Growing Peas in the Fall

Depending on where you live, growing peas in the fall can be a little tricky.

Growing Peas in the Fall

We love garden peas.  They are one of our favorite spring time treats.  There is nothing better than June harvested pea’s (Well okay, maybe August Tomatoes).  (For a complete growing guide for peas follow this link)

Many people don’t realize that they can be growing peas in the fall as well!  In fact, I’ve had many of my readers tell me that peas do better for them in the fall than their spring time plantings.  Those folks must have a much different type of fall than we have!  Our falls are often hot, dry and short!  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent crop of peas in the fall as well.  Just be prepared for a little more work and a much smaller harvest.

The key to a growing peas in the fall is the planting date!

Here’s how you find your planting date for fall peas.

  1. Take a look at the days to maturity on your seed packet.
  2. Add 10 more days to that total.
  3. Now find your expected 1st frost date.
  4. Count back from the frost date the number of days you came up with in step one.
  5. The result is your planting date for fall peas.

 

Note:  The extra 10 days is to allow for the decreasing amount of sun light in the fall

So let’s use my garden as an example:

Two of our favorite peas to grow are Sugar Snap Peas and Oregon Giant Snow Peas.

Growing Peas in the Fall

Both have a maturity date of 62 days.

Growing Peas in the Fall 5

So we add 10 days to that:  62 + 10 = 72 (days to maturity)

Our expected first frost for our area is October 1st.

Counting back 72 days we get – (September 30 days, August 31 days, July 11 days) – July 20th

So our expected planting date for these two varieties of peas would be no later that July 20th.

I have found there is very little wiggle room in this planting date!  Any later and the peas will not mature before the heavy frosts start showing up for us in October.

Use the same exercise as above to figure out your planting date for your area!

Here are a few other things for you to consider when Growing Peas in the fall:

Peas are a cool weather crop.  July is not cool weather and for us, neither is August.  This means that your growing pea plants are going to need extra attention.  They will require extra water and they would love a good thick layer of mulch to help keep them cool.  Try some good organic compost or even some grass clippings from your lawn as your mulch.  The mulch will help to keep the soil cool and moist.

Growing Peas in the Fall 2

The fact that your peas are doing most most of their “growing up” in the heat, means that your plants are NOT going to be as productive in the fall.  Expect to harvest 1/2 of what you would get in the spring time.  Be sure you are willing to sacrifice the space for less production.  But I often find peas are a great addition to fill up the little empty spots that normally show up in are garden as the summer progresses.

I can hear some of you out there grumbling at me!  I realize that not everyone has the hot, dry, short falls that we have. Many of you have wonderful long cool falls.  If you are blessed to be in an area like that, then you may very well find that your fall pea production is just as good as your spring (or even better).  But many of us will struggle with a fall crop, so be sure the space wouldn’t be better used planted with something else.

Growing Peas in the Fall 3

Also keep in mind that in the spring, peas are pretty frost and cold tolerant.  But this is when the plants are young.  This is why you can get away with planting peas so early in the fall.  But as the plants mature, flower and start to set peas they become less tolerant to frost.  So be prepared to offer them some protection from the frost.  This protection will come in the form of a heavy fabric row cover that you can throw over them in the evening and remove during the day.  Or even better you could put up a simple hoop house with some PVC and a little plastic (learn more here).

Growing Peas in the Fall 4

The declining sunlight is also a huge problem for fall pea production.  You are in a race against time (and fading sunlight). So if you want to be growing peas in the fall be sure to get them in by the planting date you calculated using the formula above.  You want your crop to mature before your day length drops much below 11:30 hours a day, for our latitude that happens roughly the 10th of October.  The later in the year you get, the less likely your crop will mature.

One other consideration is variety.  I have found it is much harder (but not impossible) to get shelling peas to maturity in the fall.  We have switched our fall plantings to Sugar Snap and Snow peas.  Why?  Because in both cases you can eat the immature pods.  So really all you need is to get those plants to the flowering stage and you are home free.  Every day past flowering means larger pods for you to eat.  If the weather holds you may be able to “shell” the sugar snap peas if you want, but in either case (sugar snap or snow) you can always eat the pods no matter the size, so you get something from your efforts.

So if you have some space in your garden that has opened up during July, a fall crop of peas is a great idea.  We always end up planting peas where our garlic was planted.  I’m sure you can find a spot you can use for Growing peas in the fall as well!

