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Brilliant Purple Long Bean, Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis

Splendid Long Beans grown by Green Team Farm in Salt Lake City, Utah.

That title is just a bunch of names for a lot of fun! Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis, is a subspecies of the cowpea, grown around the world. It is a pleasure to grow, every inch of the way!

Long beans have a distinct flavor all their own you may need to get used to. Since they are a heat loving bean, I wait to plant mine in June after my other beans are producing. The long beans come in later when the other beans are finishing and long beans don’t mind the last of summer heat. Just when I’m getting tired of the regular beans, there come my Long beans, tweaking my palate!

If you have a good hot summer, they grow that impossible 16 to 20″ fast and prolifically, great production per square foot! Grow them in full sun and overnight, you will get oodles of Noodles! Depending on your soil and how many you plant, you can harvest handfuls almost daily! You will be giving them away to people with an adventurous palate to delighted oohs and ahhs! Don’t neglect daily harvest when they are at peak season, or your plant will think it is done and stop producing.

Luscious Varieties!

Long beans are grown everywhere and there are a lot of kinds of them! They are grown extensively in Asia and India. Per ‘KnowYourVegetables’ Long beans are a traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable land-care.

They come in pink and yellow. Green, red, purple, or all these three colors in one bean in the variety Mosaic! Mosaic seed can be purchased from Kitazawa Seed Company of Oakland CA.

The Spruce recommends these varieties for various reasons!

  • Liana: A day-neutral variety that starts producing early in the season. It is also recommended as a fall crop in warm climates. (70 days)
  • Purple podded: Good for hot seasons. Retains most of its color when stir-fried. (90 days)
  • Red noodle: Similar to purple podded, but more flavorful with a crunchier texture. (95 days)
  • Stickless wonder: An unusual dwarf variety [that means it can be a container variety!]. The vines only grow to about 30 inches tall and do not need trellising. Plants start flowering early (40 days) but, like many bush beans, they don’t have as long a season as taller vining varieties. (54 days)
  • Yard long (white seeded, black seeded, red seeded, extra long): Often you will only find seed packets labeled as Yard Long Beans, but there are subtle differences between varieties. Any of the green varieties would be a good place to start experimenting. (90 days)

If your planting area is a 6 hours of sun area or your weather is unseasonably cool, it will take longer for production to start and your season will likely be shorter, so plant earlier if possible. Do your research for early varieties and ones that don’t get or are mildew resistant.

Prolific crop of Green Long Beans! Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis

Prolific crop of Green Long Beans!

PLANTING AND CARE

Companions Beans don’t mind sharing but not with onion family plants. Instead, put cucumbers at their feet, and trellis the cukes too. Keeps them clean and free of ground insects. Add some radishes to discourage Cucumber beetles – those cute little green with black dots insects. Remove them instantly. Squish, stomp, whatever it takes. Bad news, they carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus. White potatoes repel Mexican Bean Beetles. Put potatoes on both sides of your trellis.

Soil The variety of soil needed is not strict, but well-drained soil is good. Organic matter is good, but not too much Nitrogen since as a legume, they make their own! Too much and you get leaf, no to few beans. Plant seeds about 1 inch deep about 6 inches apart. In warm zones, you can plant 2 to 3 times, at 2-week intervals, and is definitely a late summer or fall crop. Keep them moist. Fertilize as needed.

Believe me, a vertical support, trellis, wire, fence, are good for a clean harvest, otherwise your beans are on the ground, and they aren’t always easy to see among the foliage and you are stepping on them! Put your trellis up when you plant! The babies can grow quickly making it difficult to install your support system later.

Once your seedlings are up with 2 to 4 leaves, give them the royal treatment ASAP! One regular Aspirin, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. While you are at it, add a 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk and Tablespoon of Baking Soda as well. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Nonfat powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores – that’s MILDEW, the nemesis of beans that aren’t resistant! Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zukes, any mildew prone plant like zucchini. Use a watering can that has a rose (nozzle) that turns upward to get the undersides of leaves as well as their tops. Prevention is better than a remedy, believe me. So feel free to treat your babies after rains, once a week or as often as you can if you just can’t do once a week.

Beans are legumes, and legumes grab N, Nitrogen, right out of the air and deposit in little nodules on their roots! But. They are enthusiastic heavy producers, so a little light feeding of liquid fish/kelp mix is good at flowering time, maybe every couple of weeks. A Tablespoon in a full watering can, and later in the season too if you see the leaves yellowing. They are hungry. If you get lots of leaf and no flowers, lay off the N; rebalance your soil by adding some P, Phosphorous. P is for rapid growth, strong roots, more flower, fruit, and seed production.

Long Beans bloom in lovely pairs. Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis

Once you get blooms, tiny beans will soon be forming. Sometimes they aren’t quite strong enough, for example when the weather is cooler, and aren’t able to push the bloom off. Give the flower a little tug and the bean will be free!

Keep your beans harvested or your plant will think it has done its job and stop producing. Harvest while they are more young for tender, crunchy juicy beans – snap! Be a little careful when harvesting so you don’t damage your plantie and open it to diseases.

