Bean Gardening Information

Bush_Beans

Beans

Both string/wax beans like cucumbers, always have a “reserved section” in the vegetable garden. They are relatively easy to grow, if handled right are big producers and beans are able to be eaten fresh, added to recipes, cooked as stand-alone main or side dishes. They can be blanched and frozen and they even store well as pickles (dilly beans). Beans figure prominently in my ultimate quest to grow enough food –GMO and pesticide free – to provide a year round supply.

This year I planted 3 seven foot rows of bush beans for 2015. I chose 1 type to plant. It was a bush bean from Burpee called Garden Bean Stringless Green Pod. The Advertising for these beans states:Bush_Beans

Exceptional flavor.

HEIRLOOM. This Burpee bred bean is entirely stringless; it’s brittle, meaty, juicy and has exceptional flavor. Plant yields are early and extremely high; pods are round, about 6″ long and slightly curved. Plants are entirely self supporting. A 2 oz. seed pack will plant a 20 ft. row. Our seed is not treated.

Growth Habit: Bush
Days to Maturity: 50 days
Sun: Full Sun
Height: 12-18 inches
Spread: 10 inches
Thinning: 6 inches
Sowing Method: Direct Sow
Fruit Size: 6 inches

They are spot on when describing flavor and the fact the pods are stringless. I will say all seeds germinated, the plants lasted all season, although I should have cropped and did a second planting in August.

We had a really bad season in 2015, weather and animal damage was the “order of the day”. First up was some animal was making short work of any bean plant near the edge of the garden. Leaves were eaten off and many times even the plant was chewed down. My guess is a rabbit since they are very common although my neighbor harbors a woodchuck and gray squirrels are all over. Anyway, the outer edge plants suffered all year.

June 2015 weather in the Northeast was cold. None of my plants really did anything during the month except survive. When July rolled around and everything warmed up and the beans took off.
By Mid-July we grew enough for weekly side dishes. That continued through frost – mid-October. The weight count harvested on the 21 feet was 13 lbs. Nothing was canned or frozen. A 13 lb. harvest is lower what my books say is the average harvest (14 lbs.) for the amount planted, it is very low based on past experience. There are prior years where a 16-foot row of pole beans would provide for 2 side dishes each week and enough to can/freeze for weekly side dishes from November 1 – April 30 of the next year.

Next year I am going back to pole beans. I am going to try Fortex (a pole snap bean) produced and sold by Burpee.

Bean Types:

Snap beans – the most popular garden beans — include bush and pole varieties, which vary in shape, size, and color. Tender filet beans are a type of green snap bean with stringless, slender, delicate pods. They are grown just like other snap beans.

Shell beans – grow like snap beans, but the immature pods stay tender for only a few days as the plants hurry to produce mature seeds. They are very easy to dry.

Scarlet runner beans – produce clusters of red blossoms that attract hummingbirds and bumblebees. You can eat the young pods like snap beans, or let the pods dry and harvest the mature beans.

Lima beans – stand up to humid heat and heavy insect pressure, which makes them a fine bean for warm climates.

Planting Beans

Beans do best in a soil with a PH of 6.0 – 7.5. Beans benefit from fertile soil. Before planting add some well-rotted compost, peat moss or fresh top soil into the garden bed. Beans make most of the nitrogen they need. When growing beans in a new garden site, inoculating seeds with nitrogen-fixing bacteria before planting can help kick-start this process.

For bush beans, plant seedlings 6” apart and keep the rows about 2 feet wide. Pole beans should be plant at about 10” apart in rows at least 2 – 3 feet wide. Pole beans need poles to grow on. I place posts 6 feet high about 2 feet apart and use wide garden netting for the plants to climb up. Mature pole beans are heavy and can bring down your entire row. Make sure the poles are firmly anchored and strong. It is not a bad idea to use cross beams to create a strong “fence row”.

Bean seeds germinate best when soil temperatures range between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In spring, sow seeds in fertile, well-worked soil starting on or after your last frost date. Some of the problems you may encounter are:

• Many times the seeds will just sit until the weather is just right – that early in spring the soil may not get to the optimum temperature.
• If the soil is too wet, the seeds may rot or the young plants may “damp-off” and die.
• If you are “blessed” with squirrels like I am, they will dig up the seeds and eat them.

If you are planting seeds directly into the garden, plant them about 1 ½” deep.