I’d love to hear from my readers on this post.  How many of you grow peas in the fall?  Any advice you’d like to share?  How about a variety you have found does extra well in the fall?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

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A Simple 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan

This post is part 3 of my series on crop rotation.  Today we are going to talk about my 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan.

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan Cover

I hope you have caught the first two posts in this 3 part series on crop rotation. If not you can read them here:
1. Vegetable Crop Families
2. The Importance of Crop Rotation

For those of you that haven’t read the other posts a quick summary of those two posts would be:

All crops (both veggies and fruits) belong to a family of related plants, those related plants use the same nutrients and have the same disease and pest problems.  If you plant the same crops (or crop families) in the same place in your garden, year after year.  Then you will deplete the soil of some specific nutrients and you risk a big build up of soil borne diseases and pests.

Everything I’ve ever been taught tells me that you should give a garden bed at least 3 years off from each plant family.  So the perfect rotation system would have you planting the same crop in the same bed every 4 years (that would give each bed 3 years off). So this 4 year Crop Rotation Plan is perfect!

This simple 4 year Crop Rotation Plan divides your garden into quarters!!

In this post I just want to take a quick minute and explain my 4 year crop rotation plan.  I will use my garden as the example, but you can use this system in almost any garden by dividing that garden into 4 sections.

So here’s my simple 4 year Crop Rotation Plan
My garden has 6 beds all 4 x 25 feet. Two of these beds are taken up by my strawberry, raspberry and blackberry patches.

That leaves me with 4 beds to plant all of my other crops!!
So my simple 4 year crop rotation plan goes like this.

4 year Crop Rotation Plan 1

I group plants together by family and come up with a plan that allows me to get everything in my garden that I want.  The diagram above is a little simplified, I grow more than just these crops, but this is enough to give you the right idea.
Then every year I plant all the same plants together, just the same as last year, but in a different bed.  In my case I move bed #1 down to the furthest south bed and then move the other beds up one to the north.

Year 2

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan

Year 3

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 3

Year 4

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 4

This simple rotation system means that every bed only sees the same crop every 4 years.

 

Now, if you want to add an additional twist to it, try this.

After the first 4 years of rotation, flip all the crops left to right. That means that in some cases, a spot in any particular bed will only see the same crop every 8 years or even every 12 years!

4 year Crop Rotation Plan 5

This system doesn’t have to be used just on gardens that have long rectangular beds.

I met a guy that has a garden that is perfectly square, he divides his garden into 4 quarters and does the exact same thing, rotating groups and families of plants around this garden in a 4 year cycle.

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan 6

And you can do the same even if you only have a small garden. Divide it into 4 and rotate crops!

4 Year Crop Rotation Plan7

This is a simple program, it’s easy to keep track of and it also makes planning where I’m going to plant everything in my garden a breeze!! It’s not perfect, my garden is not big enough that I can keep every family, perfectly separated every year. (The squash family is my problem because they take so much room) But it does assure that every bed (except my potato, tomato, pepper bed) doesn’t see plants form the same family for up to 8 years!

This 4 Year Crop Rotation Plan isn’t rocket science, but it does require keeping some records.  That is why I am such an advocate of keeping a garden journal.  Having last years (or the last 4 years) maps to look at really helps with your planning.  A garden journal also helps you keep track of how each crop did in each bed.  This allows you to make changes to your plan when needed.  To learn more about garden journals you can read this post.

I hope you enjoyed this series of posts.  Crop rotation is often over looked by many gardeners, especially new gardeners.  So take these plans and ideas that I have given you and apply them to your own garden.  Everybody’s garden is a bit different but if you apply the 1/4 concept to your garden, each of your garden beds will get at least 4 years off from any particular crop.  This will promote a vigorous, strong garden full of healthy balanced soil!!

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Year-Round Gardening Part 1- Why we grow a year-round garden.

Year-Round Gardening #1

Welcome to Part One of my Year-Round Gardening Series!

Over the next few weeks I will post some instructional articles on the “how to’s” of Year-Round Gardening.  Today I thought I would kind of set things up with a post about why we do Year-Round Gardening.

 

Our goal around Our Stoney Acres is to grow as much food as we can for ourselves.  This year is our 17th year with an official garden.  Each year our garden has gotten bigger as our skills (and lot size) improved.  We had messed around with a little bit of season extension for a few years.  Mostly that involved planting lettuce and peas in the early spring and again in the late fall and hoping for the best.

