Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Make Sure to Harvest String Beans When Ready

Image: Gibby's Garden
Though it may be a little early for those of us in the north to be out harvesting our string beans, it’s important to do so when they’re ready. This helps extend the harvest season and fill our freezers and pantries with plenty of crisp, tasty beans for the winter to come. So, why is picking all mature string beans a must?

String beans need to be harvested when mature in order for the plants to produce more - plain and simple. This may be annoying to some, but to me, it sounds like a good idea. Why should the plant waste it’s energy on producing a crop of beans if no one is there to harvest them?

String beans are typically ready for harvest when the seeds inside begin to swell. Of course harvest time differs depending on the variety, but on average, go ahead and pick them while the pods are still tender and check the back of your seed packet for the average bean length when ready for harvest.

You may think that waiting to harvest string beans when they’re several inches long and busting with ripe seeds will get you more bean for your buck - but you’re going to miss out on great taste and texture. Fat string beans become stringy, take on a woody texture and really lose a lot of that fresh, crisp flavor they’re known for straight from the garden.

I do lots of sampling to make sure my beans are ready before setting out to harvest - yum! I planted two varieties of string beans this year, Imperial Golden Wax ready for harvest at about 4-5 inches long, and Blue Lake pole beans ready around 6 inches or so.

Unfortunately due to the weather, I’ve had to replant many of my beans and will not be harvesting until later in the season. String beans are one of my favorite vegetables to eat and grow and I can’t wait for the sampling to begin!

What are some of your favorite vegetables?

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Gibby's Garden Diary Entry #7: Snail Alert!

July 15, 2013

When it comes to the usual pests in my garden, I’ve never had a problem with snails until now. Heck, I’ve hardly ever seen them sans the beach until this season. Not only have I been spotting snails in their tiny orange shells sticking to my weed bucket and popping up in the rows of my garden, but I’ve noticed quite a few while out walking the dogs.

I wondered why the sudden influx of snails. Could it be the heavy rains and intense humidity on the odd day of sunshine? Is there something different about my gardens that these snails are attracted too? I did a little reading in one of my go to garden books, Rodale Organic Gardening Basics, “Pests” and found that snails, much like slugs, are attracted to decaying plant matter and love to feed on young plants.

I do have a thick layer of mulch hay in two of my gardens and several inches of leaves in another used to prevent weeds and to keep the ground moist. While I will not forgo my mulch, it drastically reduces the amount of time I spend weeding, I have found a quick, cheap and organic solution to help control these slimy trailed garden pests - beer traps.

I’ve used beer traps to control the slug population in my gardens for quite a few years now, and I’ve been happy with the results. I’ve doubled my efforts and put out more beer traps where I’ve noticed the highest population of snails. I’ve attracted quite a few so far, and make sure to hand pick all snails that I see when weeding.

Snails and slugs are attracted to the yeast in beer, which if you’re like me, you always have an odd can or two in the fridge. I set out my traps in a shady spot slightly away from the garden if possible. Intense sun leads to mold in the traps causing them to need to be changed more often, and placing the traps outside of the garden lures the snails out rather than in.

If you’d like to know how to easily make your own snail and slug beer traps, click on over to my post, How to Make Your Own Slug Traps, to find out how.

What pests have you noticed in your garden this year?

View all Gibby's Garden Diary Entries

Gibby's Garden Diary entry #6 - Plant List (previous entry)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to Keep Your Garden Healthy in Dry Weather

Image: Gibby's Garden
When there is no rain in sight for days at a time and the humidity rises a few notches, it tends to leave garden soil hard and dry - neither of which are good for plants. Dry weather stunts plants and if it gets really bad, kills them off. To help coax your garden through dry weather - water, mulch and cultivate.


Yes, I’m well aware that I’m stating the obvious here. Truth be told, I never water my gardens, even when they are dry, simply because none of them are anywhere near a hose so I don’t have that option. If you are going to drag out the hose or set up the sprinkler, make sure not to over water (no puddling), do not drag the hose across any plants and water in early mornings to prevent disease and fungus.


That’s right - mulch. You may think covering the ground near or around your plants with a material that prevents weeds may inhibit water from penetrating the soil, but it doesn’t. A fine layer of mulch helps keep garden soil moist, because it keeps water from evaporating, especially in hot, dry weather.

The rule of thumb for mulching is to leave a 3-4 inch diameter around seedlings and rows of seeds that have recently been sown. Wait until plants have had some time to grow and anchor themselves with their roots before pushing the mulch to within an inch or two of plants.


Another great way to keep gardens growing healthy and strong during dry weather is to cultivate the soil around plants. Be gentle making sure not to disturb the plant’s roots, especially the roots of young plants. I use a hand cultivator to loosen the soil, especially when the soil is dry. This helps let in moisture and gives oxygen a chance to circulate.

How has the weather been in your area this gardening season? Mine has gone from sopping wet to dry and back again. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

3 Organic Ways to Stop Weeds from Growing

Image: Gibby's Garden
Weeds are the last thing we gardeners want to see growing, especially in abundance. Not only do they soak up vital nutrients, water and sunlight, they take time to pull - a time consuming task. Over the years I’ve found 3 ways that really help keep weeds from growing including mulching, cultivating and weeding more frequently, helping to free up my summer for more fun activities.

1#: Mulch! Mulch! Mulch!

One of the best ways to stop weeds from growing is by mulching, and this is something that I cannot stress enough. Mulch prevents weeds from growing while helping the soil stay moist, so it’s like getting a 2 for 1 deal. There are many varieties of mulches to suit your needs and tastes including hay, straw, bark, pine needles, crushed peanut shells etc.

Note: I’ve been using mulch hay as mulch for years now mainly because I live on a farm and it’s free and readily available to me. This year after my garden was tilled, I immediately put down a thick layer of mulch to stop weeds from growing before I had a chance to plant. Now, I still get some weeds, but I’ve cut the time I used to spend weeding by about 2/3.

#2: Cultivate

Cultivate around larger plants making sure not to disturb their roots and between rows using a hand held or electric cultivator. I use a hand held cultivator to lightly turn the soil. This uproots weeds as well as their seeds before they have a chance to grow. This is one of the more physical and time consuming ways to stop weeds from growing but it works; especially when coupled with mulch.

#3: Weed Frequently

The more often you weed the fewer weeds you’ll have to pull. When you get rid of weeds by cultivating or pulling by hand, you disturb the soil which helps stop future weeds from growing as well as eliminate the ones already there. I like to check my gardens every few days and pull or cultivate any weeds to stay on top of things.

As much as I would love to say I don’t get any weeds, I can’t, but I’m happy to report I’ve drastically cut down the time I spend weeding my garden. I encourage you to try the 3 ways I’ve shared and to key me in on any of your own ideas. Mind you I’m an organic gardener, so spraying with pesticides isn’t an option for me.