Beans mean business, so get planting | Gardening

Getting a crop in: White and purple dwarf beans, which prefer to be planted in a sunny position.

Bean seeds can be planted out now, through to January.

If successive, smaller crops are planted out at intervals of about a month, then a continuous supply should result.

Beans prefer to be planted in a sunny position, although some shade may be required on days when hot, dry, windy weather is experienced.

Allowing for air movement around the plants will help in avoiding diseases.

Bean seeds may be selected from two main growing types, namely dwarf or bush beans and climber beans.

Dwarf beans will grow in the selected area without any extra requirements, while climbing beans will need a frame for the tendrils to cling to, and this should be placed into position at planting time, in order to avoid damage to the plants later on.

Climbing beans will reach about two metres in height, so the frame will need to be at least that height. A wire trellis, fence lines or frames of wire netting are all possible solutions.

An alternative solution is to construct a pyramid shaped support, with the beans planted around the perimeter of the base of the structure.

Garden beds being prepared for growing beans should be deep, rich and organic. Compost may be added to the soil, as well as pelletised fertiliser. The soil should be well-draining. The addition of mulch to the surface will assist in ensuring moisture retention as well as keeping the roots cool. Seeds should be sown at a depth of approximately three times the diameter of the seeds, five to 15cm apart.

Feeding of the young plants is generally not required, especially if the soil has been enriched prior to sowing the seeds. Because beans are able to interact with bacteria in the soil, enabling them to “fix” their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, feeding them with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser may disrupt this process.

Watering with a seaweed solution, once the young plants appear, will assist the development of root systems, as well as encouraging good bean production. Seeds that have been sown into damp, but not overly wet, soil, will not require the addition of further water for a number of days. In fact it is preferable to keep beans drier rather than over-watering, which can lead to the development of diseases.

Dwarf varieties of beans will generally come into production in about 10 weeks, while climbing varieties will produce their crops about a month later. Regular picking of the beans when they are young will promote more flowering and increased, continuous cropping.

Observing the state and colour of the leaves will alert the gardener to possible disease. A fuzzy white appearance will indicate the presence of mildew, which should be treated with a fungicide. A shiny appearance on the leaves, instead of a healthy green appearance might indicate an attack by two-spotted mite (red spider). An eco-friendly insecticide may need to be used.

LAWN CARE

As the weather, and, subsequently the soil, begins to warm, areas of lawn will start to produce new growth. However, with the new growth often comes a variety of problems. One of the common problems is the appearance of bare patches in the lawn. The most common reason for this happening is the application of too much fertiliser.

Gardeners will encourage lawns to produce rich, new, strong growth that will provide a good base for the lawns to survive during the hot summer months. However, an over-application of fertilisers, including organic fertilisers, will result in an excess of nitrogen being applied to the lawn, burning the roots and stems of the grasses. The use of a purpose-built spreader will ensure an even and appropriate coverage. Random application of the fertiliser from a container will probably result in an uneven spread.

However, applying half the fertiliser in one direction over the whole area, and then applying the remaining half in the opposite direction will assist in ensuring a more even spread. As lawns produce their new growth a variety of weeds will often also appear. These will generally be broad-leaf weeds such as dandelions, marshmallows, cat’s ear, plantain, dock and chickweed.

Lawns that have been well, and appropriately, fertilised will reduce the likelihood of weeds being able to take root as there will be fewer spaces between the grass plants. The broad-leaf weeds can be removed by hand, using a sharp digging tool to ensure the whole root system is removed from the soil. A number of “organic” control methods are preferred by some gardeners. It may be necessary for repeated applications before control is obtained.

These organic control methods include:

  • A mixture of boiling water and vinegar, which can be applied directly to the individual plants.
  • A cup of salt dissolved in two litres of vinegar can also be applied.
  • Trials of sprinkling white sugar crystals over areas of broad-leaf weeds have indicated that the sugar reduces the nitrates, which normally result in flourishing weeds, in the soil, in effect starving the weeds.

Larger areas may require the application of a selective herbicide that specifically targets broad-leaf weeds. Such sprays must not be used on buffalo and similar grasses.

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