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

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.


Starting Seeds

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.

If you are in the Poway area and want to see what we have going on in our gardens, come on by for a personal tour. Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail. Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes, 858-472-6059 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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.

Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care, Assisted Living Homes in Poway CA. (858) 472-6059 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Happy gardening!!

Roy Wilburn

Hello again fellow gardening enthusiasts and greetings from Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes, nestled in beautiful Poway, California.  Even though we are still in the winter season, the weather has been favorably mild this year.  Last month, we talked about pruning your roses and we even had a hands-on workshop to get local rose lovers a chance to learn by tending our roses.  We had a couple of Consulting Rosarians, from the San Diego Rose Society, share with us their knowledge on rose pruning and general care.  I’m feeling good, knowing that our 40 plus roses bushes are pruned correctly, fertilized with Dr. Earth Organic Rose Food and sprayed with liquid copper as a dormant spray.  I can already see the new blooms start to peek out, as they set forth to give our residents some beautiful flowers to enjoy in a couple of months.  In a similar fashion, all of our deciduous fruit trees are also pruned, fertilized and sprayed.  We will attack, in short order, our citrus trees once we finish the winter harvest.


As far as winter veggie production, we are still constantly harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and romaine lettuce.  I shared some of our secrets on cole crop (cool season crop) production in our November and December blogs.  We will continue planting these crops through March, plus our spring goodies such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans and eventually peppers.  Our greenhouse is packed with all these transplants.  Next month we will start talking about our spring vegetable production, but let me end our winter endeavors with a few unique crops related to the broccoli and cauliflower families.


At the end of last year, my friend Ramiro Lobo, a University of California Farm Advisor for San Diego County asked me if Sunshine Care would like to get involved with a project he was heading up in conjunction with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing- The Original Ranch.  Hidden Valley has started a campaign and committed over 1 million dollars to schools and organizations across the U.S. Their goal is to help seed and grow a “Love for Veggies” in kids. We here at Sunshine Care are always excited about growing and eating our vegetables but we understand that kids might need a little more of a nudge. 


Ramiro knew that we are very active with local churches, schools and volunteer organizations within our organic fruit and vegetable production world.  On the first and third Thursdays of each month, we have a group of local children come to Sunshine Care and learned about the world of organics. We have a “Children’s Garden” on site and the youngsters handle all aspects of fruit and vegetable production.  We provide education so the kids learn to plant, weed, harvest and perform cultural practices. They play with worms, compost and eventually get to taste the produce they grew and take some to enjoy at home.  They work hard and it is a total joy to participate in the field with them.  After we are done in the field we go to the greenhouse where they bond with some of our residents, their “Grandmas and Grandpas”, and enjoy other activities with them such as seeding vegetable trays, watering plants in our greenhouse and releasing ladybugs to control possible aphid outbreaks. When we are done the residents are showered with Handshakes, High- Fives and the ever popular HUGS!  It’s a beautiful thing.


We agreed to get involved with the Hidden Valley project and the UC Cooperative Extension and called our project the “Great Veggie Adventure”.  The crops we are growing have a definite, different eye appeal, as far as veggies go.  They are meant to grab a kid’s attention. We are growing-


Veronica, a Romanesco lime-green spiraled cauliflower

Panther, another lime-green cauliflower, normal in shape

Graffiti, a purple- headed stunning cauliflower

Cheddar, a bright orange headed cauliflower

And a variety of colorful carrots and radishes.


Let’s go through these crops one by one.


Veronica Romanesco is actually a broccoli but referred to as a cauliflower.  Heads are pointed, spiraled pinnacles that are lime green in color.  For those of you that are a bit nerdish when it comes to math, the bud has an approximate, self-similar character.  The branching meristems form a logarithmic spiral.  In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal.  Each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.  This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels.  Bottom line- IT IS WEIRD LOOKING AND DELICIOUS!!  Veronica is high in vitamins C and K, dietary fiber and carotenoids.  The heads have a milder flavor and are more creamy and nutty than conventional broccoli and cauliflower.


Panther, green cauliflower is easy to grow and produces a unique, tight lime-green head, 6”-7” wide, that holds well and tolerates cold weather stress.  They have a delicious mild flavor when cooked and a definite crowd pleaser and attention grabber when served fresh.


Graffiti, purple cauliflower is absolutely brilliant and stunning in color.  It tastes just like white cauliflower and it is a great colorful addition to your crudite platters.  It produces a true cauliflower head on large plants.  The purple color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group, anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.


Cheddar cauliflower is bright orange in color, like cheddar cheese.  The color indicates that the curd, or head, has elevated beta-carotene levels.  It is a medium –sized plant that produces smooth, domed heads.  This variety doesn’t require “blanching techniques” to obtain the deepest, orange color.  Cheddar cauliflower has 25 times the level of vitamin A over regular white cauliflower.


To grow these varieties requires exactly what most broccoli or cauliflower varieties need- soils rich in organic matter and well drained.  Refer to past blogs of October and November of last year on cool season crops, and grow them the same way.  To purchase seed, pull out your Johnny’s Selected Seed catalog and call them up.


Veronica seed is $5.95 and $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds, depending if you want conventional or organic seed.


Panther seed will cost you $5.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Graffiti runs $7.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


Cheddar cauliflower will set you back $12.95 per PKT of 100 seeds.


While you have your catalog out, look at all the varieties of colorful radishes and carrots.  Our kids love the Rainbow Carrot mix along with Atomic Red, Purple Haze and Deep Purple varieties.  As far as radishes, try the Red Meat, otherwise known as Watermelon Radish (50 days) and the Easter Egg multicolored variety (30 days).  These are no-brainers.  Work the soil, spread some seed, water and thin them out when about an inch tall according to the variety’s directions.  These are crops your children will get quick satisfaction growing and eating.


For those of you in the San Diego County area, I personally invite you to attend our February Garden Lecture on the 18th at 10:30 am, here at Sunshine Care.  We will be covering all the cool season and spring crops, we grow for our residents.  Our workshops are free and include refreshments, raffle prizes and end with a tour of our gardens and orchards.  So bring a friend and come on by.


Call me, Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture (858) 472-6059 or e-mail me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Lisa Lipsey, Director of Community Relations (858) 752-8197 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , for more info and to RSVP.If you can’t make it, we would be happy to show you around anytime at your convenience. Hope to hear from you soon!

About the Author
Farmer Roy
Since 2010, Farmer Roy Wilburn has been Sunshine Care’s Director of Horticulture. You can usually find Roy in one of the five organic gardens, producing high quality organic fruits and vegetables for the residents and those in need in the Poway area. Roy maintains Sunshine Care’s beautiful greenhouse, fruit tree orchards, Memorial Rose Garden and the landscaping of its 32-acre facility. Roy is a regular guest speaker about numerous horticultural topics.
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