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Garden Patch - Let's expand the garden magic week by week!


Last updated 5/3/2007 at Noon

Let your garden thrive not because of your vast gardening knowledge but by gaining wisdom by listening to the garden. Pay attention to the natural systems and they will teach you how to work with nature. This experience can give enormous confidence in the natural world.

I think this is a great time to plant some snap beans. Fresh stringless beans are a treat whether eaten raw or cooked. For the average gardener, bush beans are more practical. I have made bean tepees with the kids using pole beans; it is a lot of work but a lot of fun. Just look for varieties that state they are stringless, like the Blue Lake variety.

Most beans produce in 50 days, so when you see the first flowers, get ready for the next succession and continue planting throughout the summer. Two or three plants at a time can produce a ton of beans, but this is guided by your love of the tidbits. Harvest on a regular basis to be assured continued production.

You can also grow soybeans, lima beans and fancy French baby beans as well as Asian yard-long. Yellow wax beans are also very flavorful. Have some fun with the varieties – experiment. Do not fertilize beans with too much nitrogen, since they are legumes and they draw nitrogen from the air.

Peppers are the prettiest plants in the garden when full of colorful fruit. The variety that can be grown is overwhelming. Depending on how green your thumb is, keep it simple ’til you get experience.

Peppers can be a simple crop to grow, just do not fertilize them too heavily. If this occurs they will get lots of lush green leaves but little fruit. I like to choose blocky bell peppers like pimentos or a real strong bell type. Let them go ’til they color, as this adds a ton of flavor. Red, yellow, purple and orange are the basic colors. All hot peppers will color as well and are even easier to grow. Poblanos are large, blocky peppers that are picked green and make the finest chili rellenos.

Set the plants 14 inches apart and you can get 15 to 20 peppers per plant. Lightly side-dress the plants with a good high-phosphorus organic fertilizer as the season progresses. You can also foliar-spray all these crops when they are small with the kelp and humate formula I wrote about in earlier articles.

Eggplants are almost identical to the growth habits of peppers (they are cousins in the deadly nightshade family). We think the best varieties of eggplant are Black Beauty (large globe), Japanese (long and slender) and the Chinese pinkish-color (long and slender with a delicate flavor).

Eggplants sliced on the barbecue, grilled (with a little extra-virgin olive oil and seasoning) are to “live” for. You can feed eggplants more heavily than peppers, as they can really produce. They are a very heat-loving, drought-tolerant plant that will do better and better as the summer progresses.

If you didn’t plant melons last week, this is still a good time for early cantaloupes (remember, Ambrosia and Haogen are sugar-sweet). Just plant a couple of mounds to get started.

I am running out of space this week, so next time I will start with melons and get into all aspects, including the harvesting techniques. As far as watermelons, I would only plant the small icebox varieties, or small yellow-meat ones. The larger watermelons require a lot of heat for size and flavor. Also, there is a trick to harvesting them.

The middle of May is a perfect time to really get into all summer planting, especially melons. Water all types of melons more heavily in the beginning, until you see germination or the plants really begin to grow. Make sure the soil drains well. Pre-plant fertilizer is fine for all kinds of melons.

Keep planting spring goodies; most will continue just fine. Plant in the future shade of corn (it can get five feet tall). See you next time, and enjoy this beautiful spring.


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