Pests & Diseases

Bless aphids. Hose them off or use a spray mix that kills them and the ants but not your plant! Just test that mix on a leaf or two to know if your plant can tolerate it. I use a 1/2 and 1/2 water/alcohol mix with a dash to a 1/2 t liquid dish soap, preferably Dawn. I kill the aphids and the ants that support them. Spray sparingly.

The Mexican Bean Beetle is a species of lady beetle, looks like one too. It is a notorious agricultural pest, one of the few lady beetles that feed on plants rather than other insects. They are yellowish-brown, 1/4-inch beetles with 16 black spots on their wing covers. They bother green beans more than Long beans. Growing your rows of beans between rows of potatoes helps. See all about them at Mother Earth News!

The other bean pest is white flies. Ugh. Spray those little buggers away with your hose and invite them to not come back! Check daily until they are GONE. See IPM

Mildew is a common disease, but there are varieties that have NO mildew at all. This was proven to me when two kinds of green long beans were grown at our community garden at the same time, 16′ away from each other. We had a Chinese gardener and a Vietnamese gardener. At the time I had no particular interest in long beans, and didn’t know the significance of the difference. Oh, how I wish I had. I would have gotten the names of the varieties. One of them had no mildew whatsoever! I highly recommend you search for the mildewless varieties! See the prevention mix above!

Delicious Red Noodle Long Beans! Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalisHarvests! There are two kinds!

First are those tasty fresh handfuls you carry to the kitchen!

Second is at the end of the season when you save seeds from your healthiest monster producing plants! They are the most localized to your garden space and you. It’s as simple as waiting for the pods to dry on the vine, collecting the seeds, and completely drying them again, well before storing in jars in a cool place. Check on those jars a week or two later to be sure no insects have hatched.

Plentiful GOOD FOOD!

Nutritious! Beans are high in fiber, have diverse antioxidant carotenoids, give a quarter of your day’s requirements of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for healthy bones and blood clotting, and are a good source of absorbable silicon.

Long Beans are luscious and can be prepared variably to your happiness! They taste good right off the vine, young and slender or chop dropped in a cool summer salad with a special dressing! They are yummy lightly steamed, buttered or drizzled with olive oil, or a sauce of your choosing. Chop in very short sections, add to omelettes. Chop in 2″ diagonal sections for soups, stews! Pickle or go probiotic! Go Southern-style with ham or bacon and butter, roasted, chilled in salads, stir fried or sautéed with sauces and garlic! Hungry?! Mix ’em in your mashed potatoes or with fermented bean curd! Add them to breakfast omelets or a special quiche!

Super tasty International Options! You can use your long beans interchangeably with green beans, but they give dishes that different mysterious flavor that Long Beans have! Snake River Seed Cooperative says ‘Delicious, uniquely flavored beans add authenticity to Asian stir fries and curries. A staple in Thai curries, they’re also delicious lightly steamed on their own.’ Try in the popular Szechuan dish ‘Dryfried Beans.’ In Malaysia, they are stir fried with chillies and shrimp paste (sambal) or put in cooked salads (kerabu). In the Philippines yardlong beans are usually boiled, cooked in coconut milk with cubes of squash, or cooked adobo style with soy sauce and optionally a meat like pork. Try all these recipes! Freeze some for quick tasty winter meals!  

May your Long Beans be Many and Long!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Feeling inspired? Get the word out! Sharing is caring ~

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Cucurbit Hand Pollination with Brush

In optimal conditions insects, mainly bees, pollinate our veggies. Wind works for some plants. Other times due to weather or stresses, humans help!

Wind-pollinated veggies

such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, at exactly the right frequency! More pollen is released and pollination is more efficient. It’s called BUZZ POLLINATION! About 11 AM, when the male flower anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can improve your tomato, eggplant and pepper production by giving the cages they are in or the main stems of your plants a few sharp raps, or gently shake the stems, to help the flowers self pollinate. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen.

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, or other Solanaceae, so build solitary bee condos for native bees. Native bees, per Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth, are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. A Jan 2019 UK study says pollination by wild bees yields larger strawberries than pollination by honey bees! This led them to say it’s worth it to make habitat for them!

The very best Solanaceae pollinator is a Bumblebee!!! See more! Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!


Video Produced by Joshua Cassidy

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

And, did you know Flowers can hear buzzing bees—and it makes their nectar sweeter!

While you are helping your tomatoes pollinate, if you are growing them in cages, also very gently help them up through the cages. Remove any bottom leaves that might touch the ground when weighted with water. Remove any diseased leaves ASAP!

Pollination Cucurbits Male Female Flowers     Pollination by Hand Cucurbits Male Stamen to Female Stigma

Pollination of Cucurbits by hand. In left image, male flower on left, female right.

Squashes, melons and monoecious cucumbers

can easily be hand pollinated. Cukes are notorious for needing help being fertilized! Cucurbits have male and female blooms on the same plant. If there are not enough pollinators about, we need to help. Also, multiple visits from the bees are required for good fruit set and properly shaped cucumbers. Male flowers open in the morning and pollen is only viable during that day. Hand pollinate during the morning hours, using only freshly opened flowers. You can use a small pointy paint brush, a cotton swab, Q-tip, your finger, and move pollen from the male stamen to the center of the female flower. Or the best, most complete method is to take the male flower off the plant, pull the petals off, and gently roll the male flower anther around and over the female stigma in the center of the female flower. The pollen is sticky, so it may take some time. One male anther can pollinate several females. Repeat. Female blooms will simply drop off the plant if they are not pollinated. So when your cukes are in production, you need to do this daily.

