A Tribute to one of the Masters of growing Runner Beans
11th Apr 2002
My Own patch
There is certainly more than enough to be getting on with at this time of year, my greenhouses are bursting at the seams particularly with my bedding plants now requiring more space. The blanch leeks are looking really well and are in their final pots but not ready for planting out until the end of the month. They have a nine inch black damp proof course collar on and the girth is just over 3½ inches around. The beds were prepared earlier on in the year with some really good quality leaf mould added to each bed.
Soil Conductivity Reading
My main concern between now and planting out is to make sure that the soil conductivity reading is as low as I can possibly get it. When you consider that the soil inside the polytunnels are never exposed to rain, it's paramount that you thoroughly saturate the beds a couple of weeks before planting. I use a sprinkler and I leave it on from morning until night with the excess water running down the paths. As I have sown some Parsnips and a few early carrots in drums inside the tunnels they will be covered with polythene to prevent them being over saturated.
Once the soil has dried out, I shall use my lightweight Honda rotovator on each beds and what a boon these powerful little tools are. In a matter of a few minutes the soil in each bed will be broken down to the finest tilth and when it comes time to plant I certainly won"t require a trowel. A few days before planting each bed will be given 4 ounces per square yard of Hydro Complex Partner and 4 ounces per square yard of Calcified seaweed. This is the same as I did last year and I have to say that the leeks the beds produced were the best that I have ever grown.
I shall also this week be sowing my Runner beans directly into 3½ inch square pots using some Levington M2 compost. The beans are my own re selection of the Stenner strain and Brython told me many years ago when sowing runner beans to make sure that each one goes into the compost in the same way. This means that when they germinate the young emerging shoot from each bean will pop through the compost at the same time. Brython told me to look closely at the scar on the bean (where it was attached to the pod) at one end of the scar there is little dimple and the beans should be pushed into the compost lengthways down with the dimple at the bottom of the scar every time. Water the pots well initially and then leave them on the greenhouse bench, do not water again unless the compost becomes very dry as over watering can easily cause the bean to rot away
A Tribute to one of the Masters of growing Runner Beans
A couple of weeks ago one of the great Masters of growing Runner Beans passed away; Brython Stenner from Cefn Cribwr South Wales was most certainly a legend in his own life time. He bred, through an intensive process of reselection, the Stenner Runner Bean that we all now see winning at shows throughout the land. I really got to know Brython over twenty years ago when I went down to Reading where the NVS Championships were then being held. He was a tall smart man as befitted an ex royal Naval Officer and I always remember him saying once in an article he wrote for the NVS Handbook that a good set of Runner beans should be as straight as the barrels of his ships guns.
Brython had a meal with the wife and I that night in our caravan and it won't take much guessing what one of the vegetables was, yes, some of his spare Runner beans. I was an extremely keen young novice grower then, thinking that I knew it all, but Brython soon put a stop to that, listening to him for a few hours that evening talking about his beans, I realised how little I really knew. Brython was well known at every show with a distinctive Red base ball cap and always when he was staging his beans other exhibitors would try and encircle him to have a first look at what would inevitably would have been another superb set.
That evening he explained to me how he had developed this remarkable bean, certainly not the biggest or longest bean around, but definitely the finest quality and when Brython selected them in those days at just over 15 inches in length, they really looked as if they had been moulded from plastic. He first came across some superb beans on one particualr plant of Enorma, being an intelligent thinking gardener, he kept the seeds from this particular plant for use the following season. A careful diary was then kept every year and each plant would be recognised and marked by him and then meticulously recorded in the diary. One thing he taught me that night was never keep beans from just the longest pods from a variety of plants. Pick the plant that produces the best overall beans and then select from them.
He didn't suffer fools gladly and he wouldn't hesitate to tell other growers to leave him alone while he staged, he wanted peace and quiet to stage them to perfection. He was a perfectionist at everything he did and that was what ultimately reaped him with so many Championship red cards. For many years he was unbeatable with beans and potatoes and I well remember how proud he was at the NVS Championships in Southport one year. He not only won the Runner bean class yet again, but he was also awarded the best exhibit in the NVS class as well as the best exhibit in the overall show. I remember Charlie Maisey telling me some years ago that when he started to stage his beans, and before he became almost unbeatable, he just couldn't get close to beating Brython.
The last time I met Brython was again at the NVS Championships when they were staged last year at Margam Park, He and his daughter Gaynor were there together and quite honestly I'm sure he had a hard time to get around as everyone wanted to meet him. He will most certainly be sadly missed by the horticultural world in general and by vegetable exhibitors in particular.