I like to start the seeds about 3 weeks before the last expected frost inside the house under grow lights. Keep the seeds warm. They should sprout in about 2 weeks. Empty the pots of any seeds that do not sprout, pull the seed and replant the pot with a new seed. Plants that come up deformed should just be discarded and the pot should be replanted with a new seed. The previous 2 comments are more for me, way too many times I attempt to “doctor” the plants – it rarely works and the effort is not worth it. I plant the young plants about 2 weeks after the last expected frost – weather permitting, which means if the seven-day forecast is for decent, dry weather.

I let pole beans grow the full season. For bush beans, you should make additional plantings at least 1 more time during the season. Again, because I do not grow 50+ feet of row, I start seeds in pots about 3 weeks before I replant. When the seedlings are big enough, pull out the older plants, throw down some 10-10-10 fertilizer, a touch of lime (if necessary), add a little compost and replant. You will be happy you did. Even though you are giving up about 2 weeks of fresh beans, the new plants will end up producing more than the older plants would have.

Harvesting and Storing Beans

First thing is first, according to James Underwood Crockett, bush beans should produce roughly ½ lb. per foot per planting (so 2 plantings will give you 1 lb. for each foot.) Pole beans are different; you should look for a minimum of 1 lb. per foot for the season up to 2 lbs. If you are lucky shell beans will produce about ¾ lb. to 1 lb. per foot.

Harvest snap beans when they are young and tender. If you let the bean pods mature the plant may stop producing or will produce much less. The plants can be damaged or worse if you are not careful when harvesting. I like to use scissors or I will hold the plant where it connects to the bean pod. Most bush beans will produce a second or third crop of beans after the first one is picked. Harvest pole beans at least twice a week to keep the plants productive. The mature beans of all snap bean varieties usually make good soup beans.

Allow shell beans to stay on the plants until the pods turn tan and the beans inside show good color and a hard, glossy surface. If damp weather sets in just when your beans should be drying, pull up the plants and hang them in a dry place until they are dry enough to shell and sort. Allow your shelled beans to dry at room temperature for two weeks before storing them in airtight containers. If you think insects might be present in your stored beans, keep them in the freezer.

Saving Bean Seeds

To save dry beans for replanting, select the largest, most perfect seeds from your stored beans. With snap beans, it is best to harvest beans at the season’s end since it will not interfere with the food harvest. Be patient, because snap bean varieties that have been bred to stay tender for a long time are often slow to develop mature seeds. Under good conditions, bean seeds will store for at least three years.

Preventing Bean Pests and Diseases

Mexican bean beetles sporting black spots often lay clusters of yellow eggs on leaves, which hatch into yellow larvae that rasp tissues from leaves. Handpick this pest in all life stages, and try spraying neem oil to control light infestations.

In upstate New York, Japanese beetles are the devil to beans. The best organic method to fight them is to use Japanese beetle traps. If you use pesticides, you will end up dealing with: when you can theoretically harvest and the damage done to non-target insects (bees).

Beans grown in sites that recently supported grasses are often sabotaged by night-feeding cutworms. Another reason I like to start indoors and plant 3 week old plants.

Several fungal and bacterial diseases cause dark spots and patches to form on bean leaves. To keep from spreading diseases among plants, avoid working in your bean patch when foliage is wet.

Bean Growing Tips

Extend your harvest of bush snap beans by planting them two or three times, with each sowing three weeks apart. In warm climates, make a sowing in late summer, about 10 weeks before your first fall frost is expected.

Grow more beans in less space by growing pole varieties, which produce more per square foot by making good use of vertical growing space.

Cucumber Gardening Information

burpee_straight_eight_Cucumber

Cucumber:

Cucumbers have always been a staple in my gardens. They are relatively easy to grow, if handled right are big producers and cucumbers are able to be eaten fresh, added to recipes and they store well as pickles.