Don’t be confused by the little fruit forming under the female flowers and think pollination has already happened. The flower needs to be fertilized, and adequately, or the flower and fruit just fall off. Flowers not pollinated enough, that don’t abort, make misshapen fruits. That goes for corn having irregular to lacking kernels. Misshapen Strawberries are called cat-faced. Squash and cucumbers can be deformed. On an unwindy day, tilt the stalk so the corn tassels are over the silks and tap the stalk. You will see a shower of pollen fall on the silks. You may need to do it from one plant to another so you don’t break the stalk trying to get the pollen to fall on silks on the same plant.

Planting a lot of plants close together stresses plants. At higher densities, plants compete for water, nutrients, and sunlight, and the resulting stress can lead to a higher proportion of male flowers, less female flowers, the ones that produce. If you really want more fruit, give them room to be fruitful. The same goes for other stresses – damage from insects or blowing soil, low light intensities, or water stress – less female flowers are produced.

Weather affects pollination. Sometimes cool overcast days or rain, when bees don’t fly, there is no pollination. Rain washes pollen away. High humidity makes pollen sticky and it won’t fall. Drought is a problem for corn pollination. Too high nighttime temps, day temps 86°F and above, will keep your tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables from making pollen or setting fruit unless they are high temp tolerant varieties. Too windy and the pollen is blown away.

If it is your cucumbers that are not pollinating well each year, try parthenocarpic varieties. Parthenocarpic varieties produce only female flowers and do not need pollination to produce fruit. This type of cucumber is also seedless. Try a few varieties and see if you like them.

Pollinator Habitat is crucial! Most important of all is to plant flowers for every season possible in your area, near or right beside your plants, make those bee homes for wild bees! From Cornell: Native bees are two to three times more effective than honeybees! However, if weather isn’t with you or other stressful conditions occur, hand pollinating is the answer.

May your Veggie Basket be overflowing!

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The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

 

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Veggies Summer Harvest Bounty

For those of you who planted early spring, many of your plants are now finishing. It’s time to save seeds from your best plants! Clear space and ready soil for mini nursery seed beds in your garden or for transplanting from local nursery starts as soon as they become available.

Just getting started in a new garden, or you just love to plant?! Summer plants you can still plant for fall harvests are early varieties of determinate tomatoes, beans (bush beans are faster) and corn. Corn is more disease prone at this time though. Tuck in your year-round fillers, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, winter radish, to keep a colorful and delicious variety for your table.

ONIONS For the biggest, sweetest harvests, late summer and early fall are the prime times to sow seeds of short- or intermediate-day onions. Fall-sown short- and intermediate-day onions tend to yield more and are larger and sweeter than those seeded or transplanted in early spring.  Onions have stupendous flavor and come in white, yellow, red!

In our hot Santa Barbara foothills and further south, watch your melons, big squashes and pumpkins for their best harvest time – when their stem is brown and dry, or they are ready to ‘slip’ off the vine. Hold off irrigating melons about a week before they will ripen so their sugars will concentrate. Harvest okra while it is small and tender – bigger is NOT better! Let your winter squash harden. When you can’t push your fingernail in it, it’s ready.

Keep up with harvesting so plants don’t quit producing. More about harvesting! As in July, keep up with watering just beyond that dripline, replenish mulch.

If you are extending your season, give your favorite late summer/fall heavy producers you are keeping a good feed to extend their harvests. Eggplants have a large or many fruit, beans put out a ton of beans, tomatoes are big and working hard, peppers can be profuse! They like a tad of chicken manures scratched in, bunny poop and straw (pick up at Animal Shelters), well aged horse manure and compost makes them dance with the faeries in the night time!

Fertilizers highest in P, Phosphorus, keep blooming and fruiting optimum. Now is the time you wish you had added mycorrhizae fungi, the good guys, at planting time, to enhance Phosphorus uptake! Aged organic compost makes for healthy roots that make their own natural organic phosphoric acid that helps break down compounds of calcium and phosphate into a usable, soluble form. Digging it in now breaks the established feeder root network. It’s also too late to add bonemeal or guanos. They take 2 and 4 months respectively to become available to your plants. They are another must add at planting time. NOW, Phosphorus from fish bone meal 3-18-0 is easily taken up! So is chicken manure 1.1-0.8-0.5, but the P is a lot less. Scratch it in lightly, but only around your plant in spots. You want to leave the majority of the lateral feeder root system intact. The feeder roots not only supply your plant with food, but also with water so needed in late summer in SoCal.

