Saturday, February 16, 2013

Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Peas are great for spring gardens and beans pick up when it gets too warm for peas.  Not only do they taste great, but they add nitrogen to the soil and are easy to "put away" for winter eating.  

Both love sun, well drained soil, and a side dressing of fertilizer or compost when planted.  Don't get carried away with fertilizer during the growing season or you will have all greenery and no pods.  Be sure to not water the foliage; stick with watering at the ground to avoid fusarium wilt.

Peas and beans are part of the legumes which include fava beans, shell beans (like the popular red, kidney, Great Northern beans), snap peas, snow peas, green beans, lima beans, peanuts, lentils, and soybeans.  Peas and beans have been cultivated for thousands of years all around the world.  Legumes have some of the highest protein in the plant world.  When combined with grains, you get a complete protein like you do from meat or eggs.

When you plant legumes, be sure to use a rhizobial bacteria inoculant.  You just moisten the seed and coat with the rhizobial powder and plant.  Nitrogen accumulates on the roots of the legume.  Just be sure to not pull the plant when you are done harvesting from it so that the nitrogen stays in the soil!

You can plant peas as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.  The seeds germinate in temps between 40-75 degrees F.  Just scratch a small hole about 1.5” deep to drop the seed in and cover.  Have patience, seeds germinate anywhere from 7-25 days.  Plant every 2 weeks until midspring for continuous harvest.  For maximizing your harvest, I would go for snow and snap peas since you eat the entire pod.  Peas stop producing pods when temperatures exceed 70 degrees F.  Providing shade can extend the season.

Harvest sugar snow and snap peas just as the seeds begin to form to have the sweetest peas while the pod is still relatively flat.  Even with shelling peas, pick as soon as the seeds have rounded out.  Continuous harvesting keeps them producing.  You can keep adding what you harvest to a freezer bag to have the sweetest and freshest for winter eating.

Peas can be grown in pots as well as directly in the ground.  Growing in pots allow you to move your peas to a cooler area as spring heats up.  Grow your peas where you want to plant a nitrogen hungry summer crop, like eggplant, lettuce, zucchini or tomatoes.

Most varieties are vining so be sure to give them a trellis or stake to wrap themselves around.  There are bush varieties out there if you prefer to bypass a trellis or support.

Beans are summer crops and there are many bush and pole varieties.  Bush varieties come into bear just before pole types.  Both require soil temps of at least 60 degrees F.  Plant 1” deep and as close as 4” apart for pole types and 12” apart for bush types.  Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days.

Beans can also be grown in either pots or in the ground.  Since beans are growing during the hotter time of year, watering is important to keep them productive.  Just be sure to not water the foliage.  Beans can produce over a long period of time.  To keep them making beans, be sure to harvest frequently.

Runner bean pods are edible and produce beautiful flowers in red, white or peach.  They are also a perennial in warmer parts of the country.

I prefer to grow the “stringless” types so I don’t have to remove the string when I put them up.  I freeze my beans since I don’t have enough space to have a huge number of plants.  By freezing, I can harvest every other day and just add the new ones to the freezer bag.

As with peas, you get the most beans from those that you eat the whole bean versus shelling type beans.  So, if space is limited, "green bean" types are the best.

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