Broad Bean Update

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You may recollect that I have two beds of broad beans.  One (pictured in the foreground), had plenty of compost added to the top of the soil.  This was then worked in along with some spent potting compost and some seaweed meal.

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The second bed had the same amount of garden compost added but this time the plot was ‘double-dug’ and the compost buried a spits depth.  Just before planting out time the plot was treated exactly the same as the other one with the addition of spent compost and seaweed meal worked into the surface.  Both plots were also covered with black plastic for a couple of weeks before the broad beans were planted out in order to warm the soil a little.

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Here are the beds just before the polythene was added.

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And here they are covered in polythene.

Here are the plants when they were newly planted on 20th March.  So far both beds seem to be growing equally strongly.  However, I have noticed more slug damage on the bed where more garden compost was left on the surface of the soil.

Thinking

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I’ve been thinking recently about my soil and about the slugs.  I am starting to think that the problem with my garden may not be so much about the slugs but about the soil.  the above picture is of some Sweet William plants which I planted out in the autumn.  Some have been eaten by slugs, but even those that haven’t have just sat there and put on very little growth.  If the soil was more crumbly and ‘friable’ I can’t help thinking that the roots would have been able to grow further and take more nutrients from the soil.  The larger healthier plants would have been less suceptible to slug attack.

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As you can see above when I first planted the Sweet Williams the soil was much more crumbly (although the young plant was still pretty nibbled).  Over the course of the winter though all of the tiny particles of clay have clumped together to make a dense, inpenetrable substrate with little space for air.

Ironically the benefits of adding a thick mulch to the soil seems to be outweighed by the hospitable home that it makes for slugs, allowing them to spend the day resting close to the unhappy plants that they spend their nights munching.

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In the foreground you can see the deep bed in which the Sweet Williams are planted.  They are to left.  Adjacent to this plot you can see one in which I have worked lots of compost into the top few inches of soil and top dressed it with coir.  I have planted my Red Duke garlic and sown mixed salads and greens.  I am hoping that this more friable surface will allow the seedlings to ‘get away’ before they are completely annihilated before the resident moluscs.  We shall see.