  • Peppers specially like a foliar feed of non-fat powdered milk (Calcium) and Epsom Salts (Magnesium & Sulfur). They also can use more Potassium. This time of year kelp meal is good source and releases quickly. If you have predators about, don’t get the kind mixed with stinky fish emulsion.
  • Foliar feed all your plants with a super mixed tea – no manure in teas you will use on leaves you will eat, like lettuce! At the same time, for deeper root feeding, use a spade fork to make holes about your plant. Push it into the soil, wiggle back and forth a bit, then pour the rest of that tasty mixed tea down the holes. Replace the mulch and water well at soil level to the dripline. That will feed at root level too and give the soil organisms something to think about!

Seeds are your last harvest! Allow your healthiest top producers to seed. Tie a ribbon on plants (at top and bottom or where you might grab it) or fruits you want to save seeds from so you don’t accidently pull them in a clearing frenzy! Each year keep your best! Scatter some seeds about if they would grow successfully now! Or just scatter them about and when it’s the right time, even next spring, many will come up quite well on their own. Store your keepers in a cool dry place for next year’s better than ever plantings. Remember, these seeds are adapted and localized to you! If you are willing, take your extras to a local Seed Bank! While you are there, pick up some of your fall favorites and some new ones to try out! Hold some for your local Seed Swap! Our Santa Barbara area Seed Swap is in January. See more about SeedSaving!  How to Save Tomato Seeds!

After seedsaving, when your plants are done, let them go, compost if pest and disease free, start clearing space for fall soil prep.

Soil Prep! Blue Wheelbarrow of Compost ready to apply with spade fork!
Soil Prep!

August is perfect time to ready your soil for the very first fall plantings, mid August from seed! Do the seed beds first!

Some would consider the ultimate ‘soil prep’ to be installing gopher wire protection, LOL! Here we are at the turn of the season, a very good time to do the job. Get a team of friends together and go for it! Appoint a watcher to play music, make sure everyone stays hydrated. Bring gloves, wear sturdy shoes or boots. You may not be able to do the whole area at once, but do what you can. You will be so glad you did! You can do it!

Cover crop soil restoration! You can plant herbs, Calendula, all sorts of things, but a Green Manure mix including lots of legumes and oats does the best. Legumes collect Nitrogen, the number one element plants need for leaf growth! They deposit the N on their roots in little nodules. When you turn the legumes under, they not only feed your soil with their leaves, but those little nodules! Beans and Peas are legumes. Alway cut off rather than pull out their roots. Leave those roots there to feed your soil! The oats are what we call a dynamic accumulator! That’s terrific because their roots go deep, loosening the soil, creating channels for oxygen and water and soil critters to navigate. They bring nutrients up from deep below. Also, they produce more growth in late fall/early winter than in spring! Perfect for winter crop plantings! The Basics – Cover Crops   More – Living Mulch!

If you have enough area, plant one space entirely with a cover crop. If your area is smaller, each year plant a different section with your cover crop. Some years you can get two cover crops in, especially if you are planting successively for a steady table supply. When the first patch is done you plant it. You start your second patch where another area has been finishing. Or if you are doing one area for early planting, save another for planting bareroots in January.

If you are inclined, always be making compost with clean garden waste, kitchen scraps. Decide where you want to compost, leave the space next to it so you can move your compost back and forth. Or you can move your composter around to enrich the soil there. The fastest way to compost is to make a pit or a trench. Add your healthy green waste or kitchen waste, chop it fine, turn it in with some soil. If you trenched it, turn it a few times the next few days. If you have a pit, turn it two to three times over the next few days, then add it where it is needed when it is done. If composting isn’t for you, buy the best in bags you can! In addition to the basics, we want to see worm castings, mycorrhizae fungi, maybe some peat to loosen clay and add water holding capacity.

Seeds germinate really well and quicker when worm castings are added to your soil along with the compost. Castings also strengthen your plants’ immune systems! Add 25% for best results. Boost up seed beds (castings improve germination) and where you will be installing transplants. Put a stake where your planting holes will be so you can pay special attention at those points.

Start Seedlings for transplant, or plant seeds right in the ground! 

Get seeds for celery, chard, mustard greens, parsley, peas, winter radish varieties, and Brassicas: cabbage (especially red and savoy types, which resist frost better), brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies, kohlrabi, Mizuna, pak choi, radish, rutabaga, turnips. Sow carrots (they do best from seed). Keep the soil moist and shaded until they’re up, and then gradually allow them more sun over a week’s time. Winter plants that get a good start while there is still some heat, will be producing a lot sooner than plants started while it is cooler. You will have a much earlier crop, plus time for a successive crop, maybe in December! Be sure to leave space to plant additional rounds to keep steady table supply.

If planting from seed is not for you, no time, gone on vacation, of course you can wait and get transplants when the nurseries bring them in. Just know nursery selections are not as big as what you can buy as seeds. Island Seed & Feed has a great seed selection in the Santa Barbara area, and there are marvelous seed companies. Be sure to get seed varieties that are right for your area!

Keep harvesting, do your soil preps, and wait for September or October transplanting. Labor Day weekend is a favorite big planting time for many gardeners, and that’s only a month away now! At that time you can plant both seeds and transplants, effectively two rounds at once, the seeds coming in six weeks after the transplants!

