Sunday, July 27, 2014

Garden Bits

I used to be a bush bean kind of guy because they work well in raised beds. I plant them in large squares and surround them with some low fencing. They support themselves and the dense foliage canopy shades the ground, conserving moisture and shading out weeds. When I decided to try pole beans,  I used the trellis method on an edge row of a bed, as I had been doing for cucumbers. These were 5 foot trellises because they are made from half inch conduit which comes in 10 foot lengths and is cut in half, good enough for cucumbers in my climate. I grew Fortex and Trionfo Violetto beans on these, which were not too bad with  the five foot height. Now I’m growing Musica and Gold Marie and noticing that more trellis height would be a big advantage.


The Gold Marie beans are on a 5 foot trellis and showing impressive growth, so I tried to extend the trellis with some 4 foot tomato stakes attached to the uprights. This was a real feat of rigging because the cable ties I brought were too short, so I wound up attaching the stakes with some large binder clips I use to fasten row cover to the hoops. Yes, it is ugly.




The photo below are the Musica beans topping an 8 foot trellis and reaching for the sky. I already can’t reach the top of this trellis to remove Japanese beetles or to harvest without a stepstool. Yet the bean leaders are easily 2-3 feet past the top and waving in the wind. My gosh, exactly how tall do I have to make the trellis and do I really get an increased yield?




I recently finished seeding my fall crops except for the carrots, which are waiting for the onions to come out. Trying to start seeds in late July with temperatures above 80 every day requires a daily trek to the garden to water. Well, I succeeded and my radishes, shown below, are the first to emerge. Among them are watermelon radishes, which supposedly do better at this time of year, tending to bolt if planted in the spring. Since then, the Asian greens, kohlrabi, turnips, beets, and spinach have all emerged. Just waiting on some scallions and cilantro.




The bush beans are doing well in the raised beds, how much more could you ask for? I thought my bush summer squash also did reasonably well in raised beds until this year, when I had access to another half plot. After planting my tomato and pepper plants in the extra plot, I had room left to put in a hill each of Dunja zucchini and Sunburst patty pan squash. I tried new varieties in the main raised bed garden, Desert zucchini because it supposedly sets fruit in hot weather, and Y-Star patty pan just to see what it is about.


While the soil in the new plot is poor, although augmented with a shovel of compost and some Garden-tone, those squash are doing very well compared to the plants in my raised beds, which also had a large amount of compost applied. And by the way, the in-ground squash were seeded about 2 weeks after those in the  raised beds. Below is Y-Star in the raised bed, looking pretty good (although it is being attacked by powdery mildew (PM)), and Sunburst in-ground, looking like a monster plant. The perspective rendered by the camera does not adequately show how much bigger Sunburst is relative to Y-Star.







In the past I have described Dunja zucchini as a compact plant, productive but not a big, rangy monster. Well, this year and planted in-ground, it has become a big plant, although still dwarfed by its Sunburst neighbor. Below are Dunja, and Desert in the raised bed. Again, the photos distort the relative size of the two plants.







The tomatoes and peppers planted in-ground (again about 2 weeks after those in the raised beds), are also looking very healthy. For some crops, I have no doubt that the light, friable soil in the raised beds is superior for a lot of crops, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I never followed that up with part 2, which was intended to be a list of crops I thought did not do as well in the raised beds. Let’s just say I am running an (unscientific) experiment this summer before writing that post.


  1. I grow Musica beans most years and have the same problem. They hit the top of my 6-foot trellis and then flop over creating a jungle of growth at the top that is difficult to harvest from. This year I snipped off the tip of each vine when it hit the top of the trellis (7-foot this time) in hopes of forcing it to send out more side shoots from lower in the vines. (I think Daphne does something like that). I hope it works, my vines are just developing beans now.

    1. Yes I do that. It does help, but the problem still happens as most of the shoots come out at the top of the plant anyway. But it helps. My trellis is short this year. Usually I have a good 7 1/2' but this year it is about 5'.

  2. Dave and The Beanstalk! How about setting up another trellis, tall enough to walk under, either over the current raised bed or between two beds, the training the vines horizontally? Could shade some lettuce, or just make a temporary green archway. That picture reminds me of my old garden, with 9 1/2 foot tall CRW (concrete reinforcing wire) cylinders, with tomatoes still reaching skyward at the tops!

  3. I had that same issue with pole beans, my trellis being only about 5 1/2' tall, and am going to snip their tops, as Daphne had suggested. Never done this before so am interested to see what happens. And I too am waiting to harvest the onions in order to get some fall crops into that bed. They are taking a lot longer to mature than I had anticipated. Your squash plants look pretty great, btw.


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