How you doing fellow gardening enthusiasts?
Summer will be here shortly and the gardens are reflecting the effects of Mother Nature. We have been harvesting mucho cucumbers, squash, lettuce, green beans and finally starting to clean up our first tomatoes of the year. The tomatoes seem to be taking a bit longer this year and we rebounded from some Bacterial Speck issues with the use of some copper sprays and a change from the cooler, damper weather. I imagine we will be drowning in tomatoes in a few weeks.
This month, we will talk about one of the favorite veggies enjoyed by our residents here at Sunshine Care - green beans.
Green beans, also known as French beans, string beans (most of today’s are stringless), snap beans or squeaky beans (refers to the sound made by your teeth when eating them). Pods can be green, purple, golden, red or streaked in color.
They are the unripe fruit of specific cultivated varieties of the common bean. They have been bred especially for flavor, fleshiness or sweetness of the pods. The French, haricot verts, are usually a longer thinner type of green bean. The Italian green bean is a flat pod.
Green beans are usually steamed, boiled, stir-fried or baked in a casserole. What would the Thanksgiving feast be without that classic green bean casserole baked with cream of mushroom soup and topped with onion rings?
Green beans have high concentrations of lectin which aid in controlling protein levels in the blood.
There are two major worlds of green beans, bush type and pole type.
Bush beans are short two foot plants that require no support. They reach maturity quicker and have a concentrated fruit set, then poop out. Multiple crops can be grown within our planting season of March through August.
Pole beans have a climbing plant habit and can grow up to 8 ft tall. They produce over a very long period of time if attended to properly.
When I first started here a couple of years ago we grew both types. But as I got more into the production of green beans, I have settled entirely on the bush type. The residents and kids in our intergenerational programs can easily seed these bush bean types for germination in our greenhouse. We do this once a month. This gives us a continued production all season long. Bush beans are a bit more labor intensive as far as harvest. Just pull up a bucket, sit down and harvest handfuls at a time. When the crop is done, there should be a new one right around the corner.
Pole beans require more labor with putting up and taking down of the trellis support system needed to grow them.
The main reason I have chosen the bush culture over the pole type is due to disease and pest problems. Rust, mites, aphids and powdery mildew run rampant here in the Poway area. These with cause you fits and can easily destroy your crop. Growing bush beans, if you are attacked by anything, you know that soon you will be out of those beans, throw the fruitless plants out and start the show over again. With the pole types you have to be prepared to fight the problem all season long. As you may know if you have read any of my other blogs, I am a big fan of earliness and disease resistance in the organic world of growing food.
Ground preparation is the same as we do with any other crop. Fluffy beds with compost, worm castings, composted chicken manure and an organic pre-plant fertilizer is all you need to get started.
We seed the beans in our greenhouse and in two to three weeks, the transplants are ready for the garden. We utilize drip tape for our irrigation, and plant two lines of beans, one on each side of the tape about three to four inches to the sides of the tape. We pack the row with plants at 4 inch spacings down the lines.
With the pole beans, tie together at one end, four 8-ft-bamboo poles or green plastic covered garden stakes. Set this up like a teepee with the legs spread about four feet apart with the ends shoved 3-4 inches in the ground. Plant five or six beans directly into the ground, 3 inches apart, with the scar side down. Cover them with loose soil and give them a good watering. When the plants are about 3-4 inches tall, thin to the three best per pole. Give the beans a good start by winding the tendrils around the poles at first. After that, they will wind and climb on their own. Of course if you use transplants just put 3 plants per pole.
Pests and Diseases
Mites and aphids are prevalent in our area, so be prepared to spray with soaps, oils and sulfur when the temperatures aren’t too hot. Sulfur and oils can burn. Again, if you opt for the bush type, you might be able to go the whole cycle without spraying. If you go for the pole type-be ready!
Powdery mildew and rust are the fungal problems that love green beans. Both will defoliate the plants and effect yield. Organically there is not much you can use to control rust. Avoid overhead spraying, pick off infected leaves and throw them far away and crop rotation are a help. As far as powdery mildew, I suggest using varieties with disease resistance.
The bush bean varieties we predominantly use are Provider and Fresh Pick.
Provider is an early variety that is easy to grow and very adaptable to diverse soil and climate conditions. It has resistance to Bean Mosaic Virus, Downy Mildew and most importantly, Powdery Mildew. The pods are medium green in color and 5-5½ inches long and ready in about 50 days
Fresh Pick has a longer harvest window. These will be larger plants in size that can tolerate hot weather and yield over a longer period of time as compared to Provider. The pods are dark green and about 6 inches long and ready in about 53 days. This variety is resistant to Bean Mosaic Virus, Downy Mildew and Powdery Mildew as well.
These seeds can be purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and will run about $3.45 a packet containing 175 seeds. Pretty cheap!
If you go the pole route, Kentucky Wonder is the standard in the industry. It is delicious and resistant to rust. The other popular pole variety is Blue Lake Pole. You can find these from Territorial Seed Co. and a one ounce packet with about 100 seeds, will cost you about $2.75. Again- cheap!
So if you don’t have green beans in your garden- get to planting today. You still have a few more months to get them in the ground, so you can take advantage of these tasty treats.
We also conduct a series of monthly garden lectures, the third Saturday of each month with expert speakers on timely topics. We start at 10:30 am with coffee, munchies, door prizes and end with tours of our gardens.
Hope to hear from you!
Click on our website www.sunshinecare.com or call me anytime for more info or a personal tour.