieties are mid season sorts, with Golden Bantam perhaps being a little earlier than Lark. For now, I have sown them in some deep pots, as they need plenty of space for roots.
A new crop for us this year is a brassica called cima di rapa, also known as rapini or broccoli raab, grown for its broccoli like clusters of flower buds. It does not appear to be widely known outside of Italy and I do not remember eating it there, either. It might, though, be a useful crop as it is quick to mature. There are numerous varieties, which vary in the time it takes to crop. I have sown three rows of a 60 day sort in the polytunnel so we should get to sample this interesting looking vegetable in June.
Our final sowings this week were of a few of the soft herbs – dill, parsley, and basil. I sowed a small pinch of seed in each of a dozen large cells and, after thinning if necessary, will plant out in clumps.
Along with our sowing, we also potted on a few cabbages and lettuce seedlings that had outgrown their cells and planted out a row of peas and a couple of rows of broad beans to follow on from those already developing in the polytunnel. Hopefully more will be sown this coming week.