Planting out: beans and tomatoes

After a little less than two weeks, our first sowing of French beans had developed into robust plants ready for planting out. It is probably a month or so too early to plant these tender crops outdoors, even here in our sheltered southerly locale. It is, though, a good time to plant in the polytunnel, where they are well protected and will crop weeks ahead of those to be planted outdoors later in the season. We have both dwarf and climbing sorts, the latter planted against a series of vertical bamboo canes. The dwarfs will crop first but the climbing sorts will produce the larger crop over a longer period. Thus, planting both sorts serves to spread the harvest.

Climbing French bean Meraviglia di Venezia

An inspection of our tomato and chilli seedlings, perhaps our most important crops, showed great growth over the past week. We faced something of a quandary: the plants could not remain in their modest pots for another week without the possibility of outgrowing them; as they were, they were in perfect condition for potting on or planting out. It is earlier in the year than when I usually plant out, but as conditions are fairly mild and they are all being grown on under cover, we decided to forgo the chore of potting on and plant directly into the polytunnel and glasshouse borders.

The first task was to install a new soaker hose in one of the glasshouses; the other will be done later. We use this, coupled with a timer, to automate the watering of the glasshouse crops and deliver a controlled amount of water to the root zone of the plants. The previous soaker hose was no longer working well; water was leaking rather too fast in numerous places, causing the pressure to drop and thus failing to irrigate the soil towards the free ends of the installation. We replaced the hose, this time with a Hozelock product, and first impressions are that this is a good hose; the water flow is much improved and more even along the length. We cannot yet comment on the longevity, but hopefully the hose will last for some years.

Having taken care of the irrigation, we sorted through the young tomato plants and organised them between the glasshouse and polytunnel. As in previous years, we have 48 plants of numerous varieties, so planting took quite some time. Unlike many plants, tomatoes respond well to deep planting. For each plant, a hole was excavated with a trowel to a depth that put the seed leaves around the soil level. New roots will develop from the buried stem, helping the plants to feed and draw up moisture. The beds were prepared some months ago with a generous layer of manure, so we expect vigorous growth from the plants once they become established.

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