See Super Fall Veggies for help choosing the very best varieties and Fall companion planting! Don’t forget to plan space to commingle your valuable companion plants! They enhance growth, repel pests. Here’s your quick handy list of winter companions:

Cilantro with Broccoli! It makes brocs grow REALLY well, bigger, fuller, greener!
Lettuce among, beside Cabbages to repel cabbage moths
Chives, Coriander, Garlic, Geraniums, Lavender, Mint family (caution – invasive), and onions are said to repel aphids.
Mustard and nasturtium can be planted near more valuable plants as traps for the aphids. A word to the wise, nasturtiums are snail habitat.
Calendula is a trap plant for pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and thrips by exuding a sticky sap that they find more appealing and delicious than nearby crops.
Peas and carrots together but NOT with the onion family

Among HOT August days, there are hints of fall. Days are a tad shorter; shadows fall in different places now. For us SoCal gardeners it’s time to design! It’s in our minds, maybe put to paper. What will be new and different this year, what will we try, is there a more productive variety? Will you be adding compost space, or a worm bin? Would you like raised beds this year? How about a greenhouse?! Have you ever planted a green manure cover crop? Will your soil be different? Will you be planting tall indeterminate peas in a cage that shades, or low bush peas? What about greywater systems? Rainwater capture? In the cool of summer evenings think it through….
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Please enjoy these July images at two of Santa Barbara’s community gardens, Pilgrim Terrace and Rancheria! Luscious veggies, some beautiful flowers, birdies, intriguing oddities!

Check out the entire August Newsletter!

AUGUST ~ Splendid Harvests, SeedSaving, Fall Starts!

Broccoli, the Queen of the Winter Garden!

The Larger Soil Pest – Gophers!
Greenhouses – the Six Weeks Advantage!

Upcoming Gardener Events! Mesa Harmony Crop Swap! National Heirloom Expo, Soil Not Oil, American Community Gardening Assn 39th Annual Conference!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Healthy care and choices make the difference!

Give your plants a chance!

Not too much N (Nitrogen)  It imbalances your plants, just like too much sugar for us.  You get lots of leaf, no fruit, growth is too fast and ‘soft,’ inviting to pests and diseases.

Watering practices make a difference.  Overhead watering is not good for most plants, but especially not for fuzzy plants that like it dry – tomatoes, eggplant.  Too much nighttime wet equals mildews and more slugs and snails, more remedies and pest prevention, more costly.  Plants drink during the day – water in the AM when you can.  Make furrows, water deep, let it soak in laterally.  Make basins to keep water where you want it.  Drip systems usually don’t work in a veggie garden you are planting biodiversely, mixing things up.  Also, veggies come and go pretty quickly in an active garden.  If you are row or patch planting, if the area is long or big enough, a drip system could work well. 

  • Water soaked soil is dead soil.  Soil organisms, soil builders, simply drown.  If in a low spot, check your drainage options; build a raised bed.  Add organic water holding compost, water less no matter how much fun it is!
  • Dry soil is dead soil.  Nitrogen off gases, your soil organisms die or go away.  See if you can channel some water to that area.  Install furrows or build soil walls or basins to keep water where it is needed, avoid wasteful runoff.  Again, add organic water holding compost.  Water deeply.  If you are gardening at home, busy and forgetful, perhaps you could install drip irrigation on a timer. 

Avoid spreading viruses that can spread diseases.  Really check those plants you buy at the discount nursery.  Remove diseased plants and don’t compost diseased plants.  This is a tough decision when it comes to disease tolerant plant varieties.  They can have a disease yet still produce.  They are bred to do that.  Is that ethical?  If you are gardening at home and make that choice, that is one thing.  If you are in a community garden, and the disease is windborne, is it fair to your garden neighbors?  Maybe we all need to get tolerant varieties.  

Some diseases lurk in garden border weeds.  Or you can bring them into the garden by walking through weeds.  Insects bring some diseases and so do animals, like our skunks, raccoons, possums.  If the ‘weeds’ are habitat for beneficial insects, be careful what you remove, consider the balances. 

Ants.  Whether you mind them or not probably depends on how many there are and what they are doing.  If they are tending aphids, no!  Not only are there ants with aphids, but white flies are attracted to the aphid honeydew as well.  Otherwise, ants are virtuous hard working cleaner uppers!  The take away dead insects.  Balance is the key. 

Varieties matter.  Planting a variety out of season makes that plant struggle and be vulnerable to pests and diseases it can’t handle.  In Santa Barbara we have the cool damp ocean areas and the hot dry foothills.  Different varieties will thrive in one and not the other.  Planting too early or too late, your plant will try, but may not be able.  Some gardeners are totally pro Heirloom, against hybrids.  But Nature herself hybridizes, it is a natural process.  It occurs naturally by area and plants that grow there do the best there.  In a way, we subtly do a similar thing ourselves when we select seed from our best plants.  I think being flexible in your choices will get the best all around results. 

