Make garden staple a runaway success

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Brian Andrews, Frances Leppard and Charles Mobsby with their trophies

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Runner beans have been causing a bit of a stir this week, with several readers writing or phoning to tell me they have problems.

The first was from a former allotment holder at Eastney. Leaves were sent in and only the veins of the leaves were left intact

The problem was slugs and snails. There were no signs of these pests during the day, but after rain on just one night, the whole row was shredded.

The slugs had come through the allotment fence from long grass growing in the area of land just outside the allotment site.

To prevent this happening again, water the area below the fence with Slug Clear liquid slug killer.

The recommendations on the container state this product must not be used on edible crops. Okay, you aren’t going to eat the grass are you?

One application watered on correctly will solve the problem straight away.

I have had letters from gardeners who suddenly have a complete failure. The runner bean seeds germinate well but as the plants start to climb, they die off.

On investigation, this is because the bean seeds have been saved year after year from the same stock and the scenario is even worse if the runner beans are always growing in the same place.

To get over this problem, it’s a good idea to buy new seeds once every three years.

Germination is the next problem – the beans don’t come up. The reasons are numerous – too dry? Old seeds? Crows and pigeons?

The answer is to pre-chit the seeds before planting. Take a lunch box, put in a sheet of wet absorbent kitchen paper, pour the seeds in and close the top of the box.

Keep it in the dark and look every day to see if a little root has appeared, keep the paper moist. Once the roots are visible, put each seed into insert cells with Universal compost and plant the seedlings out when they are four inches high.

If roots don’t appear, the seeds are not viable. Don’t blame me if they don’t grow – the seeds were no good.

The next problem is the flowers fall off and there are no beans.

This is due to sparrows very early in the morning.

The answer is to make a cat lying down out of cardboard. Paint it black with a white patch on the front and put marbles where the eyes should be and put this on the ground half way in the line 
of beans and move it every day.

Don’t hang it up, birds know cats can’t fly.