In 2008 I read that you could actually have a garden in the winter time, even in the cold northern climates like ours. This interested me so I did some more research and found a fantastic book.

The book is called Four-Seasons Harvest by Eliot Colemanwho is the world foremost guru on Year-Round Gardening.  I also learned that Year-round gardening involves a lot more than just growing things for the winter as well.  Year-round gardening is a whole new way of thinking about your garden.  Year-round gardening means you are constantly planning and planting so that 365 days of the year you have something to harvest from your backyard garden.

Sometimes you will hear the term winter gardening.  Winter gardening probably isn’t the best term for me to use, winter harvesting is better.  You really don’t need to do much actual gardening during the coldest part of the winter.  During the winter you really just harvest the plants that you bring to maturity in the late fall.

Year-Round Gardening Series Part 1

Hoop House Winter 2010

The key to year-round gardening is some planning and some simple protection to have fresh vegetables all year long.

Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  I read Four-Season Harvest in the late winter of 2009.  That spring we planted our normal garden and started harvesting the first radishes and lettuce about May 1st.  By building a few cold frames and hoop houses and applying what I learned in the book we have had something fresh we could eat from our garden every day since.  You read that right; we have had some kind of fresh produce available to us from our garden every day now for over 7 years (as of 2016)!!

Year-Round Gardening Series Part 1

Carrots and Pak Choi

So what kinds of vegetables are we talking about?  Our winter cold frames have mostly salad greens available.  We usually grow at least 2 or 3 types of lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, Mache and our favorite carrots.  All these vegetables are cool weather plants and they taste a ton better this time of year.  In fact the carrots will be the best you have ever tasted because the cold causes some of the starches to turn to sugars and they are sweet and delicious.  Over all there are 30 different crops you can grow in the winter time, some are a quite exotic others are some hardier version of what you are used to growing.  Most winter crops lean towards the “leafy greens” family.

Year-Round Gardening Series Part 1

Winter Carrots

But there is even more to year-round gardening than just the winter harvests.  By applying the year-round gardening principals you can extend the harvest of your crops late into the fall and even the early winter.  And with some added protection and some early planting and planning you will be having the earliest harvests you have ever had from your spring garden as well.

I’ve written a 9 part series that will introduce you to all the basic principals of year round gardening.  All 9 of the posts are listed below.  Every couple of years I update these posts with new information and updated experience.  When I do those updates I bring the publish dates forward on the blog so that everyone can see the updated posts.

Also my love for Year-Round Gardening has given me many chances to teach classes.  I’ve consolidated all these classes into one big 5 hour premium gardening course called Year-Round Gardening.  This class is currently on sale!  You get life time access to all the content on this course for only $25!!

YRG - Banner 640x525 copy

Check back over the next few days as I break down the details of what to plant, when to plant it and what to do to keep it growing when it’s 15 degrees outside.  We love Year-Round Gardening!!

**2016 Update:

Since I first wrote this series in 2012 it has proven to be one of my most popular group of posts, I’ve given it a bit of an update in 2016 adding a little more information and updating with a few new things I have learned.  The whole series is listed below:

 

 

If you are looking for a real in-depth and fun way to learn more about Year-Round Gardening then I’d love to have you buy my Year-Round Gardening Video Course.  Just follow this link or click on the image below to learn more!! 

Year Round Garden Video Course

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The Importance of Crop Rotation in the Home Garden

Crop Rotation

Almost every time I teach a gardening basics course I get asked about crop rotation.

The question almost always goes something like this:

“Is crop rotation something I really need to do? It’s such a pain in the neck and my tomatoes are doing great where they are.”

I always answer YES crop rotation is super important and then explain why. Then someone else pipes up:

“But I’ve been planting my tomatoes in the same place for 10 years and I’ve never had a problem.”

To which I respond, good for you, your one of the lucky ones, but your days are numbered!!

Did you know that just like humans, vegetables have families? No, there is no such thing as brother, sister or even Great Aunt Millie tomatoes. Instead vegetable families are plants that have similar traits and if you went back far enough often a common ancestor.

Related plants also have very similar growing and nutritional needs. They use up the same nutrients in the soil and are susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases. So if you plant the same family of plants, in the same spot year after year, after year that spot will develop pest, disease and soil nutrition problems. You don’t have to look any farther than today’s big commercial mono-crop farm system to see what planting the same crop in the same spot every year can do to the soil.

There are a lot of different plant families in the home garden (8 major ones and a bunch of smaller ones). The point of this article is not to detail each family. If you would like a full list of vegetable plant families you can go to this post where I detail all the applicable veggie families.