This year I planted 10 feet of cucumbers. I chose 1 type to plant. It was a “slicing” cucumber. I chose Burpee’s Straight Eight. The Advertising for these cucumbers states:

A cucumber superstar, this classic has excellent flavor and is widely adapted.
This heirloom, All-America Selections winner is a cuke for all burpee_straight_eight_Cucumberseasons. Pick when 8″ long for top flavor. For perfect cukes, grow them on a fence or our space-saving Trellis Netting. Sow seeds 6″ apart in rows, or plant 5 or 6 seeds in groups (hills) 4 to 5′ apart.
Sun: Full Sun
Height: 6-8 inches
Spread: 36 inches
Days to Maturity: 58 days
Sowing Method: Direct Sow
Fruit Size: 6-8 inches

I planted 10 feet of straight eights – 4 mounds of 2 plants each. I found the Burpee straight eight to be a very good cucumber. Fantastic taste and prolific. One issue we had with them is if we let them go a week extra, we would need to scrape out the seeds since they started to take over the cucumber.

We started the cucumbers in mid-May in the green house in large seed pots filled with starter soil. They were not planted until the second week of June when the plants already had 3 sets of leaves. I set up a plastic wide-mesh fence so the plants could climb. As far as fertilizer, we used miracle grow 10-10-10 – 3 times during the season. We had no issues with pests and in-fact honey bees were common the entire summer around the “cukes”, something that made me happy since for the last five or so years seeing honey bees in any quantity has become very rare. I try not to use chemicals and in late September we lost all the cucumbers to powdery-mildew. So, word to the wise – beware.

We ended up picking 32lbs. over the season. Almost all eaten or given to the “kids” In accordance with my garden book written by James Underwood Crockett – that is a decent average for the amount I planted.

Some Cucumber Info:

Description

Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce sections of most groceries, cucumbers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers, and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables.
All cucumbers belong to the botanical plant family called Curcubitaceae. This broad family of plants includes melons and squashes.

Burpee_CucumbersWhile there are literally hundreds of different varieties of cucumbers, virtually all can be divided into two basic types: slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated for consumption in fresh form. Pickling cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated not for consumption in fresh form, but for processing into pickles.

Growing Cucumbers

Cucumbers are fairly easy to grow if you take care of a few things:
1. They like a fairly neutral soil.
2. They are heavy feeders so when planting make sure to add either: compost, well rotted manure, some grass clippings or anything that will help provide nourishment for the plants.
3. They need water so make sure to provide plenty and if you keep the water off the leaves all the better to avoid powdery-mildew.
4. You can double crop cucumbers. Start the second sowing in late June in pots. By late July pick all cucumbers from 1st crop, pull out plants, add some 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 fertilizer and plant the young plants. This should give you a good crop by Mid-August and depending on your average frost dates, you should have cucumbers “till-the end”.

History

Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments, and generally require temperatures between 60-90°F. For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world. In evolutionary terms, the first cucumbers were likely to have originated in Western Asia (and perhaps more specifically in India) or parts of the Middle East. It was not until the time of the European colonists that cucumbers finally appeared in North America in the 1500’s.

Eggplant Growing and Gardening

Eggplant_growing

Eggplant Gardening

The Garden:

I planted what has come to be a great eggplant, Burpee Black Beauty organic eggplant. In all my years of gardening I have yet to grow an eggplant that was so sweet. Older fruits were not at all tough or stringy. I absolutely will grow these again and anyone who asks I would suggest Burpee Black Beauty. The fact that Burpee developed the plant as organic is all the more!! I shy away from hybrids and absolutely hate GMO.

organic_eggplant

Eggplant grown for 2015

Seeds were started in March in the basement. 9 plants were eventually grown. In early May I put them into the greenhouse to harden up and complete phase 1 growing. I planted late – 2nd week of June. I cut the bottoms out of large plastic cups and placed around the plant bases to discourage cut worms (which each year I fight with). The plants were placed in 3 rows of 3 plants each. Plants were spaced 2 feet apart in rows 2 feet apart. The plants grow tall, 3 – 3 ½ feet and spread out so they need to space.

2015 proved to be tough early on. The Northeast was wet and cool. The eggplant plants really did not start growing until July. July warmed up but was dry. The plants eventually got their “legs” and by August all was good. As of October 10, 2015, no frost yet, we harvested 32 lbs. with maybe another 8 lbs. to go. Our local supermarket sells eggplants for $2.50/lbs. With that said, we have harvested $80.00 in eggplant this year and have $12.00 to go!! Not too bad from 9 plants.

Our 3 children had fun with the eggplants grown. All are adults and living on their own. While home they like to “shop” in the garden. All took eggplant home and all said they loved them. They tend to be tough critics so I take their happiness as “thumbs up” for Burpee seeds.

