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.

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 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].

20170712_112851

 

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

 

Growing a year’s supply of pumpkins/squash/zucchinis and a tasty alternative

Growing a year’s supply of pumpkins/squash/zucchinis and a tasty alternative

Pumpkins/squashes/zucchini [courgettes]  can be sequenced to provide crops over a longer time span. Here’s how we approach it:

First we plant 1-2 zucchinis in pots in early spring, inside a plastic-bag ‘mini hothouse’then transplant them into a rich, protected garden bed when the soil has warmed up. These are amazingly hardy and prolific [and they are bushes rather than rampant vines].

We like ‘Zorro’ variety for it’s hardiness, good taste and productivity.

2014-11-22 15.03.59
Zucchini plant growing strongly

We usually also plant non-hybrid varieties a little later. This year ‘Cocozelle’ was the one we put in – and they grew wonderfully. These give a solid-fleshed fruit with a great buttery taste. And produced heaps of fruit. Really lovely.

Then, we plant a number of ‘tromboncino squash’ seeds into rich, warm soil in the garden in late Spring. These rampant vines will start fruiting later than the Zorro zucchinis – and keep going longer too.

They produce ‘crook necked’ type squash which are wonderfully tasty when small [less than my hand long].

A.N.D the ones we miss grow and grow and grow some more so quickly. There’s an in-between stage which is meh – so they go into soup. We leave most of them on the vine to mature. When the vine dies back the squash skin gets harder and harder – these fruit store well. And the flesh gets sweeter and richer – we think they are best baked or made into soup.

There are a number of varieties and we have tried 3 so far:

  1. Our favorite ‘tromboncino squash’ is from Running Brook Seeds [only available in NZ]. It is long, tasty, has a dark green skin and stores well too.
  2. Second is from ‘Diggers Seeds’ in Australia – nice taste, with light-green skin.
  3. Another is called ‘rampicante squash’ [here in NZ] with dark-green skin.

 

Third, main-crop pumpkins/squash go into warm, rich Spring soil. Their fruit will form hard skins and keep well. There are so many varieties to try!

A standard pumpkin here is a ‘grey’ and can form a nice tasty fruit which keeps well. This one is reliable for us.

12898258_900147743416881_1502145590120298891_o
pumpkin/squash harvest

Then there are all the seedlings which come up from the home-made compost. Sometimes they grow wonderful fruit without any effort on our part at all. The above harvest includes these bountiful plants results – grey pumpkins, buttercup, tromboncinos [2 types].

Some varieties we used to grow well in Australia do poorly here in Auckland, or are not available at all. Would love to grow sweet butternuts but here in south Auckland it hasn’t been hot enough for them to flourish yet. Maybe one year! In Australia we grew Jap pumpkins which were delicious – but like it hot too – and I haven’t seen seeds here yet.

We get better results when we choose varieties adapted to local conditions where-ever we are than expect the same results everywhere.

We find Kings Seeds and Running Brook Seeds [2018-19 catalog] [see more through Kirian Farms] have interesting varieties.

Here’s Musquee de Provence – a buttery pumpkin which becomes flavorful in hot, dry conditions. In Auckland it can be bland when summer is wet. This one is stored on wire rack in cool room on east side of house.

Musquee de Provence Pumpkin 20180423

Store round pumpkins on their side so moisture does not accumulate in depressions which then start to rot. Where the stalk joins the fruit, and the base are prime places to collect moisture]. Pumpkins last far longer in storage if we can keep them free of moisture and rot.

Here’s Marina di Chiogga growing well. It stores really well for a long time and tastes good too.

20180423_172304

The piece of wood was placed underneath the pumpkin fruit to keep it up off the wet ground so it doesn’t rot before it is ripe enough to pick. It will be ready to pick when the fruit stalk turns hard and brown, and tendrils near the fruit also turn brown and withered.

 

And after the pumpkins have been harvested, and the zucchinis have finished fourth, we use chokos – not a zucc but it is a delicious replacements for zuccs. The chokos are just starting and, when they are very small, thumb-sized, they are really tasty and almost sweet.

Choko is also called chayote (Sechium edule) and is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family of Cucurbitaceae rather than the pumpkin family. For more info see wikipedia.org/wiki/Chayote

Saving seeds for next years pumpkin crops:

If you wish to save seeds from pumpkins, squash or zucchinis, many cross-pollinate so check out options before beginning. Check how to save their seeds to get true-breeding results.

Plant just one variety from each type/species and there are no issues with cross-pollination problems – as long as neighbors do not also have pumpkins growing! Bees can bring pollen a long way so it is safer to hand-pollinate your flowers for next year’s crop. For more info on hand-pollinating your pumpkins go here.

There are 3 main types/groups [species]:

Cucurbita maxima are the larger pumpkins, often with tough skin and long-keepers. Buttercup, Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale, Turks Turban, Banana Squash, Hubbard Squash, and many more.

Cucurbita moschata are usually smaller, sweet, including butternuts, crookneck squash, Jap etc [we found they like hotter conditions than we have here to become sweet and flavorful].

Cucurbita pepo include zucchinis, crooknecks, scallops, acorn squash, some winter squash and some ornamental gourds [so a lot of cross-pollination is possible!]

 

We plant a variety of types and times so hopefully some will do well to give a harvest no matter what the weather does – hot/dry/cold/wet.

 

May your food garden flourish!
Heather

PS

For more ideas about what to sow and when in NZ, have a look at  http://gardenate.com

 

PPS

For more about planting by the  moon phases,

If you like experiments about when to plant for best results, a great one is to plant the same seeds in rows right beside each other [so all other conditions are identical], and label the rows with the date of planting. Then sow seeds from 1 packet at weekly intervals, each week in a new row.

This way you can see how the recommendations for best/worst seed sowing outcomes from moon-planting guides work for you. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

I enjoy experimenting with such ideas – and if only I can rescue the rows from the snails and black-birds, I might even get some results to share!

Here’s a post I wrote about planting by the moon phases if you like more information and reflections on it.

Moon planting guides remind me to plant SOMETHING, plan a little, and help me have a continuous supply!

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