A new way of sowing beans

Way back at the beginning of lockdown, I was alerted to the fact that the Permaculture film ‘Inhabit’ was free to view at the moment. As I’m not great at watching things, I’d not got round to watching it till last night and I’m glad that I did.

One of the practitioners being interviewed in the film, Susanna, explained how she had learned a technique for sowing beans from the writing of Masanobu Fukuoka. In the video she was shown broadcast sowing the beans into a field where the previous crop had been harvested and its stalks left as mulch. This meant she could grow the beans without having to dig the soil.

Now, with my soil currently being very hard, well frankly impenetrable, the idea that I might be able to sow my own beans without digging sounded most appealing. However, I wasn’t so sure the beans would survive the interest of the resident birds without a more substantial covering than crop residue.

Thus, this morning, I started out with the following space near my daughter’s apple tree:

I’d already cleared the borage yesterday, not at that point being aware it could come in handy as mulch. In any case, as mentioned above, I didn’t think plant debris would afford sufficient protection, so my daughter and I cleared the area of the rest of the plants (onions and phacelia), scattered some runner beans and then covered them with manure.

In truth, this mulch is mostly straw, so isn’t too different from the plant debris we could have used instead. However, I am hoping that the horse manure will make all the difference in terms of holding the straw down as much as anything else. It is also a lot thicker and therefore better hides the beans.

So, now, it’s a case of watching and waiting. It will be a couple of weeks, probably, before we go back to collect more manure, by which point it may be possible to ascertain if this technique would be worth continuing.

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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20 Responses to A new way of sowing beans

  1. Over Soil says:

    I’ve just placed potatoes straight onto soil and covered them with grass cuttings. Keeping them damp to establish, then just going to put more grass cuttings on top as and when. It’s an established method.

    • Helen says:

      Great to hear it works for you. Also, as grass cuttings are going to be full of nitrogen, the nitrogen in the manure shouldn’t be a problem – that was the thing I was concerned about.

      • Over Soil says:

        Strange how some things work for some plants and not for others. I placed some butternut squash plants and some spinach plants on some not quite 100% composted hen bedding mixed with soil. The spinach is well lush, but the squash plants have shrivelled up and gone.

        • Helen says:

          Maybe the mulch stopped the spinach from bolting – kept moisture round the roots. No idea why the butternut squash would take a dislike to it, though.

  2. Looking forward to your beans.

  3. I have saved Inhabit and I will watch later. You never know what will work unless you try. We tend to get stuck gardening the way were are taught and when we have plenty of space to garden the traditional way. It is always good to know alternate methods of sustainable gardening because you never know when your circumstances will change. Thanks for sharing! I hope you are well.

    • Helen says:

      First of all, thank very much – I am well apart from the seasonal hayfever. I hope likewise you are well?

      Anyway, I hope you enjoy Inhabit. I’m glad you have taken up my offer to watch 😊 The projects in the film are interesting in their own right.

  4. I can’t think why your beans shouldn’t thrive. They like plenty of muck in the soil. And you are effectively doing ‘no dig’ but using manure instead of compost or clippings. I agree with ‘Belmont Rooster’ (sorry i don’t know your real name!) – we tend to do what we have always done when a bit of experimenting might reveal a better way.

    • Helen says:

      I think it’s normal to follow guidelines when we have no reason to do anything different. Or we believe a certain way to be necessary. I tend to experiment a lot in my life, irrespective of need, and one thing I’ve observed is that it’s easier to do so when you have more knowledge to start with.

  5. I hope your technique proves successful, Helen.

  6. I’ll be interested to learn how this works out!

  7. gaiainaction says:

    Yes looking forward to hear how your beans will get on Helen 🙂 Runner beans are also a favourite of mine, but this year I am growing broadbeans. Thank you for the video link, I will give it a try for sure.

  8. Catriona says:

    Thanks for the link to ‘inhabit’. Particularly liked the start, and the idea of permaculture being restoring and creating better environments, compared to sustainability being just decreasing our negative impact. So much more positive as an idea!

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