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Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I have been struggling with squirrels this season. They just will not stay out of the fresh soil in my veggie garden. I don't know that it's necessarily that they are digging up my plants or seeds, or digging to bury their own food, but it's about to make me crazy! I put down some thorny rose bush trimmings but find that I apparently need many more to cover up all of the squares. (If anybody has a doubt about how I feel about squirrels, or any animal really, please read this and this and maybe this, before calling judgment on me for using thorns as a deterrent.)
I did decide to skip the square stealing squash plants this year - 1 bush style squash, like zucchini or crookneck, takes up a full 9 squares - at least. Last year I found that it spilled over into the other squares even and choked out pepper plants I had planted nearby. So instead, I thought that I would plant more bush style green beans since I love them so much and I could space out the plantings, so I get beans apart from each other.
I started with two squares of Blue Lake bush green beans in one of my smaller boxes at the end of March and within a day or two, found holes dug up where I had planted! For square foot gardening, a square can take 9 bush type bean plants. So I stuck more bean seeds in the spaces that had been disturbed and a few days later, planted two new squares of 9 seeds each in the larger bed.
Couple days later, more holes dug. Both places. More seeds planted. Darned squirrels. I thought for sure there'd be no beans this year I tell ya, so when I saw the first set of beans finally poking through, minus only a few seedlings, and then shortly after that, the next sets were popping up, I was thrilled! Yay!
Last year, I ended up overcrowding my squares with too many bean plants that I then failed to divide, and then when they got so thick that I later tried to divide, I only ended up pulling everything out in frustration ... right about about the time I should have been harvesting beans. You see, beans apparently don't transplant well at all. Consequently, I had not a single decent green bean from my garden last year. I didn't make that mistake this year, so I'm looking forward to hopefully having a harvest this year.
For more about my square foot gardens, click here.
A one cup serving of green beans provides Vitamin A (15%), Vitamin C (30%), Calcium (4%), Iron (6%), 4 grams of fiber and about 34 calories.
Presoak beans in warm water for about 30 minutes for faster sprouting. Seeds should be planted in an area that receives no less than 6 hours of sunlight a day and should begin sprouting anywhere between 5 to 10 days, depending on how warm the weather is. Cold soil will shock beans, so the best soil temperature for beans to germinate is somewhere between 60 and 85 degrees. For continuous harvest, plant new squares about 2 weeks apart, throughout the spring and summer. Bush beans have a tendency to want to flop over. If yours are falling into adjacent squares, using a small plant support to hook or tie them to, or tie a thick string around the entire plant group to corral them together.
Beans should have regular watering - about one inch minimum per week - but don't let the soil dry out. Try to keep the leaves dry, so avoid overhead watering, since wet leaves encourage disease.
Common Problems and Pests
Aphids, Japanese and Mexican beetles, and wildlife (squirrels, deer, birds & rabbits). If the leaves on your plant begin to curl up and pucker, look for ants nearby. Ants are attracted to the honeydew excreted by aphids. For light infestations of aphids, at the first sign, begin treating plants with an insecticidal soap. You will know that you have beetles when you see holes appearing in the leaves. Use an approved insecticide to control beetles.
Bacterial blight, evidenced by brown spots on the leaves, or water-soaked spots on the pods, can be a problem with beans, but cannot be treated. Plants will need to be pulled up and destroyed. They can also be affected by mosaic disease, which turns plants a yellowish green and can hamper bean pod production. It also cannot be cured and plants will have to be destroyed. Don't put diseased plants into your compost - bag them and throw them away.
Beans need about 58 days for production before harvesting. Don't allow the beans to grow until the seeds bulge though because they will be past their prime and can also cause the entire plant to stop producing. Pick beans when they are still small and tender and pick regularly so they will keep producing. Cut the stems while holding the bean pod, and avoid pulling the plant. They don't keep well, so should be used or stored by freezing or drying immediately.
In exceptionally hot weather they may stop producing, but once the weather moderates, they will return to producing.
Beans are an excellent candidate for freezing. You can freeze them whole or cut them up into bite size pieces. Then blanch before freezing to kill bacteria and stop the ripening process by dropping them into a pot of water that is at a full rolling boil, cover and boil them for 4 minutes. Remove with a spider and transfer to a pot of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well, and lay out in a single layer on a pan covered with a towel to dry completely. Flash freeze on a lightly sprayed baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Double bag to avoid freezer burn or, even better, use a vacuum sealer.
You can also dry beans, but I've never done that before, so I'm afraid you're on your own there!
Here are my two primary gardening books - I highly recommend both but especially the "new" square foot gardening book, if you want to try this method of raised bed, square foot gardening.
Guide to Mississippi Vegetable Gardening - available for your state too! It's a perfect guide to tell you what to plant and what works best in your region, and also when to plant. I love this guide!
I am a simple home garden struggling through my failures and relishing in my successes. If you are thinking I am any kind of expert, you might want to read this little ole disclaimer right here.