Planting at the Right Time makes a big difference.  Sometimes you just won’t get germination if it is too cold or hot.  Or a plant thrives in temporary weather, but dies when it goes cold again, or too, too hot.  They need certain temps and day length.  Some may survive, but never thrive later.  That is sad to see.  So respect them.  Know them well enough to honor their needs.  Planted at the wrong time, pests they aren’t equipped to handle may eat them alive.  If you are a big risk taker and financially don’t mind a few losses, go ahead.  Some will succeed, for sure.  You may or may not get earlier production.  Sometimes plants can be planted a month apart, but the later one will ‘catch up,’ and produce at the same time as the earlier plant!  Same can be true of smaller and larger transplants because it all depends on temps and day length.

Once your plants are going, sidedressing keeps them going!  Sidedressing usually starts when your plants start to bloom, make fruits.  Scatter and lightly dig in a little chicken manure and/or lay on a ½” of tasty compost, some worm castings, water on some fish emulsion, blood meal if they are yellowing and could use a quick Nitrogen boost.  Water well.

Plant appropriate varieties on time, water and amend well, keep watch on pests and diseases.  Robust happily producing plants are worth it, and a joy to watch!

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Strawberry Tips for Tasty Super Berries!

  • Strawberries are in the Rose family.
  • The average berry has 200 seeds, the only fruit whose seeds are on its exterior surface!  The seeds are really the fruit!
  • Usually grown from runner daughters, they will grow from seed.  Just throw down caps you bit the berry from.  Sooner or later, you will have a plant you didn’t ‘plant.’  Strawberry seed saving is simple.
  • Eight out of 10 strawberries grown in the U.S. are grown in California!
  • Strawberries came in second to blueberries in the USDA’s analysis of antioxidant capacity of 40 fruits and vegetables. They are also rich in dietary fiber and manganese, and contain more vitamin C than any other berry.

Image courtesy of StrawberryPlants.org

When do I plant strawberries?  Not now, NOVEMBER 1 to 10!  Yes, it’s that specific for winter chill at the perfect time!  They start producing runners now, but cut them off until early July!  Then let them grow, and cut off the new baby plants mid October for November planting.  Or, just let them grow to fill spots where, for one reason or another, a plant has gone missing, needs replacing, and/or another could fit in.  When those needs are taken care of, cut off the rest of the runners.  These runner plant babies will grow so fast you will be getting berries from them late summer and fall if you have everbearers/day neutral types!!

My plant isn’t producing….  

Variety
 – If it is an everbearer, day neutral, variety it will produce almost all year.  June/spring bearers put out a prolific batch in June, then it’s over.  No amount of care or feeding is going to make that plant have berries after June.  Sorry.  Best to get the varieties your local nursery carries.  Or talk with them about special ordering well in advance, so they can get the ones you want.
Temps – cold weather slows down pollinators.
Shaded – believe me, strawberries like all-day sun!  If you are going to tuck them in among other plants, be sure to put them on the sunny side!
Hungry – think about it!  A strawberry plant is often pumping out several berries at a time!  They are using up soil nutrition, so feed them!  Try a light solution of fish emulsion/kelp every other week over some sprinkled seabird guano or a well aged manure.  Give your strawberries a little fertilizer in the 0-10-10 proportions; that’s lots of phosphorus and potassium for strong roots and uptake of nutrients, blooms and fruits!
Water – don’t let them dry out, they will stop producing.  This month they tend to grow more leaves, send out runners.  Clip off the runners for now, so they don’t take your plant’s energy away from producing berries, unless you want more plants right away.
Mulching is good.  They love pine needle mulch, if you have some about, because they prefer slightly acidic soil.  Drape your berries over pine cones to keep them off the ground, out of the slug zone.
Age – First year plants and 3rd year plants don’t produce as well.

My berries are really tiny! 
Strawberry varieties vary from mammoth chocolatiers, to midget but mighty tasty alpines.  If it isn’t a variety issue, it may be diseased.  See below please.

Misshapen berries or split in two sections with a hole in the center 
Irregular watering  Your berry grows fast when it has water, then is restricted when it doesn’t….
Western Tarnished Plant Bugs,
feed on the flowers and developing surface seeds that stimulate growth causing misshapen berries, hard clusters of yellow seeds on the tip of the fruit.  Clean up debris.  Once you see this, you are too late to prevent it any further.  Bummer.  UC Davis IPM Integrated Pest Management on Lygus Hesperus.  Image of typical cat-faced berries.
Pollination Strawberry flowers are usually open and attractive to bees only a day or less.  Temperatures below 60F, low night temperatures, & high humidity result in inadequate pollination, low yields of small or misshapen fruit.  Strawberries require multiple pollination for perfect fruit formation. Generally, as the number of pollinator visits increases, there will be an increase in fruit set, number of seed per fruit, fruit shape, and fruit weight.  ABOUT BEES:  per NCSU ‘Bees rarely fly when the temperature is below 55°F. Flights seldom intensify until the temperature reaches 70°F. Wind speed beyond 15 miles per hour seriously slows bee activity. Cool, cloudy weather and threatening storms greatly reduce bee flights. In poor weather, bees foraging at more distant locations will remain in the hive, and only those that have been foraging nearby will be active.  Pumpkin, squash, and watermelon flowers normally open around daybreak and close by noon; whereas, cucumbers, strawberries, and muskmelons generally remain open the entire day.’  So if the weather isn’t right THE DAY OR MORNING your flower opens…..

