|Musica, Golden Gate, Royal Burgundy, Slenderette beans|
This year I was a little more conservative about my start dates, the first bean seeds went into paper pots indoors on April 5 and 10 when I sowed Royal Burgundy and Classic Slenderette bush snap beans and Rosso di Lucca and Black Coco bush dry beans. Then I made sure that my drip lines were working adequately and it probably helped a lot that we had a warmer than usual spring. Again, my bean harvests started toward the end of June with the first harvest of Royal Burgundy on June 20 and Slenderette on June 24, but I was spared the work and frustration of having to sow and resow. So April it is for the first sowing of beans around here.
|Fagiolo del Purgatorio seedlings emerging|
Here's the way I typically start all my beans, in pots made from newspaper. One tray will hold 36 pots and one of my trellises can be planted with 18 plants so I can sow two trellises worth of beans in one flat. I plant the pots out when all the beans have popped up that will emerge but before the roots have grown too far out the sides of the pots because they will start to grow into the neighboring pots and then it's difficult to pull the pots apart without damaging the roots. The heat mat really speeds things along so it's usually just a few days from sowing to emergence. When I first sow the beans I cover the entire tray with a sheet of plastic film to keep the pots from drying out, then I remove the plastic when the first cotyledons start to push out of the soil. I don't bother to use overhead lights because I set the pots out before the seedlings can get leggy. Even if they do get a bit leggy I've discovered that you can plant the seedlings up to the base of the cotyledons without harming the plants. Actually, I've found that if a stem gets chewed below the cotyledons that the plant can often be saved by bending the stem over and burying it up to the cotyledons and the base of the cotyledons will send down roots. I can sow a flat of beans and have them out in the garden in about 5 to 7 days. The entire pot gets plunked into the soil and I always make sure that the rim of the pot is below the soil line so that it doesn't wick moisture away from the potting soil. The paper pot generally rots away by the time the plants are done producing.
Here's some views of the first round of beans back on June 3. Rosso di Lucca and Black Coco got off to a good start.
|Rosso di Lucca and Black Coco, June 3|
|Royal Burgundy and Slenderette, June 3|
|Bean tunnel, June 3|
I pulled the Black Coco and Rosso di Lucca plants soon after and allowed them to finish drying spread out on some remay.
|Black Coco and Rosso di Lucca plants drying, August 7|
|Rosso di Lucca and Black Coco beans, August 12|
This year I'm pushing the limits of how late I might be able to sow both dry and snap beans. Here's a patch of Fagiolo del Purgatorio (Purgatory beans) that I sowed on July 18, with a few direct sown replacements that went in on the 29th. Last year I sowed a patch of Purgatory beans on July 17 and successfully harvested dry beans, so odds are that this bunch will produce.
Growing next to the new Purgatory beans are the Royal Burgundy and Slenderette beans which were full of spider mites and aphids.
|Aphids on Royal Burgundy leaves and typical stippling from spider mite feeding.|
|Stippling from spider mite feeding|
|The tiny specks are spider mites.|
So I tore out the Royal Burgundy and Slenderette mite factories. Look though, they were still trying to pop out new blossoms, these babies didn't want to quit producing. After pulling the mite factories out I treated the Purgatory beans with a Pyganic/Insecticidal Soap treatment which seems to have knocked back the mites and aphids for now.
It was nice to see that roots on the old beans were full of nitrogen producing nodules (I do use an inoculant). I cut the top growth off and those went into the compost, the roots were dug back into the soil.
So the big test this year is - that tray of Purgatory beans that you see at the top of the post that I sowed on August 7, they are going into the space left when I pulled the Royal Burgundy and Slenderette beans, will they produce a crop of dried beans before cold wet weather sets in this fall? (Um, hoping for cold wet weather, at least WET weather, we desperately need it.)
|Fagiolo del Purgatorio beans harvested in 2013|
The trellises that I mentioned earlier are where I'm growing another dry bean and some romano type beans. The trellis shown below is covered with Tarbais beans which I sowed on May 8. This is my third? attempt (at least) at growing Tarbais beans, first from seeds that I mail ordered from France. Then another time with seeds that I got from a fellow gardener who brought them from France. I'm not sure if it was the seeds or me (probably me) but I've never been able to get them to grow well. I had pretty much given up on them but then I purchased a bag of Tarbais beans from Rancho Gordo who sourced their seed stock from France but grew them in California. I thought, what the heck, these were grown in California so maybe they'll grow in this part of California. Whoa, did they grow. The third photo below is of the plants yesterday full of nearly mature beans, the foliage is starting die back so it's looking a bit sparse but not long ago it was a seemingly impenetrable wall of green. I do believe that I'll get a nice crop of dried beans, fingers crossed. (The strange thing about these beans is that Rancho Gordo claims they are a runner bean Phaseolus coccineous which they clearly are not because the cotyledons did not remain in the soil when the beans sprouted. Which doesn't concern me since I've always understood that Tarbais beans are Phaseolus vulgaris anyway.)
|Tarbais beans, June 17, with protective fabric enclosure|
|Tarbais beans, July 2|
|Tarbais beans, August 12|
The other trellis in this bed is home to one of my all time favorite varieties of romano type beans, Spanish Musica, or just Musica. They are sharing space on the trellis with a new to me variety, Golden Gate, a brilliant yellow bean of similar shape and size. There's a photo of both beans at the top of the post. I sowed both of these beans on May 21 with the intention that they would start producing as the bush snap beans slowed down. Golden Gate was the first to produce starting on July 26 and Musica was not far behind with harvests starting on July 30. Since then I've harvested 3.9 pounds of Golden Gate and 4.9 pounds of Musica and harvests of both are continuing. It sure made it easier to pull out the bush beans with these beans in full production.
|Musica and Golden Gate beans, July 2|
|Musica and Golden Gate beans, July 27|
I probably should have started the next succession of snap beans earlier, but I'm giving it a try anyway. If it takes about 2 months to go from sowing to harvesting or even a week or 10 days longer then I may be able to get some harvests from this sowing of Emerite filet and Australian Butter beans. That's if I can keep the melon vines from overrunning them and the birds and sowbugs from munching them. Last year I sowed these same varieties on July 8 and started harvesting the filet beans on September 4 and the Australian Butter beans on September 8.
|Australian Butter and Emerite filet bean seedlings, August 12|
|Petaluma Gold Rush beans, June 24|
You can see in the photos here how I set up my trellises. Each one is a piece of concrete reinforcing mesh measuring 3 feet wide by 5 feet high which I attach to sturdy 7-foot stakes using UV resistant cable ties. Sometime I use shorter stakes and reinforce those by placing a 4-foot long 5/8-inch diameter rebar stake alongside each and lash the two together with cable ties. This method works perfectly in my large raised beds. I always install the trellises on the north side of the bed about 1 foot from the edge and plant the beans in two rows along either side of the trellis. I mentioned before that a half flat of paper pots fits perfectly along the length of one trellis, 9 plants along either side.
Back in 2010 I grew a double trellis of Petaluma Gold Rush beans and ended up harvesting 7.7 pounds. This was the bulk of my harvest back in 2010.
I'm hoping for similar results this year. Stay tuned...