What is an Eggplant:

Eggplant_growing

Eggplant fruit growing

Eggplant is a vegetable long prized for its unique taste and texture. Eggplants belong to the plant family commonly known as nightshades, and are related to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplants grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy in consistency. Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

In addition to this variety, eggplant is also available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange, and yellow-white, as well as in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.

Eggplant History

The ancient ancestors of eggplant grew wild in India and were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C. Eggplant was introduced to Africa before the Middle Ages and then into Italy, the country with which it has long been associated, in the 14th century. It subsequently spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later, was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. Today, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.

Select and Store your Eggplant

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars, and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

Eggplant_flower

Eggplant flowers

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf within the refrigerator.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.

Eggplant can be baked, roasted in the oven, or steamed.

Eggplant Nutrition

According to my handy dandy “Farmers’ Market Guide and Cookbook”, eggplant has measurable amounts of folic acid, potassium and is high in sodium.

Back to vegetable garden bed 1

Bell Pepper Plants for 2014

bell_pepper

Bell PepperThe bell pepper I chose to plant for 2014 is a bull nose pepper that is a heirloom

This year I plan on planting 9 bell pepper plants in 36 square feet in garden bed one. The plot is roughly 6′ x 6′. The plants will be planted 24″ apart in a square plot. I am planting a heirloom bell pepper. The seeds were bought from the Thomas Jefferson Center and they are called bull nose peppers.

The details on the back describe the pepper as a heirloom that goes as far back as the 1700’s. My wife bought these seeds as part of a Christmas gift this year.

The seeds were started indoors in mid February. I planted 15 pots. All are growing well. I will plant the best nine and give my neighbors the remaining viable plants. Planting will happen Memorial Day weekend. As discussed on the garden bed 1 page the entire bed will have peat moss added before planting. Each bell pepper plant will get a 1/2 gallon of organic compost added.

Bell peppers are members of the Nightshade family of vegetables along with potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. Like chili peppers, bell peppers originated in South America. Bell peppers have  vitamin A and are rich in vitamin C and Beta Carotene. According to WHfoods .org, a green pepper has approximately 12% of the daily values of vitamin A, 137% of the daily value of vitamin C and 340mcg of beta carotene. What is interesting is that WHfoods states that red bell peppers have even more vitamin A and C than green bell peppers – go figure!! Bell peppers also supply small levels of vitamin E.

 

Back to vegetable garden bed 1

Back to 2014 garden

Tomato Varieties for The Garden

burpee roma organic will be planted for eating and canning

Tomato Varieties to be planted this year:

Tomato varieties are the mainstay of many home gardens. When grown correctly fresh garden tomatoes are fantastic. They can be eaten straight from the garden, cooked into sauces, stews, soups – just pick what you like and tomatoes can probably be added. Tomatoes can be easily canned using the hot water method, for directions go to Ball Corp, and can even be frozen. So, any excess fruit grown can be stored for another day. When we have enough, my wife and I stew the tomatoes and can for use in sauces, soups, stews and chili.

Tomatoes have vitamins A, B, C, iron, phosphorous and potassium.

The first of the two tomato varieties I planted for the 2015 garden was a straight forward type called “Abe Lincoln”. It is an organic tomato. It started slow but once it got started it went crazy. Planted – 4 pots with 4 seeds eAbe Lincoln tomatoes are American Heirloomach on March 1. I planted 4 of the plants the 2nd week of June. All are over 6’ tall and as of mid-September have produced a little over 12 lbs. with about twice that amount yet to come. The flesh is firm a solid red and almost a perfect round shape. I really like this tomato, it is juicy but not so much that when cut into there is a mess. Cut a slice and sprinkle some salt – excellent.

The advertising for the Abe Lincoln states: 90 days, indeterminate — ‘Abraham Lincoln’ was originally released by H. W. Buckbee Seed of Rockford, Illinois in 1923. Abraham Lincoln tomatoes are large, meaty, flavorful heirloom tomatoes. There are many exceptional heirloom tomatoes, but ‘Abraham Lincoln’ consistently produces huge crops of extra-large, meaty fruit.

The second tomato variety I chose is an heirloom organic. I picked Botanical Interests Pole Cherokeepole cherokee purple tomato varieties will be grown for summer time eating Purple. I have grown this tomato before and really enjoy it. Pole Cherokee is a big, meaty, tasty hunkin’ tomato. The meat is firm and there really is not a lot of excess juice (which I like).

