Sunday, April 25, 2010

Try Beans this Season

Man has cultivated edible beans for thousands of years. They are widely planted and useful for home gardens. Early varieties were tough and required string removal and long cooking to soften them. Before the late 19th century, most beans were raised for shelled, dried beans, and not for fresh green beans.

The snap bean originated in tropical regions of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. In the late 1800s, breeders began selective breeding for improved flavor and disease resistance. Calvin Keeney, the "father of the Stringless Bean" bred Burpee's Stringless Green Pod in 1898. It was the most popular variety until Tendergreen arrived in 1925. Bush Blue Lake, developed in 1962, was a major breakthrough in bean varieties. The Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean, introduced in 1877 by Ferry-Morse Seed Company and is still a very popular variety today.

Snap beans have tender, fleshy pods with little fiber. They may be green, yellow, or purple.

Common beans include the French or European beans that produce very narrow, sometimes pencil-thin, pods. Italians prefer the thicker, flatter Romano beans. Wax beans are long and narrow with yellow pods and a waxy appearance. Purple beans such as Royal Burgundy, add color to the garden but the pods change to green when boiled. They are produced both as ornamentals and as edible vegetables.
Ornamental beans like scarlet runner beans produce striking, bright red blooms followed by beans that are edible while young. Blue hyacinth beans produce deep lilac-blue flowers which produce maroon bean pods. Ornamental beans are usually planted for their attractive flowers rather than for consumption. They grow quickly up to beautifully cover fences, trellises and arbors.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Containers for Vegetable Gardening

Nearly any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants. Old wash tubs, wooden boxes or crates, gallon-sized coffee cans, and even five-gallon buckets can be implemented for growing crops as long as they provide adequate drainage.

Regardless of the type or size of your container, drainage is vital for successful growth and the overall health of vegetables. If the container you have chosen does not provide any outlets for drainage, you can easily drill a few holes within the bottom or lower sides. Placing gravel or small stones in the bottom of the container will help improve drainage as well. You may also consider raising the container an inch or two off the ground with blocks.

Depending on the crops you selected, the size of the container will vary. Most plants require containers that allow at least 6- to 8-inch depths for adequate rooting. Smaller sized containers, like coffee cans, are generally ideal for crops such as carrots, radishes, and herbs; use medium sized containers, such as five-gallon buckets, to grow tomatoes or peppers. For larger crops, such as vine growers, beans, and potatoes, you want to implement something more suitable to their needs, such as a large wash tub.

The spacing requirements for most vegetables are usually found on the seed packet or you can find them in gardening resource books. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can thin the plants to the desired number suitable to the container.

Fill containers with peat moss and a suitable potting mix. Compost or manure should be worked in to achieve healthier plant growth. Do not add more than the recommended amounts of fertilizer, however, since doing so can burn the plants.