Tag Archives: mexican bean beetles

The Summer of 2016 Is Ending

Am I crazy? Is summer really ending??

August heat baking my garden

Garden baking in the August sun

Today’s heat index in Southeast Pennsylvania says it will be 114 degrees out. It’s only August 13th. Summer isn’t over. It can’t be!

Bianca Rosa eggplant

Bianca Rosa eggplant enjoying the heat.

I am still harvesting like mad. My Bianca Rosa eggplant have given me 15 beautiful globes and there are more than that still on the plants. The Fox Cherry tomatoes are coming in so fast it’s hard to pick them (especially when you were silly enough to plant 10 of them!).

Growing giant Zucchini

Sicilian zucchini gone rogue.

The Sicilian Zucchetta are downright frightening in their productivity and sheer size.

I’ve been giving them away, cooking with them, jousting in the back yard and leaving them on neighbor’s doorsteps in the dark of night (too big for their mailboxes).

Green beans are producing about a pint a day and my Frigatello Sweet Italian peppers are just warming up, throwing off 5 or 6 peppers a day.

And I’m still getting beets, inter-planted among the tomatoes, keeping cool and waiting for me to harvest them.

Fox Cherries protect beets

Fox Cherry tomatoes shade my beets.


So how can it possibly be summer’s end?

It happens every year, I wake up and step outside before the dawn light and something has changed.

The feel of the breeze on my skin. The smell of the air. A tiny change in the song of the insects. Every year, there is a single moment when I know that summer is ending.

2016 Perseid meteor showers

Perseid meteor cuts across the night sky (courtesy AMS, Ltd)

This morning, sitting on my patio watching the Perseid meteor shower (image courtesy of the American Meteor Society, Ltd.), I knew as any long time gardener whose blood runs to soil and whose bare feet crave time connecting to the earth knows.

Summer into Autumn is always bittersweet for me. My garden, this garden, will never come again. Next year, the war with Japanese Beetles and the ongoing struggle with Mexican Bean Beetles will begin again. Triumphs and defeats will eddy and swirl across my back yard.

Sunflowers grace my garden

Sunflowers tower over my garden…and me!

But then there will be all that glorious, organic food flowing from my garden to my kitchen table and the tables of friends, relatives and neighbors, again.

And sunflowers, bachelor buttons, chamomile, marigolds and lemon verbena will open for the bees. Lemon balm, milkweed and borage will offer food and nectar to butterflies, wasps and beneficials.

Blueberries and blackberries will be joined by elderberries and goji berries, adding to the delicious, healthy treasures growing just steps from my back door.

And I will once again know why I garden.

Note: the image of the meteor, above, was taken by Eddie Popovits and used with the express permission of the American Meteor Society, a non-profit, scientific organization founded in 1911 and established to inform, encourage, and support the research activities of both amateur and professional astronomers

Grow So Easy Organic – How To Grow Beans — Bush & Pole

My mom used to raise enough green beans every summer to put up about 40 quarts!  Now that’s a lot of green beans.

And it ‘s a bit of work just to get them started, keep them free from Mexican Bean Beetles (another villain on my Top 10 Most Hated Bugs), and pick them.  Now imagine how many hours it took to cut off both ends (and string them if they had strings), stuff them in jars and process them in the pressure cooker!

But how very glad I was (and am) that she did all that work so we could open the pantry on a cold, snowy, December day and pull out her string beans for dinner.  No other canned bean has ever tasted as good to me except, maybe, my own.

Green Beans
I love fresh steamed or roasted green beans and I so love being able to walk out into my garden in the early evening and pick the beans I am serving for dinner.  Nothing tastes better.

Green common beans on the plant.

Green beans ready to harvest.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And, green beans are relatively easy to grow.  Most of us got out first experience with sprouting seedlings by watching a single green bean seed in a Styrofoam cup crack the soil and start rising up to greet the 6th graders who planted it.

In my Zone –6a according the updated US Department of Agriculture (USDA) chart —  old timers tell you to put bean seeds in the ground when lilacs are in full bloom.  This tip is tried and true and it works.  I have never lost a bean plant yet.  And I’ve gotten a jump-start on being able to harvest and eat them.

Planting & Harvesting Green Beans
Beans do best if direct-sowed.  And they do best when the soil is at least 60 degrees.  That’s why you wait until most of your other crops are in the ground before putting beans in dirt.

For me, there are two types of beans – pole and bush.  Pole beans produce all season long.  Bush beans produce all at once.  What does that mean to you?

I only put pole beans in the ground once each season.  I do succession plantings with bush beans every 2 to 3 weeks so I can keep the harvest going.

Whichever type you choose (I do both), they are planted the same way – 1 inch deep.  But here they start to differ because of how they grow.

Plant seeds of bush beans 2 to 4 inches apart in rows at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant seeds of pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart.  You can also plant pole beans in hills. Put four to six seeds in each hill and make sure your keep 30 inches between each hill and 30 inches between rows.

Why different rules for pole beans?

English: Beanpoles at the Freilichtmuseum Neuh...

How they raise pole beans in Germany at  the Freilichtmuseum Neuhausen ob Eck Deutsch: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pole beans are prolific but they will take up space in the garden.  These plants need some real estate for them to “run” through and a tall enough structure to take the vines they send out.  Why?  These babies will grow and grow and if you don’t provide a nice, tall structure for them to climb, they will twine together, make masses of knotted vines and pretty much try to produce beans that way.

By the way, don’t waste your money buying bean towers.  They just aren’t tall enough to take on pole beans.  I know, I tried and I lost the battle.  I now use 8 foot high fence sections and I still have to direct the bean runners over the top and down the other side.   Or use bamboo tepees like those in the picture.

Caring & Feeding of Pole & Bush Green Beans
Beans are pretty easy keepers but there are a few rules you should know about raising them.

Once you plant them, water the seeds into the soil but do NOT over water them.  Seeds of most varieties tend to crack and germinate poorly if the soil’s moisture content is too high. For this reason, never soak bean seed before planting. Instead water just after planting or plant right before a heavy rain.

Do NOT over water the plants.  Their roots are close to the surface and they do like to be moist but use mulch like straw or grass to keep the roots damp.  Too much water makes the plants vulnerable to fungal or bacterial diseases like gray mold, bacterial blight, Rust or bean mosaic virus.

In most cases, if you are an organic gardener, the only way to rid yourself of these diseases is to remove and destroy the infected parts of the plants or just pull the whole plant out and start again.

So, remember, with green beans, a little mulch and a little water go a long way.

Feeding is something I’ve never done with beans but you can side dress pole beans with a little compost half way through the growing season.  Why would you do that?   Because pole beans are putting all their energy into producing bean after bean after bean.  They might need a boost.

But generally, beans in my garden are happy to grow and produce.  So, I usually plant, pick and eat.

A note about weeding around beans.  As I mentioned, the plants have shallow roots so you can hoe around them to remove small weeds and grasses.  But don’t get too vigorous or go too deep.  With their  fairly weak root systems, deep or close cultivation damages the roots and could delay or reduce yields of beans.

Next week a look at bugs that bug beans and how to handle them.