Sunday, April 25, 2010

Growing in Containers

You don't need a plot of land to grow fresh vegetables. Many vegetables lend themselves well to container gardening. With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for container vegetable gardens.

What you can grow in a container vegetable garden is limited only by the size of the container and your imagination. How about a Summer Salad container? Plant a tomato, a cucumber and some parsley or chives all in a large (24-30") container. They grow well together and have the same water and sun requirements. By late summer they might not be very pretty, but they'll keep producing into the fall. This makes a great housewarming present, too.

Containers and Pots for Vegetable Gardens
Selecting Containers: Containers for your vegetable gardens can be almost anything: flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, nursery flats, window planters, washtubs, strawberry pots, plastic bags, large food cans, or any number of other things.
Drainage: No matter what kind of container you choose for your vegetable garden, it should have holes at the base or in the bottom to permit drainage of excess water.

Color Considerations: You should be careful when using dark colored containers because they absorb heat which could possibly damage the plant roots. If you do use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color or shading just the container.

Size: The size of the container is important. For larger vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, you should use a five gallon container for each plant. You can grow these plants in two gallon containers, however you need to give the plants considerably more attention.

Soil and Fertilizer
You can use soil in your container vegetable garden, but the synthetic mixes are much better. Peat-based mixes, containing peat and vermiculite, are excellent. They are relatively sterile and pH adjusted. They also allow the plants to get enough air and water. Mixing in one part compost to two parts planting mix will improve fertility.
Using a slow release or complete organic fertilizer at planting will keep your vegetables fed for the whole growing season.

Pots and containers always require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. As the season progresses and your plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don't wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Beans for your Garden

Man has cultivated edible beans for thousands of years. They are widely planted and useful for home gardens. Early varieties were tough and required string removal and long cooking to soften them. Before the late 19th century, most beans were raised for shelled, dried beans, and not for fresh green beans.

The snap bean originated in tropical regions of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. In the late 1800s, breeders began selective breeding for improved flavor and disease resistance. Calvin Keeney, the "father of the Stringless Bean" bred Burpee's Stringless Green Pod in 1898. It was the most popular variety until Tendergreen arrived in 1925. Bush Blue Lake, developed in 1962, was a major breakthrough in bean varieties. The Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean, introduced in 1877 by Ferry-Morse Seed Company and is still a very popular variety today.
Snap beans have tender, fleshy pods with little fiber. They may be green, yellow, or purple.

Common beans include the French or European beans that produce very narrow, sometimes pencil-thin, pods. Italians prefer the thicker, flatter Romano beans. Wax beans are long and narrow with yellow pods and a waxy appearance. Purple beans such as Royal Burgundy, add color to the garden but the pods change to green when boiled. They are produced both as ornamentals and as edible vegetables.
Ornamental beans like scarlet runner beans produce striking, bright red blooms followed by beans that are edible while young. Blue hyacinth beans produce deep lilac-blue flowers which produce maroon bean pods. Ornamental beans are usually planted for their attractive flowers rather than for consumption. They grow quickly up to beautifully cover fences, trellises and arbors.