Watering and Harvesting

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

This past weekend witnessed two activities in the garden–one I have no use for, and one I love. When it is time to pick beans, if it isn’t hot and sunny, then it isn’t July and you’re not inIowa. Despite these facts, picking green beans is always something I look forward to. Mom taught me that if you pick beans while they are wet, it will promote and spread rust. That means you can’t pick them in the morning (generally) when it is cool. But by 11:00 the hot July sun had dried the dew, and it was time to get picking. With sack in hand, I proceeded southward along the west side of the three rows. Stooping and squatting, I worked my way down to the south fence. Fifteen minutes later, I had a nice mess of beans for a future dinner. Since it rained early Monday morning, there will be more–probably about Wednesday night I’ll do my second picking. The deer have done an efficient job of clipping off the tops, which will minimize future crops.

Picking beans is a hot task, but an easy task as well. I have many years of experience in harvesting them, so I can tell by the size of the pods when they are ready.BlueLake274 is tried and true, and I have no reason to change which cultivar I plant. However, in a later blog you’ll learn that I have two new cultivars to try for my second crop, which needs to be planted this week. For my beans, the pods are fat, but you can’t quite feel each individual bean in them. When you can count the beans in the pods while they are hanging on the plant, they are getting a little long in the tooth. If you like your beans a bit more mature, no harm done. I will occasionally miss a bean, but it gets thrown in the sack, unless it is so far along that the pod is getting dry and crispy, and the seeds are hard.

We cooked the green beans for dinner Sunday night, and we were not disappointed. We just wish there had been more of them.

Before I picked beans, I mulched about a dozen peppers in pots. I had three old bags of mulch on the north side of the garage, and the lawn cart was an excellent vehicle to transfer the bags out to the north side of the garden where the pots were sitting against the fence just inside of the garden. The bags were rotted, which made the job a bit messy, but that is no problem. I also brought along a 2 gallon bucket, transferred mulch from the cart into it, and gave each pot a thorough mulching. I buried the plants, but quickly pushed the mulch around so it was evenly spread, and the plants were upright again. The deer have also sheared off their tops, so after the mulching was complete, I got out a five pound bag of blood meal and thoroughly sprinkled them. This works well for rabbits, and occasionally works for deer as well. Ironically, the varmints have not bothered the hot pepper plants; they were mulched and treated as well. If I can keep their tops on, they will bear better. And like the green beans, the small peppers dangling below the tops were not eaten. I’ll be harvesting sweet banana peppers soon. The hot peppers are just starting to bloom.

It hadn’t rained in a week, so it was time to water the container plants. The garden would need watering soon, but it is still holding its own. This is probably one of my least favorite tasks. You can’t beat rain water, and the hose is a very poor substitute. I use two methods to determine when it is time to water plants. Each potted plant has a saucer which helps during times of drought. Experience tells me that after a week all pots need water. Some of the smaller pots, such as the geraniums, need a drink when their coasters are dry, and the soil feels dry to the touch on top. It takes time to stretch the hose out to all the plants, make sure it has no kinks, and the water pressure is not too strong or too weak. I give each pot a thorough watering, making sure the saucers are full as well. With the cherry tomatoes and peppers, their pots are placed on garden soil, so if their roots are deep enough, they can dig into that soil as well. On the patio, I watered the geraniums, the Christmas cactus and the alovera by hand; they got water from the rain barrel. Further along the path leading toward the garden, I also hand watered the two kafir lilies (Mary and Charlotte), 8 amaryllis in small pots, and a large pot of tubrous begonias. Again, they got rain barrel water. On the east side of the property Beth has hung five geraniums in small pots on the wooden fence. Due to their distance from the house, they get hand watered as well; we split this task yesterday.

I have no use for wind, but the storm that roared through about 3:15 this morning at least had some beneficial rain. I’m guessing 0.3 inches, but since I went back to sleep before it ended, there could be a bit more. If nothing else, it’ll loosen up that ground where I pulled weeds last week, as I want to put another crop of beans in that space. It also means I will need to re-treat the pepper plants, but an extremely small price to pay for some beneficial moisture.

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