This has been a memorable day! I found my first ready-to-pick green bean, the first red Celebrity tomato and the first flower open on my mandevilla.
If I had room for only one vegetable in my garden, it would have to be green beans. I love to eat them, the harvest lasts a long time and, when the first crop of bush beans is finally finished, there is still plenty of time to plant more seeds and start over again.
The first picking of tender, small beans always goes into the freezer and is labeled "Christmas Beans," and that is when they are used.
There are two major types of green beans, bush and pole, and I grow both.
Pole beans obviously need some type of support, although not necessarily a pole. A trellis is good, or a homemade tepee made by tying three or more stakes together at the top and spreading the feet before sinking them into the ground. The structure does not need to be excessively sturdy, just strong enough to stand up, because the growing vines soon will wind around and keep everything in shape.
Most planting directions for pole beans will recommend spacing of about 6-10 inches apart, but I crowd mine much closer, as I do with most crops, and they flourish.
Bush beans can be planted every 3 inches. They will grow in almost any soil. Weed control is important, although if the plants are close together they will crowd out most weeds as they grow.
Hand-pulling is the best way to deal with any weeds that do appear because beans have shallow roots and can be damaged by a hoe or cultivator.
It is recommended the soil be kept evenly moist, although with the hot weather and lack of rain we are experiencing this summer, that is difficult. I am not even trying to water the garden.
After an hour of expensive city water on the garden one day last week, I went to plant some eggplant and found just about a quarter of an inch of soil was damp.
The only way is to dip a watering can into one of my rain barrels and pour it all on one needy plant. But the beans seem to be doing well without extra water so far.
It is hard to recommend specific varieties because there are so many, and they change so quickly. Every year, there are new introductions and they all sound so temptingly good. So I'll just mention the ones I grow every year, along with a few experiments.
My prime favorites are scarlet runners of any variety.
When I go to England in alternate years, I bring back Wisley Scarlet Runners. They are wonderful, although, unfortunately, the birds share my appreciation and they steal plenty of the bright red flowers before they develop into beans.
I also like purple pod beans, this year's choice being appropriately named Purple Pod. The colorful pods stand out against the foliage and so are fast and easy to harvest. When put in boiling water, the pods turn bright green within 1 or 2 minutes.
The bush beans I am growing are Trofeo, which produces long, dark green beans with a buttery flavor, and Jade, which produce their harvest over a longer period than most varieties.
As well as being good for you, beans are good for the garden.
Beans have the ability to take available nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil. It is good to chop the vines after they have given their all, and just bury them in the ground, where they will break down over the winter, or include them in the compost pile.
There are many good bean recipes. Look for them in a cooking column in this space in a few weeks.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.