Instead this post is meant to teach you the why’s and how’s of home garden crop rotation.

There are three reasons why we rotate our crops in our home garden, no matter how small the garden.

Those 3 reasons are:

  1. Nutrient use
  2. Diseases
  3. Pests

The whys of crop rotation can be pretty complicated.  I think the easiest way to explain why crop rotation is so important is to give you some examples of specific crops.  I’m going to use 4 different crops to show you an example of why we do crop rotation. 1. Corn (Nutrient use) 2. Peas (Nutrient benefit) 3. Tomatoes (disease) 4. Spinach (Pests)

Example #1 – Corn Nutrient Use
First lets look at crop rotation of corn. Corn is in the Poaceae family. Corn has no other close relatives that we would normally grow in the home garden. In fact it is more closely related to your lawn than anything else in your garden. Corn is actually just a very large grass.

Corn - Crop Rotation

Corn is what we call a “heavy feeder”. This means that corn uses up a lot of nutrients in the soil, in particular nitrogen. So planting corn in the same spot for even 2 or 3 years, drastically depletes your soil nitrogen. Your soil needs time to recover from planting corn so you should rotate away for at least 3 years and take extra care to add back nitrogen to your soil after planting corn.  Nitrogen can be replenished organically by adding compost to the soil, planting high nitrogen cover crops or even by adding grass clippings to the soil.  Or even easier try Example #2!

Example #2 – Peas – Nutrient Benefit
Peas are in the Legume family. The Legume family also contains beans, clover and even peanuts.

Peas - Crop Rotation

The Legume family have very few problems and also have the amazing ability to be able to “fix nitrogen” from the air. This means that with the help of some special organisms in their root system they are able to add back nitrogen to the soil. So when you plant peas in a spot you can expect a nitrogen boost in the soil. Plants that follow peas will see the benefits of this added nitrogen. So you can rotate peas around your garden to help improve your soil.

Example #3 – Tomatoes (Diseases)
Tomatoes are part of the Solanace family which includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and egg plant. All of these plants are susceptible to many blight, bacterial and viral diseases.

Tomato - Crop Rotation

Most of these diseases are soil borne. If you plant any of this veggie family in the same spot year after year you risk a build up of these diseases in your soil, which will infect new plants that you put in the area.  Sound crop rotation principals tell us that we should rotate this family of plants out of the same spot for 3 or even 4 years!

Example #4 – Spinach (Pest Problem)

Spinach is part of the Amaranth family which includes spinach, beets and Swiss chard.

Spinach - Crop Rotation

In our area all of this family are very susceptible to leaf miners. The adult version of this pesky bug lays eggs on the underside of the spinach leaves. The eggs hatch and the larva burrows inside the leaves of the plant destroying the leaf. Eventually the larva fall to the ground and hide in the soil. Next year they emerge as adults and start the process all over. Planting this family of veggies In the same spot year after year will cause such a build up of these pests and you will never get free of them, they can destroy a whole bed of spinach pretty quickly. So you need to rotate that crop, far from where it was planted last year.

There are just 4 of the many examples that can be given that show the importance of crop rotation.

Ideally it would be best to plant all one family in a bed and then not plant that same family in the same bed for at least 3 years. But even with a medium sized garden that can be a bit difficult.

I’ve worked out a 4 year crop rotation system that should work really well for just about any sized garden (even small ones). The last post in this crop rotation series will give you a quick breakdown of how this system works so that you can apply it to your garden as well.

Other Posts in this Crop Rotation Series:

1.  Vegetable Crop Families

2.  4 year Crop rotation plan

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Crop Rotation

Garden Crop Rotation – Vegetable Crop Families

Vegetable Crop Families

Over the next week or so I will be posting 3 articles on the importance of crop rotation.  In this first of the three I want to talk about Vegetable Crop Families.

Garden crops can be broken into Vegetable Crop Families.  A “family” in this case refers to a group of plants that share common traits and botanical lineage.  Basically the plants are “related”.  Plants in the same vegetable crop families have similar characteristics, use many of the same nutrients, and are susceptible to many of the same diseases and pests.

The purpose of this post is to give you a list of all the major important vegetable crop families and their members.  I will also try to include a little about each of the vegetable crop families and some common problems, etc. associated with each family.  You can use this post as a guide as you begin your crop rotation plan.

