Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2015 Year in Review - Legumes

Left: Royal Burgundy and Slenderette. Right from top: Rattlesnake, Purple Pole, Stortino di Trento.

Snap Beans. I did what has become my usual succession, starting the season with a couple of varieties of bush snap beans. I prefer to grow pole beans because they tend to be more productive but garden space doesn't open up for them until later in the season so I start with the bush beans. By the time the bush beans have stopped producing the pole beans usually start so it makes a nice succession. I grew a couple of varieties of bush beans that have done well for me the last few years - Slenderette and Royal Burgundy. I think I'm running out of seeds for those two so perhaps this year I'll try a couple new varieties.

All the pole beans I grew this year were new. I'm surprised I took a chance on three new varieties and didn't grow at least one proven variety, but I got away with it. Rattlesnake, Purple, and Stortino di Trento were the chosen varieties this year. Purple turned out to be a somewhat shy producer, but it also turned out to be attractive to some critter (birds or rats?) that took a liking to it so that reduced the harvests. It's a tasty bean but I think I'll move on to something else that I don't have to compete with the critters for. Stortino di Trento was a very good producer of interesting purple striped curved beans. It is tasty but the skins tend to slip a bit when the beans are cooked and I'm not crazy about that texture so I'm not sure that I'll grow them again. The star of the snap beans was Rattlesnake. It turned out to be incredibly productive, 6 plants produced 7 pounds of snap beans and then started a second flush which I allowed to mature to produce 1.1 pounds of dried beans. It's not just productive, the snap beans are big and beautiful and very good eating. I think Rattlesnake will become a regular in my bean lineup.

I keep a number of pieces of 3x5 foot concrete reinforcing mesh that I zip tie to poles to make trellises for various vegetables. Over the years I've gone from growing a single variety of beans on one trellis with multiple trellises in the garden to this year doing 3 varieties on one trellis. I always ended up with far more beans than I needed. I always ended up freezing and pickling a lot of beans. I was never able to finish the frozen beans before the fresh ones came in again and we tended to tire of the pickled beans pretty quickly. I like to have a variety of snap beans of different sizes, shapes, and colors and I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me much sooner to do more than one variety of bean per trellis. Next year I think I'll go to 4 varieties on a single trellis. I got 23 pounds of beans from the one trellis and 11 pounds of bush beans, all of which is still more than I need, I did end up freezing some and gave away quite a few as well.

Clockwise from top left: Monachelle di Trevio, Purgatory, Rattlesnake, Pico Pardal garbanzo.

Dry Beans. I had mixed results for dry beans. Monachelle di Trevio was a new bean that I had high hopes for, it is a pretty bean and very unusual. But the plants seem to be highly susceptible to damping off and I lost most of what I set out. I let the survivors grow and got about 3/4 pound of dry beans. I may try growing more from my saved beans this year, perhaps the beans from the surviving plants may be more resistant to damping off. I experimented with garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and my small patch produced a little over a pound of beans. I'm not sure that I want to devote space in the summer garden to something that produces that little, but I've read that garbanzos are cold tolerant so I'm experimenting with a winter sowing this year. The good news so far as dried beans go is that I finally had success with Purgatory beans. They are a very small white bean from Italy that are my favorite for bean salad. I had been trying to renew my stock of the beans for the last 2 or 3 years and kept having various problems, mainly with spider mites killing the plants before the beans matured. Spider mites weren't quite so problematic in 2015 for some reason so I got a nice crop - 3 pounds of dried beans which is good production for bush beans.

Extra Precoce Violetto favas

Fava beans (broadbeans) are a must grow veggie every year. Dave can't imagine not having them and they are one of the few vegetables that I will grow with preservation in mind. The blanched peeled beans freeze beautifully and there's a number of vacuum sealed bags in the freezer. One of the best things about favas is that they grow in the winter. I usually sow the seeds directly in the garden some time in November and/or December, they go into the space where the tomatoes had been. I start harvesting the beans some time in April and they are usually done before the end of May, just in time to be replaced by pole beans. 2015 production was 78 pounds of pods, right about average. I used to grow twice as many plants, enough to fill an entire bed, but it always proved to be too much so now I only fill half of a bed. It also works better in the spring time since it frees up the space that I allocate to the bush beans. I've been growing Extra Precoce Violetto (Extra Early Purple) for the past few years, it's the earliest variety of any that I've tried.

I usually grow snap and snow peas in the spring and again in the fall, but this year I didn't get anything going for spring or fall production. I finally got some Golden Sweet snow peas and Super Sugar Snap peas very late in the year which I'm harvesting now. But pea production for 2015 was a bust.

Next up will be my review of the Brassicas for 2015.


  1. Wow they are impressive. I have to say, when your post came up on my feed I thought at first it said "2015 - year in legumes" - which seems kind of fitting with so many types and quantities of beans!

  2. Rattlesnake beans are my favorite pole bean. I've tried others, side by side, but Rattlesnake always wins. BTW if you want to save pole bean seed for growing (as opposed to cooking) do not grow them on the same trellis. Yes, beans are supposed to be self pollinating, but my Rattlesnakes crossed with Blue Coco, when they were growing on two trellises, with the trellises only a foot apart. The seeds looked like Rattlesnake seeds but the resulting plants produced lavender beans.

    Have you tried Insecticidal soap for the spider mites? It worked very well when I used it on my Rattlesnakes a few years ago.

    1. The insecticidal soap is effective if I catch the infestation early, but the mites proliferate so quickly in the summer that often times they get out of hand before I can get them under control.

  3. I've been amazed that Rattlesnake did so well in your climate, given that it also does well with our hot humid summers. I'll be curious to see what you think about the dried ones.

  4. Interesting choices. So, looks like you didn't grow Musica or Golden Gate? Pole beans have done fairly well for me until last year when a bean mosaic virus hit them. Discovered that most pole beans have little bred-in disease resistance since they are not usually grown commercially. Next year I will give pole beans a rest and just grow bush beans.

    1. I didn't grow either Musica or Golden Gate in 2015, the beans I grew were productive enough that I didn't think it necessary to do a second succession of pole snap beans. Both of those will be back this year, I missed them.


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