Whole plant has yellow leaves.  The most common cause is nutrient deficiencies due to overwatering.  Overwatering causes poor root growth making it difficult to move enough water to the leaves during hot weather.  Lay back on watering; give your babies some Nitrogen –fish emulsion/kelp.

Strawberry Pests
Pecked   If birds are pecking your berries, put bird netting or a wire dome over them.

Rebecca & David Barker, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Plot 41, staked the chicken wire in place, push it up to harvest, down to just the right height when done!

Holes in them, Chewed  Silvery slime trails are the giveaway!  Use the pine cones to drape your berries over to keep them off the ground.  Put down some Sluggo or the like, to kill off night-time nibblers, slugs, snails.  Harvest regularly before the berry gets soft and smelly, just before the buglets are attracted!  Those little black pointy worms?  I’m trying to find out what they are.  If you know, let me know, ok?!
Uprooted  Sad to say, that sounds like ‘possums, raccoon, or skunk.  They are looking for your earth worms or grubs.  Just like bunnies, these critters won’t jump a low barrier.  They just go around it.  So install a foot tall perimeter of wire pieces, black plastic plant flats, old trellis parts, whatever you have around, or go get something that looks good to you so you will be happy.  Relocating the critters is a good choice because, they do have children, that have children, that…

Strawberry Diseases  StrawberryPlants.org for full list of diseases.  Here’s a link to the 3 Most common leaf diseases with images.

Angular Leaf Spot – exactly that.  Spotted leaves.  A cosmetic problem until it isn’t.  Your plant will produce, but it won’t thrive.  Spread by water, harvest before you water, water under the leaves, remove badly spotted leaves, don’t use them as mulch, wash your hands before going on to another plant.
Strawberry Blight – the fungus is often confused with angular leaf spot, overwinters in old leaves, remove them.  Remove old leaves from runner plants before setting.  All day sun, well-drained soil, in an area with circulation, equals less fungus.  For good air circulation, plant far enough apart, remove weeds, remove, replant and/or give away runner baby sets.  Plant resistant varieties for your area of your state.  Discussion of SoCal varieties.  When you buy new plants be sure they are certified from a disease-free nursery.  If you use a fungicide, spray the underside of leaves as well as the tops.

Successful SoCal varieties!

Chandler is the most widely commercially grown strawberry in California.  High yield, early producer, large southern berry.  It’s a June bearer, so if you want year round supply, this is not your berry.
Seascape is an ever-bearing, big day neutral, all year strawberry, harvests are more abundant in late spring. High yield, resistant to most diseases except leaf spot.  Reliable producer in fall, performs well in hot, dry climates.  Berry is bright red inside and out!
Oso Grande Another June bearer, high yield big berry, good in warm climates.

Eat your red  plump strawberries!  Fresh from your garden, strawberry Sundae, strawberry sauce, strawberry pie, cake, bread, strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, yoghurt, cream cheese, cheesecake, strawberry shake, chocolate dipped, strawberry lemonade, strawberry Syrah, and, as always, the traditional, Strawberry Shortcake!! 

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Healthy Summer Feeding, Watering, Disease & Pest Prevention!

Feeding.  It’s heating up, your plants are growing fast, they’re hungry and need more water!  Give your leaf crops like lettuce lots of Nitrogen.  Don’t overfeed beans, strawberries or tomatoes or you will get lots of leaf, no crop!  If you do, did, give your plants some seabird guano (bat guano is too hot sometimes).  Fertilizers high in P Phosphorus bring blooms – more blooms = more fruit!  Get it in bulk at Island Seed & Feed.  It’s easy to apply, just sprinkle, rough up your soil surface, water in.  Go lightly with your applications to young plants that could get burned.  When blooming starts, give your plants phosphorus fertilizers once a week, a month, as the package says, as you feel, to keep the blooms coming!  Foliar feed your peppers, solanaceaes – toms, eggplant, and your roses with Epsom Salts!  Only 1 Tablespoon per gallon of water does the job!

Water deeply.  Poke your finger down into the soil to see how deeply your watering has penetrated.  Get one of those gurgler devices to keep the water from blasting a hole in your soil; put the hose under your veggies.  Try to remember to keep moving it.  That’s the main reason I don’t do that myself, I just get carried away with weeding or tending, or harvesting, chatting, and, uh oh, woops, forget, and it’s flood time.  Maybe I’ll carry a pocket sized timer and experiment with the right timing per water flow?  Still, it’s a nuisance to have to keep moving the durn thing.  The advantage of standing there watering is you notice what’s happening in your garden and think on what to do next.  Flooding isn’t good because it drowns your soil organisms, and your plants drown too, not able to get their oxygen quota.  What’s weird is that some wilting plants, like chard, may not be needing water at all!  Some plants just naturally wilt in midday heat.  They are doing a naturely thing, their version of shutting down unneeded systems, and watering them isn’t what they need at all!  Also, flooding kinda compacts your soil as the life is washed down the drain so to speak, natural healthy soil oxygen channels cave in.  You see, it’s the balance you need.  Water underneath rather than overhead to keep from spreading diseases like strawberry leaf spot.  Harvest first while bean plants are dry so you don’t spread mildew, then water.  Wash your hands if you handle diseased plants, before you move on to other plants.

