The Garden Patch: How, where, when, what should you plant?

Well, here we are, another week gone by and this week we want to visit about vegetables! There’s a lot to talk about so let’s get started. Oh, by the way, if it weren’t for vegetables and flowers, why else would we have a garden patch?

Vegetable crops. Vegetables represent plants that are unique from each other in their origin, plant type, cultural requirements and associated concerns. In the next week(s) we’ll provide additional details on the culture or growing requirements of a selected group of common vegetables (the ones most likely to be found in your or my garden).

Asparagus. Asparagus is a hardy perennial that will last for 30 years or more in the garden. Plant asparagus near the edge or side of the garden where it will not interfere with annual tillage. Asparagus is one of the first crops harvested in the spring.

Varieties. Mary Washington, California 157 (UC 157), Ida Lee, Jersey Giant, Jersey Knight and Jersey General.

When to plant. Asparagus can be planted in early spring (mid-March to mid-April) or in the fall (early October to mid-November) NOW! Purchase fresh plump crowns from a local garden center or plant seedling transplants.

Spacing. Plant crowns or transplants so that the buds of the crown are 7 to 8 inches below ground level. Cover with a few inches of soil initially and add soil as the season progresses. After the trench is filled and the soil settles, crown buds should be about 6 inches below soil level.

Care. Asparagus produces a large, vigorous root system and is fairly resistant to stress conditions. Well drained soil and a full sun location are necessary. Soak the area well in dry weather. Spear production in the spring depends on vigorous growth the previous season. Spears begin to emerge in early April and may be damaged by a few spring freezes. Cut and destroy frozen spears and the plant will rapidly send up new spears to replace them. Do not harvest the first year. In subsequent years, harvest until the spear size decreases to thinner than a pencil, usually six to seven weeks in a mature planting. Fertilize in the early spring so that fertilizer can be carried to the root zone with spring rains. Weeds are a particular concern in this perennial plant. Control weeds with mulching, hoeing or spot chemical treatment because weeds can invade over time. In autumn, you can remove dead ferns after they are completely brown or leave them in place through the winter to catch moisture and prevent soil loss.

Harvesting. Snap spears at the breaking point ½ to ¾ inch above the soil level or cut slightly below the soil level with a sharp knife. When spears are more then 10 to 13 inches long they become tough and woody. Heat will cause to tips of the spears to open and become loose – called “feathered tips” – later in the season unless harvested frequently. Asparagus deteriorates rapidly after harvest – store in a cold, moist location and use quickly.

Common concerns. Asparagus beetles.

Now, let’s talk about beans … I know a poem about beans, but the editor would never let me print it, so …

Beans are a tender, warm season crop that is popular in Kansas gardens as either a spring crop or a fall crop. Snap or green beans are grown for their tender, immature pods. Some beans can be allowed to fill and the bean seeds can be harvested for later use. Some beans are “pole” types that require a large trellis to climb. (I grow bamboo, so I make dandy trellises!)

Varieties. Common green podded varieties include Contender, Provider, Strike, Tendercrop and Blue Lake types. Yellow varieties include Resistant Cherokee Wax, Goldrush, Sungold, Kinghorn Wax, Majestic and Gold Crop. Pole type green beans include Kentucky Wonder and McCaslan. Broad flat podded green beans are often called Italian or Romano beans and varieties include Roma, Greencrop and Bush Romano.

Lima beans are difficult to grow in Kansas because they require a longer period to develop and tend to drop blossoms in hot, dry weather. Choose an early variety such as Baby Bush, Fordhook, Henderson, Thorogreen or a similar maturing variety.

When to plant. Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures. Soil temperatures should be 55 to 60 degrees F with danger of freezes well past before planting. Fall beans can be planted in early August. You can have a continuous supply by planting at intervals several weeks apart. HOWEVER, beans planted to bloom in hot, dry weather frequently will be of poor quality.

Spacing. Plant seeds about an inch deep in rows 18 inches apart. A plant every 3 – 5 inches is desirable, so drop seed about every 2 – 4 inches. Plant pole beans 6 – 12 inches apart.

Care. Do not soak bean seed prior to planting. Moisten the soil to provide moisture for germination, but do not allow water to form a tight crust. Beans have a shallow root system and require careful cultivation, good weed control and water in dry periods. Beans are sensitive to soil salts. Avoid alkali spots or “salty” locations.

Harvesting. Harvest snap beans when the pod is crisp and before the seeds enlarge significantly. Do not harvest in early morning when dew is on the plants as this may spread bacterial blight. Most newer varieties of beans are developed to set a large number of pods at one time for a more concentrated harvest. Harvest lima beans and horticultural beans when the pods are fully formed and seeds have enlarged to the degree you desire.

Common concerns. Bacterial blight; bean leaf beetle (black/yellow spotted beetle); poor stands from salt injury or soil crusting.

There you go! Ready for spring? Next week; beets and or Swiss chard. Maybe a little broccoli thrown in for flavor. Stay tuned … we’re playing your favorites! Till next time!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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