Family Name:  Fabaceae (Also Leguminosae)

Common Name:  Legumes

Members:

  • Peas
  • Fava Beans
  • Runner Beans
  • Green Beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Peanuts

Vegetable Crop Families 1

The Fabaceae family are a pretty care free lot.  Given good soil and proper water they should be pretty easy for you to grow.  There are a few soil borne viral or bacterial diseases that will effect this family and a few common pests.  But unless you have really bad luck this family should be easy to grow.  All of the members of the Fabaceae family have the added benefit of enriching your soil with added nitrogen.  A bacteria that grows in the root system of these plants actually “fixes” nitrogen from the air, supplying your peas or beans with all the nitrogen they need and adding nitrogen to your soil as well.

Family Name:  Solanaceae

Common Name:  Nightshade

Members:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants

Vegetable Crop Families 2

The Solanaceae family is one of the most popular and important families in home gardening.  Nearly all of the plants in this family originated in the tropical climates of central and south America.  That means they like moist fertile soil.  They also have many pests and diseases in common.  This makes crop rotation extra important for this family.  In fact, if for no other reason, the Solanaceae families need for rotation means you have to get a crop rotation system going in your garden!

Family Name:  Brassicaceae

Common Name:  Cole or Brassica

Members:

  • Cabbages
  • Chinese Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi
  • Rutabagas
  • Radishes
  • Cresses

Vegetable Crop Families 3

The Brassicaceae family is one of the families where the “family resemblance” is really apparent.  Look closely at each member of this family and you will see what I mean.  In fact if you really want to see how similar they are, take a look at them as 10 day old seedlings.  Before the true leave start to form these guys all look the same.  This family has many diseases in common, but even more pests!  Rotation of these crops around your garden is essential!

Family Name:  Apiaceae (Also sometimes called Umbelliferae)

Common Name: None

Members:

  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Fennel
  • Also some herbs like parsley & caraway

Vegetable Crop Families 4

The Apiacea family for me at least is fairly easy to deal with in the rotation.  I mostly only grow Carrots & Celery from this family and neither really takes up a ton of space.  So it is fairly easy to bounce these around in different areas of the garden.

Family Name:  Chenopodiaceae (Also Amaranthaceae)

Common Name:  Amaranth

Members:

  • Beets
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach (Including New Zealand Spinach)

Vegetable Crop Families 5

This family is not a really big group, but is also one where you can really see the family resemblance.  The leaves of this family, especially when young look very much alike.  These plants have some pests in common, but are not heavily effected my and plant diseases.  Rotation of this family should be very simple as they can all be grown close together in the same bed!

Family Name: Amarylidaceae

Common Name:  Allium

Members:

  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Leeks
  • Garlic (Technically garlic isn’t part of this family, but you treat is as if it is)

Vegetable Crop Families 6

It’s funny to think that Onions and Aspargus are cousins.  That’s a pairing that doesn’t match up in my mind.  Although Garlic is technically an herb, I put it in this family as I treat it and rotate it around my garden with my onions.

Family Name:  Asteraceae (Also Compositae)

Common Name:  None

Members:

  • Chicory
  • Lettuce
  • Endives
  • Salsify
  • Sunflower
  • Dandelion
  • Artichokes (Globe & Jerusalem)
  • Cardoons
  • Mache (also know as corn salad or Lamb’s Lettuce)

Vegetable Crop Families 7

There is some pretty big variation in this family.  Hard to picture an lettuce plant and an Artichoke being related, but they are!!  This family is fairly easy to work into any rotation and really don’t have a lot of problems growing in good fertile soil.

Family Name:  Cucurbitaceae

Common Name: Gourd or Squash

Members:

  • Pumpkins
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash (Winter)
  • Squash (Summer)
  • Melons

Vegetable Crop Families 8

One of my favorite families to grow!  This family has a lot of common pests and diseases and rotation is a must!

Family Name:  Miscellaneous others

Members:

  • Sweet or Pop Corn – Poaceae
  • Okra – Malvaceae
  • Rhubarb –

Vegetable Crop Families 9

These 3 garden goodies are all the only members of their respective families that we regularly cultivate in our gardens.  That does not mean you don’t have to rotate.  Rhubarb, being a perennial stays put for a lot of years, but the other two should be rotated around your garden as part of your normal rotation process.

Well I hope this post helps!  This should give you some ideas of what is related to what and help you to start building a crop rotation plan using Vegetable Crop Families.

