Of beans in winter

Of beans in winter

If you want to try extending the season for beans into colder months, here’s an experiment we ran to do so.

I planted beans mid autumn as an experiment – lets see if we can extend our bean season!

I’d heard from Stella that ‘Prince’ dwarf beans were OK to eat and grew better than others in cooler conditions – early in the season and late at the end of the normal bean season.

We gave the bed some compost, rock fertilizer and ‘Fodda’ with wonderful mix of nutrients. Just a little as beans will produce the part we like to eat better with little nitrogen [or they make lots of leaves and few fruits we eat].

They grew – and grew well.

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Then the weather got cooler. Cold winds were forecast so out came a plastic tunnel house to protect them.

Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529
Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529

They kept growing then flowered – and then fruited – and kept fruiting for weeks!

We were very impressed [well, those who like beans were. Those who aren’t beans fans were not very impressed at all].

Eventually they slowed down in bean production. The weather turned even colder and a real winter storm was forecast mid July in Auckland, so I finally cut the stems off at the base [leaving the roots to decompose and add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil].

When it arrived, mid July in Auckland, with cold, rain, southerly winds straight off the antarctic ice, we were eating the productive bean harvest from yesterday – aren’t plastic tunnels amazing!

Here’s the last of the smaller beans for us to eat [shown in the colander].

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Beans with big seeds were left on the plants. I put them in a bucket to have time to send the nutrients from the plant into the seeds as they ripened and made hard seed coats. These will be our seeds to plant next season.

 

Overall, we were thrilled to have extended the season way beyond our normal one so will consider doing this again in future.

Maybe you might like to extend seasons of your favorite crops with plastic houses or tunnels or cloches too. It’s well worth a try.

May you and your garden flourish
Heather

 

Of beans in winter

Of beans in winter

It is winter here now. Mid July in Auckland has turned into a real winter – cold, rain, southerly winds straight off the antarctic ice.

Yet here is the productive bean harvest from yesterday – aren’t plastic tunnels amazing!

20170712_112851

 

I planted beans mid autumn as an experiment – lets see if we can extend our bean season!

I’d heard from Stella that ‘Prince’ dwarf beans were OK to eat and grew better than others in cooler conditions – early in the season and late at the end of the normal bean season.

We gave the bed some compost, rock fertilizer and ‘Fodda’ with wonderful mix of nutrients. Just a little as beans will produce the part we like to eat better with little nitrogen [or they make lots of leaves and few fruits we eat].

They grew – and grew well.

20170529_150600

Then the weather got cooler. Cold winds were forecast so out came a plastic tunnel house to protect them.

Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529
Beans growing in winter under a plastic tunnel 20170529

They kept growing then flowered – and then fruited – and kept fruiting for weeks!

We were very impressed [well, those who like beans were. Those who aren’t beans fans were not very impressed at all].

Eventually they slowed down in bean production. The weather turned even colder and a real winter storm was forecast so I finally cut the stems off at the base [leaving the roots to decompose and add nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil].

I picked the last of the smaller beans for us to eat [shown in the colander].

Beans with big seeds were left on the plants. I put them in a bucket to have time to send the nutrients from the plant into the seeds as they ripened and made hard seed coats. These will be our seeds to plant next season.

 

Overall, we were thrilled to have extended the season way beyond our normal one so will consider doing this again in future.

Maybe you might like to extend seasons of your favorite crops with plastic houses or tunnels or cloches too. It’s well worth a try.

May you and your garden flourish
Heather

Harvest Time – love, love, love it!

Harvest Time – love, love, love it!

Nature is so generous when there is space, water and nutrients available to plants. I find the joyous abundance of plums, cherry tomatoes, beans, silver-beet and zucchinis remind me of what a wonderful world this can be. There is enough for us and for birds and beasties too.

Here’s a quick overview from ‘top-of-mind’

 

Cherry tomatoes have grown wonderfully and are continuing to produce great crops.

So nice for salads! Not so good for preserving so we will wait for the larger main crop tomatoes to ripen for making sauces, pastes, spicy chutney etc

cherry tomatoes harvest!
cherry tomatoes harvest!

The bird netting went over the bed when the birds found the little fruits and decided they were tasty. We have a good crop underneath the net. Wonderful stuff bird netting – pulled tight and tied it down so birds don’t get caught in it. We appreciate their efforts in pest reduction so this gives the best of both worlds.

 

Cucumbers are giving us enough for salads and some extra for pickling.

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Zucchinis [courgettes] are a favorite staple now – picked very small – so sweet and tasty they can even be eaten raw.

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Zucchini plant growing strongly

I prefer them lightly sauteed in spices in the wok with whatever veg the garden gives now. In a few months their prolific abundance will be – meh – and other veg will take priority instead. For a little while, zucchinis are great.

 

Beans

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Dwarf beans have a short season [purple tee pee and yellow butter beans are favorites] and are feeding us well. They go well in our stir-fried veg. The pretty purple-colored beans turn green when cooked, and the yellow butter-beans add a lightness.

Climbing beans.  We planted climbing beans at the same time as the dwarf beans. They take longer to grow and begin to flower so as the dwarf beans are finishing, the climbers are starting to produce now.

‘Emu’ beans are our favorite climber – string-less, tasty, easy to pick, and prolific over a l-o-n-g season. Even when older beans are drying on the vine, they still make more flowers and new beans – great!

 

Plums are dripping off the trees.

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I find stewing a saucepan-full each day or so works best for me as a pleasant way of saving their wonderful-ness  to be enjoyed in winter. The hot stewed fruit goes into [hot, sterilized] jars and is sealed for future use. When heaps ripen at once and there is a big glut, I find our 2 big stock-pots and preserve lots at once – MUCH more effort needed.