Disease & Pest Prevention

  • Ok, May is one of our mildew months.  Get out the nonfat powered milk, throw some in your planting hole.  Drench your plantlets, especially beans, melons and zucchini, while they are small, maybe every couple of weeks after that with ¼ Cup milk/Tablespoon baking soda mix, to a watering can of water.  Get it up under the leaves as well as on top.  That gives their immune system a boost, makes unhappy habitat for the fungi.
  •  Sluggo for snails/slugs –  put down immediately upon planting seeds, and when transplants are installed!  Remove tasty habitat and hiding places
  • Trap gophers (or do what you do) immediately before they have children
  • Spray off black and gray aphids, white flies – get up underneath broccoli leaves, in the curls of kale leaves.  Spray the heads of broc side shoots, fava flower heads.  Remove badly infested parts or plants. NO ANTS.
  • Leafminers – remove blotched areas of the leaf or remove infested leaves from chard, beets. Don’t let your plants touch each other.  Except for corn that needs to be planted closely to pollinate, plant randomly, biodiversely, rather than in blocks or rows.  If you are planting a six-pack, split it up, 3 and 3, or 2, 3, 1, in separate places in your garden.  Then if you get disease or pests in one group, they don’t get all your plants!  Crunch those orange and black shield bugs, and green and black cucumber beetles (in cucumber & zuch flowers).  Sorry little guys.
  • Plant year round habitat for beneficial insects, pollinators – lacewings, ladybird beetles, hover flies.  Let some arugula, broccoli, carrot, cilantro, mustards, parsley go to flower.  Plant Borage.  Bees love its beautiful edible blue star flowers, and they are lovely tossed on top of a cold crisp summer salad!

 Love your Garden, it will love you back!

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Food Not Lawns is all about raising veggies not grass.  Studies show they both take about the same amount of water, but veggies pay back sustainably with fresh highly nutritious food on your table and no-food-miles or pollution.  Plus they make seeds for their next generation, adapting to your microclimate niche!  http://www.sbfoodnotlawns.org

  • Do I have to rip up my lawn?  You can do lasagna gardening/sheet composting right on top, start with cardboard/newspaper. 
  • Do I have to do a major portion of my lawn?  You can do any part you want, big or small, your call!
  • But I don’t want to do my front lawn.  You don’t have to!  It’s yours, do what makes you happy!  You only need 6 to 8 hours of sun to grow veggies, any space, corridor that has that, works.
  • Is it really hard work?  Using the lasagna/sheet composting method is no harder than gathering the materials to do it!  There is NO DIGGING!  And you don’t have to build raised beds.  Building soil on top of your lawn can make a lovely undulating landscape.  Frameless raised beds have plantable sloped sides!  
  • Is it ugly?   Could be, but how you do it is up to you!  It can be integrated along/among border landscaping plants, you don’t have to have raised beds at all.  If you want to though, you can make really attractive raised beds with beautiful materials, ie a lovely rock wall, terracing.  You can  cover an unsightly area like the edge under a south facing deck.  There are so many lovely options! 
  • I don’t want to wait months before I can plant!  You can plant the same day!  Just pull back a planting hole,  throw in compost, bought or made by you, plus any amendments you want, just like usual, and plant NOW!  No waiting at all!

                            Sheet Compost/Lasagna Garden Layers                           

Mulch or Tarp or not
Optional – Compost, Sprinkled Soil
Repeat layers until 18” to 2’ deep
Greens – Garden chop & drop
Browns – twice as deep as greens
Greens/Wet – kitchen veggie scraps, garden trimmings, grass, manure
Browns/Dry – leaves, straw for air circulation, alfalfa for Nitrogen
Well wetted Cardboard/Newspaper
Existing surface – Lawn

Wet green layers go above dry browns so the juicy decomposing stuff seeps down, keeping the brown stuff moist!  Straw is good in a brown/dry layer because air can pass through it, keeping the pile aerated!  Throw in some red wriggler worms to work the pile, make castings!  Maybe toss in some soil to ‘innoculate’ the pile with soil organisms.

Don’t worry overmuch about exactness of ingredients in your layers as you chop and drop greens from your garden/yard.  In fact, you can mix them up!  But do put in manures for Nitrogen (N).  Decomposing plants use N to decompose, so add a little so your growing plants will have an adequate supply.

If you can, make your pile at least 18” high; it is going to sink down as it decomposes.  Thinner layers, or layers that have been mixed, and smaller pieces, decompose faster.

If you like, cover the whole pile with some pretty mulch when you are done!  Or tarp it to keep things moist until ready for use.

When you plant, especially in ‘new’ soil, sprinkle the roots of your transplants with mycorrhizal fungi!  The fungi make micro filaments throughout your soil that increase your plants’ uptake of minerals, especially phosphorus that builds strong roots and increases blooming, fruiting!

Anybody can lasagna garden/sheet compost in any garden, any part of a garden, any or all the time!  It’s a time honored soil building/restoration technique!  Happy planting!

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