Charlie’s Mid May Newsletter
As we scramble every day to keep up with the changing weather and plant growth, it’s getting a little harder to find time to write the newsletter. But here it is the Mid-May newsletter! There’s lots going on where ever you live in the country. From our chilly zone 5 spring garden that’s still bursting with flowering bulbs, shrubs and trees, to Southern and Western gardeners who are enjoying harvests from the garden and are well into summer.
One vegetable everyone can plant in one form or another are beans. I talk not only about bush and pole beans, but some unusual ones in this newsletter. Foliage plants for shade have become all the rage. Two bulbs that perform well in shade and provide color with their flowers and foliage are caladiums and calla lilies. I review this Southern beauties here with tips on growing them in cooler climates.
European pears can be tricky in our climate, but Asian pears don’t seem to skip a beat, providing juicy, sweet fruits every year. I talk about growing Asian pears in this newsletter.
Speaking of learning, if you learn best by watching rather than reading, check out my webinars for sale. Over the last two years I’ve tackled topics such as, Edible Landscaping, Small Space Edible Gardening, Cottage Gardening, Organic Pest Control and more. Check out these webinars. They are only 1 hour long with a one-half hour Q/A afterward. Once purchased you can watch them as many times as you like. And I’ll send you the handouts too!
So, enjoy the spring, if you still have one, or summer if you’re already there.
Until next time I’ll be seeing you… in the garden.
- Vermont Garden Journal Radio- This week; Broccoli
- Connecticut Garden Journal Radio- This week; New Containers
- In the Garden (WCAX-TV CBS)- This week; Dividing Perennials
- Where’s Charlie Speaking? May 15, 2018, Fair Haven Library, Fair Haven, VT
Okay, before you yawn and go off to sleep as I talk about beans, let me pique your interest a bit. Yes, we’ve all grown bush and pole beans and they are a reliable crop for a beginning gardener and very satisfying to grow. But there are other beans you can eat fresh that are a little more challenging, but very rewarding.
My favorite bush bean, hands down, are the haricot vert or French fillet beans. ‘Maxibel’ and ‘Tavera’ are two varieties that feature thin beans with amazing flavor. Even when we’ve been negligent in picking them, the mature beans still taste good. Bush beans also come in different colors. From yellow ‘Gold Rush’ to the burgundy colored ‘Red Swan’ that looks like a flat ‘Roma’ bean, to the purple colored ‘Blue Coco Pole’. Speaking of Italian bush beans, ‘Roma II’ is a classic and great for cooking with garlic, tomatoes and olive oil and eaten with fresh Italian bread. Yum. Is it lunch time yet?
Then there are unusual beans, such as the yard long beans. These pole beans are heat lovers, so are best grown in warm areas. ‘Red Noodle’ is a yard long bean that’s best harvested when it’s tender — about 1 foot long. Only a few beans are needed for a meal. Unlike other red colored beans, the burgundy colored pods of ‘Red Noodle’ keep their color when cooked. The hyacinth bean has a unique flavor, but the purple pods are best eaten when young. Older pods and seeds are poisonous unless cooked properly! This climber is also a heat lover. Scarlet runner beans come in orange, peach and bi-colored flowers depending on the selection. They are good cool weather climbers.
Bean are pretty forgiving crops. Wait until the last frost date has passed and stagger plantings of bush beans every 2 weeks until the end of July. This will ensure you get a manageable size crop every week. Plant pole beans all at once, since they produce over time. Consider growing pole beans as part of a three sisters garden of corn, beans and winter squash. The beans climb up the stalks of the taller plants. Plant on raised beds for good drainage and air flow. This will help prevent white rot and other diseases. Watch for the Mexican bean beetle and crush the eggs on the undersides of the leaves to control it. Watch my video on organic pest controls to help.
Calla lilies and caladiums are best known in the Southeast. They love the warm, humid weather. Calla lilies produce colorful flowers all summer, while caladiums are grown for their attractive leaves. Both grow well in part shade.
While they’re prized in the South, Northern gardeners can grow them successfully, too. If you’re going to grow them, do so in earnest. Get are number of different colored calla lilies to try. Try ‘Best Gold’, ‘Flame’ orange lily, ‘Odessa’ black calla, and ‘Purple Rain’. There are always mixes you can buy, too. Pair these with colorful Caladium mixes either in the garden or containers.
In warm areas don’t hesitate to plant calla lilies and caladiums in the ground as a low growing accent plant in the garden. Pair them with other shade lovers such as hosta, astilbe, begonia and impatiens. In cool summer areas, try them in the ground as well, but make sure the soil is well-drained or raised. Cool, wet soils can rot the plants. A better bet is growing them in containers. The colorful flowers and leaves and short stature lend themselves well to growing in pots on a deck or patio. Plus, if it does get cool, you can protect them easier and move them around.
Calla lilies and caladium bulbs can be dug and stored like dahlias in winter in most climates colder than zone 8. In warm climates you can keep them in the soil as long as the soil is well drained. And the bulbs will multiply over time, so you can start with a few and end up with a bed of colorful shade plants in your garden.
When we first started growing Asian pears I thought they would be difficult and tender in our zone 5 garden. Not only was I wrong about their hardiness, they produce consistently every year yielding round, apple-like fruits, with a crunchy pear-like flavor. They have few problems, as long as we keep the occasional marauding deer away. They have the crispness of an apple and the sweetness of a pear. We love them!
Look for Asian pear varieties that are hardy for your area. We grow ‘Chojuro’ and ‘Shinseiki’, Grow two different varieties for the best pollination. Like European pears, Asian pears can grow more upright, but most grow only to 15 feet. So they are a good choice in small spaces, as long as they have enough sun.
While European pears can be finicky about flowering, setting fruits and bearing every year, we’ve found Asian pears are not. As long as you have two varieties, they produce well every year. The fruits are brown or yellow skinned and are picked when they separate from the tree easily when tugged.
Asian pears can be afflicted with fire blight and other diseases. Look for varieties resistant to these diseases. Keep deer away with fencing. Other than that, we’ve had few other pests bothering our Asian pears.
In My Garden: Vegetable Garden Care
Many gardeners are well under way in their vegetable garden. There are so many things to do depending on what you’re growing and where you live. So, I thought to share one of my videos from my days at the National Gardening Association on vegetable garden care.
In this video I cover the basics of thinning, fertilizing, watering and caring for your veggies at their early stage of growth. I talk about when to fertilize which vegetables in the summer garden for a bigger harvest.
Take a look as a refresher and reminder of what to do, and to learn the best ways to keep your veggies healthy and productive.
Go here for my Care for the Vegetable Garden Video