The company advertising states: 80 days from transplanting. Indeterminate. Cherokee’s rose/purple skin with green shoulders encases red brick colored flesh with just the right level of sweetness. You’ll be harvesting large numbers of 10 to 12 oz. tomatoes from this well regarded heirloom variety from summer to fall. The flavor has been described as yummy, tasty, wonderful, delicious, heavenly, and unbelievable! Provide support for vigorous vines that reach 6 feet or more. The package states organic and labeled NO GMO

Planted – 4 pots with 4 seeds each on March 1. I planted 4 of the plants the second week of June (family vacation trumped planting this year) So far this year, as of September 18th, I picked about 16 lbs. The Cherokee Pole plants are smaller plants than the Abe Lincolns but frankly I think they taste better and grow larger fruits.

tomatoes_on_the_vine

tomato vines with tomatoes

I planted 8 plants along the north side of garden bed 1. Spacing is as instructed – 2 feet apart. The other plants in the bed are peppers and eggplants. The spacing away from the tomatoes is also 2 feet. This year I have kept the plants trimmed. I cut off about two thirds of the leaves trying to keep air circulating. Any leaves that hit the ground were immediately removed. Watering was kept on the light side and during the late morning to give the plants time to dry. So far, as of September 18th, all the plants have stayed healthy. I do cage my plants and frankly they do well. What is great – no chemicals used on the plants. Just 2 doses of Miracle Grow 10-10-10 fertilizer early in the season nothing more. About as organic as I get!!!

Over Labor Day my grown children “went shopping” in the garden. Each ended up with tomatoes, as well as other veggies, to bring home.

As of October 11, all tomato plants were pulled. We ended up with 8 plants producing 35 lbs. of tomatoes. That is only 4+ lbs. per plant. In theory we should have been able to grow about 60+ lbs. with 8 tomato plants. With the early summer cold and damp and the summer very dry I can excuse away. Others that also garden stated their tomatoes were somewhat the same as ours so….. Still for the investment in 2 packages of seeds – roughly $4.00 we were able to produce (based on our local supermarket prices of $1.50/lb.) $52.00 in tomatoes for the season. All were eaten, saved and given away.

Back to vegetable garden bed 1

Just a quick note, I always like to try different ideas. For the 2014 garden I tried growing a tomato from Canada that turned out to be a hybrid. The tomatoes that I took the seeds from were large, juicy and delicious. The tomatoes that grew from the seeds ended up being a plumb tomato. They were not overly tasty at all. So…word of warning.

Vegetable Garden Bed 1

garden_bed_1

Vegetable Garden bed # 1 is 8′ wide x 16′ long. Orientation is set for the tomatoes to be on the north side and the eggplants on the east. This bed should receive about 8 hours of sunlight in the summer, not great but it has proven sufficient. Last year this bed had bell peppers, yellow summer squash, cucumbers and pole beans. All did well and produced well.

Eggplants – 9 Plants

Lettuce – 2 rows of 3 plants each

Sweet Bell Peppers – 9 Plants

Tomatoes 8 Plants

 

The eggplants and peppers are in roughly 36 square feet of space each, the tomatoes run the length of the bed with about 2 1/2 feet of space into the bed.  The lettuce was allotted 24 square feet

This bed should produce for the summer until frost kills off the eggplants, tomatoes and peppers. I would be happy to get two or three crops of lettuce before the frost comes.vegetable garden bed 1 was the first vegetable be I made in 2011

The first year, when I made the bed, I added 9 cubic feet of peat moss, 10 cubic feet of topsoil and around each of the plants I added approximately 6 quarts of organic compost. Each summer I layer grass clippings to retain moisture and add nutrients. For the last 4 years I have laid roughly 3″ of leaves in the fall and turned over in the spring. Right now the soil is a nice dark brown and is crumbly

For 2015 an additional 6 cubic feet of peat moss was be added. Each plant was supplied with one gallon of organic compost at planting. For the lettuce, organic compost was raked into the rows.

Tomatoes – there are 2 different varieties of tomatoes. Click here for the listing

Bell Peppers – I will plant only 1 variety of bell pepper this year. Click here for the listing

Eggplant – 1 variety. Click here for he listing

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