Robin Hood comes to the rescue

Removing old leaves from hellebores (S)
Removing old leaves from hellebores (S)

Tips on growing a good crop of broad beans, getting the best from hellebores and mulching borders by garden writer, broadcaster and advisor Martin Fish

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I don’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I have decided to do this year is spend more time working in my fruit and vegetable garden.

I’ve been growing vegetables for many years, but I haven’t always been able to spend as much time in the veg plot as I would like.

However, since leaving the Harrogate Flower Shows and working freelance again from home, I can make more time to develop my garden, which will include extra time tending my fruit and vegetables, plus a list of other jobs as long as my arm!

One vegetable that I definitely want to grow more of is broad beans because they freeze very well and my wife Jill makes the most wonderful broad bean puree.

Last year my crop struggled and didn’t produce many pods of beans, which was partly due to the cold spring and me planting out late!

To give my broad beans a good start this season I am starting the seed off undercover to produce young plants that can be planted into the vegetable plot when the soil and air temperatures are a little warmer.

This method works well and gives the plants a head start by extending the growing season.

I tend to grow dwarf varieties and this year I’m growing two types.

‘The Sutton’ is an old favourite and produces compact plants making it perfect for small gardens or even containers.

The other Broad bean I’m growing for the first time is ‘Robin Hood’. This is another dwarf type producing short pods with 4-6 beans in each.

I was born and brought up in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire so when I saw a packet of Broad bean ‘Robin Hood’ I couldn’t resist it.

I sow the seeds individually in 12 cell trays using multipurpose and once watered they trays will be placed on the greenhouse staging where the seeds should start to push through in a couple of weeks, with the aim of having short, strong plants for the garden n Mid-March.

If you don’t have a greenhouse to start the seeds off in, a conservatory or light porch can also be used to give a little extra protection. Failing that, the seeds can be sown directly into the garden from mid-March onwards.

Jobs for the week

Hellebores are waking up now and new flower buds and foliage are starting to push through the soil. In order to be able to see the new flowers more clearly as they develop, it’s good practice to cut all last year’s old leaves off completely to ground level. This instantly makes the plants look much tidier and it also reduces the spread of leaf-spot which can be a problem on hellebores.

Well rotted garden compost or manure can be used to mulch around established clumps of herbaceous perennial, but be careful not to smother new shoots. Ideally the mulch should be spread around the plants a couple of inches deep where it will help to improve the soil and retain moisture during the summer months.

Prune the old, fruited wood out of blackberries by cutting the stems back to ground level. Last season’s new shoots cab then be tied to the wires or support where they will flower and fruit later in the summer. -