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Nectarines – yellow ones are ripening and need daily checking as they get brown rot quickly. Pick, wash and eat fresh soon or preserve for winter use.

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The tree is a dwarf form – was here when we moved in. I think it is a very old tree and it has perked up with food and water. It’s ‘thank you’ has been a good crop of large, juicy nectarines.

These are a challenge for us in Auckland – brown rot takes over so fast in warm, humid weather. Often we find the bottom of the nectarine is ripe while the top near the stem is still very green, and by the time the top is ripe the bottom has rot. Hmm. So we are experimenting – pick when the bottom is luscious to eat raw and stew the unripe top part for winter stewed, bottled fruit.

Auckland is at the extreme of the productive zone for nectarines so we are glad to get any fruit. Some years when the weather is hot, dry and not humid we might get a great crop.

Silver-beet is still producing wonderfully well.

 

Strawberries have about finished, and the birds have been very focused on finding the few remaining.

Blackberries are changing color and we hope this thorn-less variety is tasty – third time lucky?

Grow great garlic – harvest bulbs down-under, or plant them in the northern hemisphere!

Grow great garlic –  harvest bulbs down-under, or plant them in the northern hemisphere!

We planted out garlic cloves last autumn (April and May here in NZ).

6 months on, we harvested lovely big bulbs from those plants we cared for.

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And … smaller, poorer quality from cloves I ‘bunged in’ amidst other plants and left. These grew l-o-n-g strappy leaves reaching up for light. The plants competed for nutrients with roots of other plants in the soil so the bulbs are less well fed and smaller.

garlic - good and small cloves

 

How did we plant for great results?

Some of our bulbs from the previous year were lovely and big and some were itty biity small ones. See the difference in the size of the cloves? We chose the larger cloves to re-plant and the littler ones went into our dinner!

Seems strange to not eat the big, juicy cloves – unless you are looking far ahead to next year’s harvest too!

Big cloves provide a bigger store of nutrients for the new plants to grow and have the best chance to make lovely strong leaves and new bulbs.

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Where possible, we kept them well fed and watered, in a sunny, protected spot.

And the mulch was kept weed-free. Garlic grow best with clear space around themselves. They struggle if covered by other vegetation. Their smallish root system is easily overwhelmed by more vigorous plant roots. Give them space and TLC and lovely big bulbs can form.

Early growth was doing well:

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Over the next few months, these garlic cloves we planted produced abundant leaves – doing well.

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A tip:

The amount of sunlight/night time our garlic plants experience – ‘day-length’ is important to them.

When the days start to lengthen [after the shortest day], the garlic is triggered to form a bulb at soil level.

Cloves planted in autumn have time to make lots of leaves [which make food for the developing plant to grow] before the shortest day arrives and the plant is triggered to form a bulb.

Cloves planted at the shortest day will form fewer leaves before starting to produce the bulb – often leading to less nutrients available and hence smaller bulbs.

I used to use the old folk wisdom to ‘plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day’ each year. Now I plant bulbs in mid-Autumn to give them the best chance to grow lovely, big bulbs.

Harvest time!

Harvest garlic when most of the leaves are drying off and you can still see a few green leaves. Or, as we did here, harvest when you need the space for other crops and let them dry off in their own time.

Dry thoroughly so it stores well and provides high quality supplies for your kitchen.

Some people like to plait the stalks and hang the plaits up.

I tend to leave the individual plants laid out to dry in a sheltered spot where there is a breeze and no rain. When really dry, I cut the bulbs off with a good length of stem [it takes ages for the inner leaves to really dry off] and put them in a paper bag in a dry, cool place for storage.

For more information visit Wikipedia’s article about garlic

Using your own garlic harvest

First, enjoy knowing YOU grew it!

Then bring a few bulbs into the kitchen and place them where you will remember to use this precious, vital resource.

When gently cooked in oil/butter, it becomes sweeter and has far less after-effects.

We add a clove to many savory dishes for the health-giving vitality of this wonderful live food.

If you are looking for health benefits, the active constituents are stronger in the raw garlic.

One of the nicest ways to get these is enjoying garlic bread [crush a clove into some butter and spread over a sliced bread stick], wrap in foil and heat gently – delicious!

Or in hummus. Mix some well-cooked chick peas [your own? or from a can], a clove of garlic, juice of a lemon, salt and pepper [if those are your thing] and some tahini [ground sesame seeds formed into a paste] to thicken the dip. Eat with salad or home-made chips or carrot-sticks or as a side dish with your main meal. [We often add a pinch of stock powder and curry powder for a different flavor]

Or in salad dressing if that’s your thing.

Garlic’s reputation for leaving a lingering ‘odor’ can be neutralized: 

A story I read:

About a woman who loved garlic and her boss who didn’t love the smell! So he told her to quit garlic or her job.

She knew she wouldn’t quit garlic so had a final big binge and ate many cloves in her meal [was it 24?].

Then she went to work expecting to be told to leave. She was amazed when the boss said “I knew you’d have sense and quit the garlic“! He didn’t smell garlic so she found out that, with enough garlic, all the toxins it combines with to create the odor are finally removed and leave a clean breath and odor!!

So she could have her garlic and eat it too – as long as it was lots of cloves!

If you experiment, I’d love to hear about the results!

Another remedy for garlic odor: eating raw parsley is reputed to neutralize garlic odor.

I sometimes use this option – and my family tell me it works.

Another experiment for you?

May you have fun growing, harvesting and eating your year’s supply of garlic too!

cheers
Heather