For more info on crop rotation you can check out the following posts: (links will go live when the post is finished)

Why should I rotate my Garden Crops

My 4 year Crop Rotation plan

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It’s June, what can I still plant in my garden?

This post originally appeared as a guest post on The Survival Mom!

What can i plant in June?

Even the most avid gardeners have a bad year! Any number of things can keep you out of the garden in April and May, weather problems, work commitments, family problems . . . we’ve all been there. But don’t give up on your garden just yet. There are still plenty of yummy veggies you can get planted now (in mid to late June) and get a nice harvest before the summer ends. Let’s talk about what you can still get planted now and also talk about a few things that you can wait on and plant in about 5 or 6 weeks (Around August 1st for most of us).

Summer or Warm Season Veggies:

Tomatoes – No summer garden is complete without a few tomato plants and you can still get some in. Hurry on this one! Most nurseries will still have a few tomato plants hanging around but they wont last much longer (don’t try to plant tomatoes by seed this time of year) This late in the year you want to be thinking about smaller quicker maturing varieties. Try some type of cherry tomato (varieties to look for include sun sugar, and sweet 100), they are relatively fast growers and should still give you a good harvest in September and early October. You can also try some of the tomatoes that produce small to medium sized fruit (think varieties like early girl, possibly Celebrity, or many of the Roma tomatoes). Try to find tomatoes that grow on determinate vines (vs Indeterminate) as these will spent less time growing vines and more time growing fruit. The 6 weeks you have lost in growing time means you won’t have a huge harvest this year, but if you get them in soon you should still have plenty for fresh eating!

Summer Squashes – Zucchini and yellow crook neck squash are actually quite fast growing. Look for varieties that have a maturity date of around 60 to 70 days and you should still have lots of time to grow more zucchini that you can eat! You could also look for a patty pan squash with a short maturity date.

IMG_0109

Green beans – Most bush type green beans have a maturity date of around 60 to 70 days so there is plenty of summer left for beans. In fact I don’t make my last planting of green beans until mid July and still have a great harvest!

Melons – if you would still like to plant a melon you have a little bit of time left. But choose the small “ice box” types as those take much less time to mature. You can also get cantaloupe planted now. Again don’t expect a huge harvest this year, but you will still have a few melons that will be ready before the frost comes.

Potatoes – If you can find the seed still around at your local nurseries there is time to grow a nice crop of potatoes. In fact you could continue to plant potatoes until mid July in most areas of the country and still get a nice harvest of small roasting potatoes. This time of the year I would stay away from the big “baking” potatoes, like russets. As you are running short of time to get them to maturity.

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Cucumbers – Cucumbers are a good late season planter. Again you may not get the huge yields you are used to but by planting seeds now you can still have a fairly respectable crop.

Onions – If you can still find a package of onion sets at your local nursery they will do okay this time of year. You won’t get a lot of large onions but you will have plenty of smaller onions and green onions. Don’t try growing onions from seed or starts this late in the year.

Herbs – Many herbs will still do well if planted this time of year. But it would be best of you could find starts, instead of trying to plants seeds.

Cool Weather Veggies

You can still have an awesome harvest of cool weather veggies by planning now to get them planted in late summer and early fall. Nearly anything you would normally plant in the spring time you can also plant in the fall.

Cole Crops – Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi. If you grow your own seedlings mid June is a good time to start a fall crop of all these yummy cool season veggies. If you plant any of the Cole crops indoors now, they will be ready for planting out in the garden in about 6 to 8 weeks. That means you will be planting them around mid August and they will mature in October when the weather has cooled back to those temperatures that Cole crops love so much! You may find many of these veggies are even tastier in the fall because a night or two of frost helps to sweeten the flavor.

Lettuce – You can start replanting lettuce about 6 to 8 weeks before your first frost (for us that’s August 1 – 15). Fall planted lettuce can last unprotected in your garden until early December depending on where you live.

Fall Lettuce

Spinach – Most people see spinach as a spring only crop, but it does very well in the fall! Again look at planting about 6 weeks before your first frost and you will be able to start harvesting in late October. Then cover those plants with a cold frame or hoop house and they will over winter for an extra early spring crop.

Root Crops – Carrots, turnips, beets and radishes all do well in the fall and you can start replanting them around 6 weeks before your last frost.

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So as you can see, all is not lost, get out there this weekend and gets some seeds and plants in your garden and you can still have an awesome harvest this year!

