Don’t Forget the Beans!

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Impatiens come in a wide variety of colors. Mix them or make mass plantings of different colors for bold statements in shady borders.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Asparagus plants should be fed with good, rich compost when you have finished cutting spears. Keep the bed mulched and weed-free all summer, and the soil moist.
    • Ladybugs are a big help with aphids in your greenhouse or garden. Release at dusk in problem areas.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the plants, or go out after dark with a flashlight and a spray bottle of Safer’s Insecticidal Soap. One squirt will put an end to the spoiler.

Don’t Forget the Beans!

Green beans are a dependable vegetable that should be part of every garden. They are very productive even in poor soil and are ready for the table in 7-8 weeks. You can expect about 15 pounds of beans from a single 30 foot row of bush beans.

Your choice of bush or pole beans and how many to plant depends on the size of your family and whether you intend to preserve or freeze the beans or just eat them fresh.

Bush beans take up more space but require less work planting, staking, weeding and watering. They produce most of the crop all at once, which is great for freezing.

Pole beans are space savers and you don’t have to bend over to harvest them. They mature later than bush beans and bear small amounts each day but will keep producing all summer long if you keep the mature beans picked. Pole beans are best for those interested in having a pot of beans on the table every 3 or 4 days rather than those interested in preserving their beans.

Pole beans, of course, require something to climb on. You can plant the seed in rows 3 to 4 feet apart, thinning the plants to 6-inches apart. Then put up a trellis for them to climb on.

Another method is to take three six foot long wooden poles (don’t use metal) and place them in a tee-pee arrangement, tying them together at the top. Plant 3 seeds around the base of each pole. You can put two of them in a six foot plot which will produce enough beans for a family of four.

To plant seed directly in the garden, prepare the soil by adding compost or well-aged manure as soon as you can work the soil. Beans love the sun so be sure to plant your beans in a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sun each day.

As the beans send out long shoots, train them to climb the poles or trellis if they do not do it own their own. Keep them watered but not soaked and fertilize when the plants start climbing the poles.

For bush beans, plant the seed about 1 to 2 inches apart in the row. The rows should be 2 to 3 feet apart. After the beans are up, thin the plants to 3 to 4 inches apart. If you are growing beans in a new garden spot, it may be worthwhile to purchase a seed inoculant to make sure the symbiotic bacteria are present.

Green beans can actually be green, yellow, or purple-podded, and they come in different shapes: long, short, flat, round, broad. For green bush beans, ‘Bountiful’, ‘Tendergreen’ and ‘Blue Lake’ good varieties to try. For yellow ones, grow ‘Golden Wax’, and for purple-podded beans, a good one is ‘Royal Purple Burgundy’. The purple pods are flavorful, and turn green when cooked.

Pole beans have a more distinct and nuttier taste than bush types. ‘Blue Lake’, ‘Kentucky Wonder’ and ‘Romano Italian’ are the most popular varieties.

Be sure to include this important staple crop in your garden plan and start planting now!

Harvest Time!

Friday, August 21st, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.
    • Mums are the beauties of the fall garden. Choose plants now in a wide variety of colors.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • Wisteria trees need to be trimmed throughout the summer. Keep long tendrils trimmed back to maintain the shape of the tree.
    • Plant beets now for fall harvest. They will have a deeper red color than beets planted for spring harvest, and tend to have higher sugar levels too.

Bring in the Harvest!

The long hot days this summer have made the garden grow like crazy and now the harvest is coming in. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, summer squash is plentiful and beans and corn are coming on fast.

It’s time to harvest the garden to keep production going strong. The more you harvest, the more you grow. Harvest vegetables in the morning when they’re crisp and cool.

Squash tastes best when harvested young. Pick zucchini when it is eight inches long, and pick crookneck squash when only six inches long. Immature winter squash lacks flavor, so wait until the rind is hard. Harvest winter squash with two inches of stem remaining. A stem cut too short is like an open wound, and will cause early decay.

Cantaloupes are starting to get ripe. To make melons sweeter, hold off watering a week before you expect to harvest the ripe fruit, when it starts to turn color. A cantaloupe is fully ripe when it pulls off the stem easily.

With other melons, check for a strong, pleasant aroma at the blossom (not stem) end to indicate ripeness. A watermelon is probably ripe if it makes a dull “thunk” when thumped, and when its underside has turned from white to pale yellow.

Pick most kinds of tomatoes when their color is even and glossy and the texture still slightly firm. Some varieties, primarily large heirloom types, ripen before they reach full color. Pick them when they are mostly colored up and bring them inside to finish ripening.

Let sweet peppers reach their final ripe color of red, yellow or orange, for maximum sweetness and flavor. Hot peppers are nutritious at all stages. Sample them at different points to see what you like best.

Lettuce is a fast crop and it’s important to harvest heads before they “bolt” and go to flower. Harvest butterhead lettuce when a loose head is formed; crisphead lettuce when heads are firm; and looseleaf lettuce and romaine any time when the plants are large enough to use. You can pull off leaves of leaf lettuce or harvest the whole head.

Cabbage also must be picked before it bolts. Test the head for firmness, then cut it off. If you have mature heads that you’re not ready to harvest, hold off water or twist the plant to break some of the roots. This should keep them from bolting.

Pick green beans when they are at least three inches long but before they begin to get tough and stringy. Harvest pole beans faithfully every other day and the plants will yield right up to frost.

Corn is ready when the silks turn brown. Check an ear or two by pulling back the husk and testing a kernel with your fingernail. It is squirts a milky-white juice, it’s ripe.

Home gardeners have the advantage of being able to pick their vegetables just as they reach their prime. Knowing when vegetables are perfect for picking is a skill that you will gain with experience. For the best flavor and quality, prepare them for eating or freezing as soon as possible after harvest.