Planting: Top 5 Tips for planting Beans

Planting: Top 5 Tips for planting Beans

Beans are really one of my go to crops each year! They are the kind of crop that very rarely fails and even the kids derive plenty of pleasure from snacking on raw beans and picking bucket loads on a hot summer evening.

Beans are great for the soil too. Legumes fix nitrogen back into the soil which is great after ripping out nitrogen hungry plants like potatoes, brassicas and leafy greens.

Here are my 5 Top Tips for growing beans: 

PLANTING YOUR BEANS – Beans are really easy to grow. Make small runs about 25mm deep and drop a seed about every 10cm (I plant 2×1.5m rows). Backfill with a light covering (about 25mm) and press down for good seed contact before watering. Unless it’s really hot and dry you won’t need to water again until shoots appear.

SUCCESSION PLANTINGS – I plant 3 succession crops, once every month, after the initial planting. Some people plant every 2 weeks but I find this gives me too many beans to handle!

DON’T OVER FEED WITH NITROGEN – since beans already fix nitrogen you won’t need to feed them with it. In fact, too much nitrogen may too give you many leaves and not enough beans.

PICK BEANS YOUNG & REGULARLY – Young beans taste better than old woody ones and regular visits to the garden will prolong the harvest.

PINCH BEANS OFF – This is hard when kids are harvesting, but always try to pinch beans off the plants with your thumb and fore finger. Pulling beans can damage the plant, break off entire limbs or even pull plants out of the ground!

Happy gardening!

Planting: Top 5 Tips for Tomatoes

Planting: Top 5 Tips for Tomatoes
There are is lots of debate about how to best grow tomatoes (and I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below) but here are my TOP 5 TIPS for fantastic tomatoes.

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1. DRIP WATER – Tomatoes don’t like overhead watering so run drippers or “leaky hose” to water them below the foliage and avoid “early blight”

2. COMPOST SOIL – Tomatoes need some good quality compost in their soil and even a small amount just below the roots at planting so they grow into it and get a boost later on in the season

3. TRELLIS OR STAKE – To keep plants from breaking or falling over and getting wet foliage, tie the plants to a stake or trellis as they grow

4. PINCH OUT SIDE SHOOTS – Some people prune their tomatoes, others don’t. I prune them by cutting off lower branches and pinching out side shoots. This allows more air around the plants to lessen the chance of disease and helps to grow less but better quality fruit!

5. SPACE IS KEY – Don’t crowd out your plants but give them plenty of space, 75-100cm between each plant! This will help them breathe and lessen the chance of diseases that like a warm humid environment.

Editors note: This article was first published on the Donald Veggie Patch. Republished with permission.

Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

Peas: Harvesting, Cooking & Eating

It’s spring and spring means peas! Lots of peas! I planted two crops of “Telephone Peas” but nearly half if them turned out to be snow peas! Luckily I planted as many as I did because we’re still getting plenty!  

  
The peas are grown on a trellis made with wire mesh and tomato stakes. This gives them support with the option of tying more mesh, fencing wire or string between the stakes to keep the trellis going higher. One of the pea crops has grown well over 7ft high but unfortunately recent winds have bought it back down below 6ft.

We harvest peas as we need them, trying to be careful not to let them grow too fat and woody but also trying not to store too many in the fridge. Today, however, the recent warm weather has bought on a flourish of peas and we managed to harvest 2.2kg in one go!   

  
Our kids love eating peas raw and just picking them off the bush while playing in the backyard. But, typically we simply blanche them quickly in the hot water or add them raw into a salad. But one of the nicest ways we have eaten our peas is in fresh summer pasta. 

Making a lovely white sauce we simply toss the pasta with a few fesh peas and some bits of crispy bacon and some torn up mint leaves. The heat from the pasta and sauce cooks the peas just enough while serving! Beautiful! 

But I still reckon my girls are right… straight off the bush is best!   

Urban Farming: Tools & Tool Maintenance

Urban Farming: Tools & Tool Maintenance

In order to garden your patch effectively, you’re going to need to have a few good tools. Not heaps, unless you need particular tools for particular jobs, just a few good ones. I’ve fallen into the trap in the past of buying cheap (I’ll blame starting out as a poor university student for that), but they end up costing you more and aren’t as enjoyable to use in the garden. You don’t need the absolute most expensive hand crafted artisan tool, but generally speaking, a good quality tool will set you a reasonable amount of cash.

So what do you need? A basic tool shed for a veggie patch will need a few essentials and you can bulk out your tool kit as you see a tool that will fit your needs. Overall, you can make do with a digging folk, a long handled shovel, a spade, a steel-tine rake, a hoe, a hand trowel, secateurs and a pruning saw. There are plenty more tools out there, but if you have a few good quality tools like these, you’ll probably do alright.

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Taking care of what ever tools you have is a must. And honestly, I probably don’t take care of mine as well as I should. But here are a few simple tips to make your tools last the journey.

It is important to clean your tools regularly. Built up dirt, mud, let alone fertilizers and chemicals (if you happen to use them) will corrode away any tools. Wash your digging tools regularly and give them a quick, light scrub with a wire or stiff bristle brush every so often.

To keep your digging tools sharp and rust free, I like to run a file over the ends a few times and coat with a film of engine oil to protect from rust. I try and do this one or twice a year. Some people like to store or clean their digging tools in a bucket of coarse sand mixed with a small amount of engine oil. Running the tools in and out of the sand cleans them and oils them protecting them from rust.

A couple of times a year I try and clean up the wooden handles of some of my tools. Frequent use, or if I have happened to leave them out in the weather, makes the wooden handles rough and subject to damage. I like to quickly give them a light sand and an oil twice a year. You can use vegetable oil or linseed oil on the handles – I’ve even been told used sump oil is fine. The oil protects the wood and makes it much more enjoyable to use.

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Cutting tools should be cleaned after every use to avoid spreading any diseases between plants. Make sure the cutting blade is sharp to avoid damaging the plant. The moving parts of tools like clippers and secateurs need to be oiled and even taken apart regularly to be cleaned and keep free of dirt and grime.

None of these things take a awful long time to do and if you have spent decent money on quality tools you love using, you won’t mind spending a bit of time keeping them in tip top shape.