Would you like to learn more about starting your own seeds or gardening year round? Please consider taking one or both of my on line video courses. They are both on sale to thank The Survival Mom for allowing me to guest post on her site!!

Seed Starting Simplified – Only $20.00 for 3 hours of instruction!

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Year Round Gardening – $30.00 gets you more than 5 hours of classes!

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How To Grow Green Beans

How To Grow Green Beans

Learning How to Grow Green Beans is a super important garden skill.  Green beans (some times called runner beans or String Beans) are one of the highlights of a summer garden. Beans are high in fiber, low in calories and are a good source of vitamin C. But beyond the nutritional benefits of home grown beans is their superior taste!!

The beans you buy in a store (weather fresh, frozen or canned) are breed for once reason, and that reason is to allow them to be processed easily! Commercial plant breeders are not really fussed with taste, they just want them to ship and process easily!!

Not so with garden grown beans. These are one of the tasty high points of the summer garden for me!! Although you usually hear them called “green” beans, the colors definitely don’t have to be limited to green! There are several shades of purple available out there along with several different colors of yellow (often called wax beans). Varieties include slender French style beans, string-less varieties, even yard long beans! So the sky is the limit with this fantastic summer time crop!

Let’s take a look at what types of green beans there are out there and how to grow green beans!

Varieties

There are two primary types of green beans: pole or bush. Let’s talk about each.

Bush Beans

Bush beans are compact plants that grow between 1 to 2 feet tall. The main advantage of bush beans is how quickly they produce. Many varieties will start producing in as little as 60 days. This is great because you can plant very late in the year and still get a harvest! Many years I plant bush beans as late as July 15th (that’s only about 75 days before our first frost) and still get a super good harvest. The average bush bean variety will produce 10 t 14 days sooner than a pole bean.

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Another advantage of bush beans is the huge variety of colors and sizes they come in! There are easily 50 different types of bush beans in colors ranging green to yellow to purple! It is very easy to tuck a few bush beans into an out of the way (but sunny) corner of your garden. Some years we have bean scattered all over the place.

The biggest disadvantage of bush beans is how much you can harvest from them. Expect to get only 60% of the harvest in the same space from bush beans than what you would expect from a pole variety. The harvest from bush beans also doesn’t last nearly as long either. Only about 3 weeks per plant.

Pole Beans

Pole beans get their name from the fact that they need a “pole” to grow on. Pole beans grow vines that can be as long as 8 to 10 feet and those vines need support. The traditional method is to use tall wooden poles that the beans will climb up, hence the name pole bean. But really any form of trellis will work well for growing pole beans.

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The main advantage of pole beans is the increased harvest per plant. As I stated earlier the ration is around 60% for bush beans. So a spot that grows 10 pounds of pole beans, would grow around 6 pounds of bush beans. Also for those of you with back problems, you will love not having to bend over to pick pole beans.

I also think that having trellises of pole beans adds an huge amount of visual interest to a garden. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love to see a pretty trellis covered in vines, flowers and beans. Bean trellises turn another wise bland garden, into a fun, interesting feature of your yard.

Planting Beans

The best soil for beans is fertile well drained soil with a PH of between 6 and 7, but don’t let your soil conditions stop you, beans are pretty hardy and will do well in most soil types. But if you can I would suggest amending the soil before hand with some organic material, like a good rich compost.

Beans are a warm season crop and cannot tolerate frost. So it is important to hold off on planting until all worries of frost are gone. Beans also need a soil temperature of at least 60 degrees to germinate but would prefer 70. You can test this buy purchasing a simple and inexpensive Soil Themometer . Covering your bed with plastic for a week or two before planting can quickly bring the soil temperature up as well.

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Both bush and pole beans do best if seeds are directly sown in the soil. You can start your seeds indoors and transplant out, but in all but the coldest climates this is over kill. Beans do just fine being planted directly in the soil and allowed to germinate outdoors.

Sun is a must for beans. Choose a sunny spot that gets at least 8 hours of sun, but they will do much better if you choose a spot with 10 to 12 hours of sun in the summer time.

Plant seeds 1 to 1-1/2 inches deep and roughly 2 inches a part, once the seeds are germinated it may be necessary to thin bush beans to about 4 inches apart and pole beans to about 6 inches.

Beans are the perfect crop to succession plant! Planting a small amount of beans every 2 weeks until mid summer (About 60 to 75 days before your first fall frost) will ensure a continuous supply of fresh beans all summer long!!

