Beans, snap

I grow beans, and most everything else, for taste alone. For me that means Blue Lake bush or pole beans, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, and Romano (Italian) pole beans. Customers ask for those by name more than any other, and I believe in Democracy..

Seed packets say to plant beans this far apart in a row, but that’s nonsense. A row of bean plants standing in a line like little soldiers is a sorry sight indeed. Instead I rake soil out to the sides of a shallow trench, one to two feet wide, maybe an inch or two deep, with the bottom nice and evenly flat. Then I wet my seed in a strainer and dump them in a plastic bag with some soil innoculant. This is a peat-based bacteria culture that encourages nitrogen-fixing and results in bigger plants and better yields. It’s cheap. The seeds I then drop thickly in the trench so close that many are touching. Legume seeds love company, I’ve learned, so here I throw out directions. (What fun.)

Cover the seed bed with an inch or so of soil that you raked out, moisten the bed and keep it moist until germination. What happens is this wide bed of beans will smother out germinating weeds while keeping the soil nice and moist. It also makes for easier picking since you don’t have to keep moving down a row. (Note: for supporting pole beans, see entry on “Trellising.”)

Mexican bean beetles can be a problem, but they’re what I call an end-crop pest, meaning they usually appear after you’ve harvested two or three crops from the same bed. Just pull up the bean plants and hot-compost them (see “Compost”). Then plant another crop.

You’ll get a ton of beans, so freeze those babies. Pick when the beans are young and tender, cut off the stem ends and cut into short pieces or lengthwise, place in boiling water for two minutes, then immediately cool in a pot of cold water. Label plastic freezer bags with item and date, fill with beans leaving a little head room, then squeeze or suck out as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn, and freeze. They’ll be good for months.

For a real treat, look up a recipe for old-fashioned “Dilly Beans,” and can them. They wake your mouth up, I’m here to tell you.

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About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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