The Cottage Smallholder

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Biodynamic gardening update: July 2010


Photo: Kitchen garden with Min Pin supervisors

Photo: Kitchen garden with Min Pin supervisors

“It’s nearly the end of July. Surely there’s something we can eat from the garden?”

Danny was exasperated – forgetting that we have already munched loads from the garden in the past few months. Spuds, orach (German Mountain spinach), calabrese, turnips, broad beans, raspberries, strawberries, tayberries, loganberries, peas, lettuces and salad leaves.

But then I twigged that he’s desperate to start harvesting his favourite.  Runner beans. They are a bit late this year but a careful examination of the beans revealed that they are well on their way. We are growing two varieties this year – a nameless one that John gave us last year with red flowers and very long pods and a biodynamic variety called Desiree. This has white flowers and is racing ahead with beans that are already four inches long.

Even though I’m watering religiously I reckon that the long hot summer has held the beans back. Yesterday, finally, we had a lot of rain and I’m hoping that this will perk everything up a bit.

The dwarf French beans are doing well and we had some in a stir fry last night. I’m particularly pleased with the German Mountain spinach – Orach. Apparently this will last for months as long as you remove the seed heads when they appear. It tastes similar to spinach and ours is about three feet high. We chose a red and a bright green variety and the combination looks stunning in the border. Next year I’m going to mix the seed together for a gentler effect. I have never managed to grow spinach successfully so the orach is a real boon.

We still have a few broad beans left. We grew these broad beans this year – Aquadulce Claudia. Only four of the plants from our November sowing survived so we planted more in the Spring. For the first time we had very little trouble with blackfly and the beans were the best we’ve ever tasted. We did get a few empty pods though and I’m curious to know why.

I’ve been sniffing about on the Internet for ideas of vegetables to sow in July and have come up with this list:

Courgettes (even the climbing courgette has fallen out with me now so I’m going to try a late sowing of these)

Peas (apparently if you are lucky these will produce peas well into November)

Broad Beans (we have the variety Sutton that I bought last year and forgot all about)

Runner beans

French beans

Salad leaves/pak choi etc.

Potatoes (we’ll be using Paula’s method of just leaves rather than compost as this has been really successful this year)

Kale (leaves all winter and tasty sprouts in the Spring)

Sprouting broccoli – white and purple (the slugs have guzzled earlier sowings)

Spring cabbage (incidentally our January king cabbages planted pre biodynamic days in September 2010 are still slowly heading up!)

Winter cauliflowers

We are continuing to practice biodynamic principles in the garden and everything appears to be thriving. I can’t honestly say that it’s all down to using biodynamic methods. We have also used companion planting and as I’m off work I have much more time to lavish on the garden than in the past.

Our major problem this year has been slugs – strange in such a dry summer. The biodynamic remedy for this is to make a kind of dead slug soup and spray this on the plants that they like. Apparently they don’t like eating leaves sprayed with their friends and family. The idea is so off putting that I’ve tried everything that I can think of and the munching continues. These butch guzzlers must be teetotal slugs that don’t even drink milk. I think that I’m going to have to finally try this method but it will take some time as the slugs have to completely decompose first. So perhaps I’ll have to wait until 2011 to see these slugs avoiding the veg sprayed with the vintage 2010 brew.

  Leave a reply


  1. my beans already this year, and no slugs! I tend to allow my chickens to free range on the veg plots during the long winter months.

  2. welshbird

    Thanks Steve – I’ve had a look at the chilli plants and can’t see anything obvious on them at the moment – the leaves are sticky though and there’s a strange cobweb-type substance over them. I’m going to try the soapy-water technique too (with “original” scented washing-up liquid as the lemon didn’t seem to agree with yours!) – here’s hoping my leaves stay put!

  3. steve h

    The Chilli-pepper culprits are very small almost translucent-green Caterpillars, from some sort of Moth. They are on the underside of the leaves, and when disturbed, roll up in a ball and roll off the leaf to the soil, where they seem to disappear! They then burrow into a pepper to pupate (half inch long brown things)its at this stage you usually find them, whilst making tea!
    I tried washing them off with soapy-water like you can do for greenfly and other caterpillars, but i used lemon washing up liquid, and nearly “nuked” the plants. Peppers don`t seem to like this, (or maybe Lemon) because the next day all the leaves had dropped off!

  4. donnyrob

    havin a little used shed at the bottom of my garden im wondering if a chicken house conversion is the way forward to save the day on the slug issue? being quite partial to a boiled egg in the morning it will pay dividends both ways. any tips?

  5. welshbird

    Ahh yes Pete chickens have to be the most fantastic way to get rid of the slugs – wish I had some. Call me an old hippy chick but I just can’t bring myself to kill creatures in the garden. My neighbour sprinkles slug pellets willy nilly over his veggie patch but I’d rather use more natural methods where possible.

  6. argylepete

    I have had several pickings of my beans already this year, and no slugs! I tend to allow my chickens to free range on the veg plots during the long winter months. and i think they have munched most of the slugs.

  7. shelley

    lucky you with your beans!
    here in toulouse we have had a reall problem this year me and others, and I have just little shoots so far! Hopefully we will get something by the end of the season

  8. freerangegirl

    I’m with Danny, I cant wait for the Runner Beans – I know when they come we’ll be overloaded but still, mmm…fresh beans – yum!

  9. donnyrob

    hmmmm! they truely are pesky critters. i always plant a variaty of onions an not one got touched last year. this year all of my sring an some of my spanish plus garlic have been attacked. startin to think they are changin eatin habbits to keep me on my toes.

  10. Barbara

    Slug soup on plants sounds utterly disgusting. Removing live slugs leaves enough mess without adding extra slime. And as Kate says, the smell of decomposing slugs is appalling.
    I also wish I knew what was eating the outdoor chili plants. I have checked for slugs (the plants are in pots on the soil) especially after I found a fat slug under an indoor pot with a very eaten chili plant. The slug went into a salt solution, and that went onto the compost heap.
    The list of what to plant in July is very helpful, thanks.

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