Beans are also a great crop to consider inter-planting with other crops. Try radishes, carrots or even lettuce to help utilize the extra space.

Care while Growing

Beans are fairly easy for most of us to care for. Once the plants are up a few inches, it is a good idea to thin if needed. Usually around 4 inches between plants is sufficient, I have found a few places that recommend 6 inches for pole beans, but I have found four inches to be plenty.

Beans are fairly drought tolerant, but they will produce much better if they are kept moist while the plants are flowering and the beans are growing. So plan on giving them some water. Some times you will notice that your beans are a bit “stringy”, meaning that when you eat them they have long fibrous “strings” running through the bean. Most modern varieties of beans are fairly string-less so if you notice stringiness that means the plants may be suffering from heat stress. Try increasing the amount of water you are giving them, and consider mulching around the base of the plants to help keep them cool.

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Always try to water in the morning, this is especially the case if you are using overhead watering (sprinklers). Moisture on the leaves can promote disease issues, so if you water during the day the leaves will dry out faster.

Many soil borne diseases can be transmitted when the soil “splashes” on to the leaves. This can be prevented (or at least minimized) by mulching around the plant. That will keep splashing to a minimum and will also help keep the soil cool and help the soil to not dry out as quickly. Drip irrigation along with mulching almost eliminates soil splash, so if you can use a drip system.

Beans have a fairly shallow root system, so you need to be very careful when you are cultivating the soil around the plants. I would suggest pulling weeds by hand versus using a hoe around bean plants.

Beans really don’t need much in the way of fertilizer. If you are taking care of your garden soil each year by adding compost and other organic mater you really shouldn’t need to add fertilizer.

In fact beans have the amazing ability to pull nitrogen from the air and “fix” it in their root system. Because of this I never pull up the roots of my bean plants. At the end of the season I simply cut the plants off at ground level leaving the roots in the ground. In most gardens you will find the soil richer and improved after planting beans. What ever crop I plant the year following a bean crop does extra well because of the added nitrogen in the soil.

Harvesting

You know your harvest is on the way once you see flowers setting on your bean plants. Shortly after you see flowers you will start to see tiny little beans growing. Keep a close eye on them, they will grow quicker than you might think!

Pick beans while they are still young and tender. You should pick them before seeds start forming inside the pod, while they are still slender and tender.

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Pick often! The more you pick the more beans the plants will produce. Avoid letting any of your beans get too large and start developing seeds inside the pod. This seed development signals the plants to focus on growing the seeds, so they will stop producing additional flowers and more beans. I would suggest that you pick your beans daily, that way none of the beans get away from you and slow down your production.

Most bush beans will have a harvest period of around 3 weeks from the first beans to the last bean picked. Pole beans on the other hand if managed correctly will produce for as long as 8 weeks! So keep after that harvesting, the more beans you harvest (and the sooner) the more you will ultimately have!

Most of the official University sites tell us that you can expect 75 pounds of beans per 100 feet of plants from Bush beans and 125 pounds per 100 feet for pole beans. I’ve always found those types of numbers a little worthless because I don’t have 100 feet to plant!!! But I have found that a 4 x 8 foot bed of bush beans will give you around 20 pounds of beans, the same bed planted with pole beans will give around 30 pounds.

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Fresh picked beans will last about 2 weeks in the fridge, that gives you a little time to eat them up or to build up enough supply to do some canning or freezing.

Preserving

Our favorite method of preserving beans is freezing. It is much quicker and a lot less work to do it that way!!

Here’s a link to our post on freezing green beans

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Canning is also a very popular method for preserving beans. But it is a lot more work and you MUST use a pressure canner to preserve them. Here are a few resources for canning green beans:

http://www.gracegardenandhomestead.com/how-to-can-green-beans/

http://www.growforagecookferment.com/lacto-fermented-dilly-beans/

http://commonsensehome.com/dilly-beans/

http://www.simplycanning.com/green-bean.html

http://thesurvivalmom.com/try-today-can-green-beans-pressure-canner/

http://foodstorageandsurvival.com/how-to-can-green-beans-the-illustrated-guide/

Beans can also be dried in a food dryer or freeze dryer. Here are a few links to posts from fellow bloggers on drying green beans:

http://www.simplycanning.com/dehydrating-green-beans.html

https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/2013/11/late-season-kitchen-activity/

http://foodstorageandsurvival.com/dehydrating-green-beans/

http://foodstorageandsurvival.com/using-and-cooking-with-dehydrated-green-beans/

 

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