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Grow it yourself diary

I VISITED my friends Suzie and Mike Cahn recently at their organic farm, Carraig Dulra, in the mountains at Glenealy, and came away with a large dose of greenhouse envy. This is a particularly toxic form of envy for the GIYer.

They bought and restored a beautiful old commercial plant nursery greenhouse, in which they grow according to permaculture principles, and run courses.

In addition to feeling envious, I was also struck by how incredibly productive their greenhouse is, even at this early stage of the year. In particular, while my peas and broad beans are just emerging from the ground around now, they sowed over-wintering varieties in the greenhouse before Christmas and they are already flowering.

If you sowed over-wintering broad beans, they are likely to be in good shape now. As soon as beans appear at the base of your broad bean plants you can 'pinch out' the growing tips, which encourages the plant to focus on bean production rather than growing any taller. It also is said to prevent blackfly.

The growing tip is at the very top of the plant – remove the tip with two leaves attached. You can eat these, incidentally!

I don't necessarily think you need to stake broad beans outside – they generally are quite hardy and won't fall over. If you have a windy site or if they appear to be falling over, you can put four small posts or bamboo poles around the broad bean bed and put a few lengths of string or twine around the posts.

This will keep the plants from falling over. The broad beans we grow in the greenhouse seem to be more tender, and do need to be supported.

Irish Independent