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Wednesday, July 2, 2008 07:12 am

Cool beans!

It’s not too late to plant green beans

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Untitled Document The tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and green beans in my vegetable garden are in bloom, and I’m excited. It won’t be long before my family’s meals will consist primarily of garden-fresh produce.
In recent weeks my children have enjoyed eating sugar snap peas fresh from the plant. Soon they will be just as excited to pick and eat green beans. This year we planted green bush beans and purple bush beans in our garden. Why purple? We wanted to see what they taste like.
Royal Burgundy bush beans produce a beautiful dark-green plant with a purplish tinge on the stem and petioles. Even the flowers are purple. The dark-purple pods can be used raw to add color to salads, steamed, or cooked. (Unfortunately, when cooked the pods turn green.) Other purple bean cultivars include Royalty Purple and Purple Queen. A tender warm-season vegetable, beans should be planted after there’s no danger of frost. To ensure a continuous supply, plant seeds every two to four weeks until early August. Depending on the variety, beans mature in 50 to 65 days. Beans are available in green, yellow, purple, Romano, runner, and lima varieties and come in two types, bush and pole. Pole bean plants climb supports and are easily harvested. Bush bean plants — more popular because they require less work — stand without support. Common problems of bean plants include bean leaf beetles, bean mosaic diseases, and bacterial bean blight. Other diseases include anthracnose, rust, and white mold. Bean leaf beetles chew holes in the leaves and sometimes eat the pods. Unless more than 20 percent of foliage is eaten, though, don’t worry about the harvest. Bean mosaic disease turns plants yellowish green and cuts the production of pods. The leaves on infected plants are a mottled yellow. Signs of bacterial bean blight include bright-yellow or brown spots on leaves or water-soaked spots on pods. Bacterial bean blight is best controlled by practicing three-year crop rotation, buying seeds from a reputable dealer, avoiding work among wet plants, and removing all bean debris from the garden. Harvest beans when the pods are firm, crisp, and fully elongated. The length of the pod depends on the cultivar, but most are harvested when 5 or 6 inches long. Be sure to harvest beans before the seeds within the pod develop significantly — before you see the seed bulge. Make sure to pick beans when the plants are dry; picking when they’re wet can spread disease.
You can store fresh unwashed bean pods in plastic bags in the crisper of your refrigerator for as long as three days. Just before using them, wash the beans in cold water. Only the stem end needs to be removed. Serve beans raw or cooked. To retain the most nutritional value, cooking time should be brief. An excess of green beans can be frozen, dried, or canned. For more information, go to the Web site of the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation, www.uga.edu/nchfp. It’s not too late to plant green-bean seeds, or you can get garden-fresh beans at your local farmers’ market. The University of Illinois Extension’s “Watch Your Garden Grow” Web page, www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/veggies, has more information on growing and harvesting beans, plus recipes. • Do you find that your flower gardens just aren’t as flashy in late summer and fall as they were in May and June? A fall-blooming garden is easy to plan once you know what will be blooming in the heat of August through September. Learn what to plant at a seminar hosted by Martha Smith, a horticulture educator with the U of I Extension. “Late Summer and Fall Blooming Perennials” is offered at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 8, and again at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10. The program will be held at the Extension Building, on the state fairgrounds. Call 217-782-4617 or register online at www.extension.uiuc.edu/sangamonmenard. The cost is $2.

Jennifer Fishburn is a horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit. Contact her at fishburn@uiuc.edu.
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