Ron Jujawski | Garden Journal: Harvest time continues in the garden

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Those who think I am full of beans may not be far off the mark. I do like beans. For the past six weeks, we've been harvesting and eating almost daily six different varieties of bush and pole beans. Now, we are at the time of year when the harvest of dry beans begins.

Dry beans, sometimes referred to as deception beans because they talk behind your back, may be my favorite, both from the standpoint of growing and harvesting, and for eating. They are a most versatile vegetable. We use dry beans in soups, stews, chili, baked beans and many other dishes throughout the year. Aside from the versatility, one thing that fascinates me is the incredible number of varieties, many very colorful. So colorful, in fact, that they make interesting displays when stored in clear glass jars.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The first issue now is the harvest. A question I often get is: "When do I pick dry beans?" The first sign for me is when some leaves on the bean plants begin to turn yellow. At that point, I begin examining individual bean pods. If a pod is tan and feels crisp, it is ready to harvest. To be certain, I shake the pod. Even a little rattle of the beans within indicates maturity. I could wait until the plants have dried and the leaves have fallen, but by then many of the pods will have split open dropping the beans onto the ground.

The harvested bean pods are placed in onion bags, where they'll stay until I'm ready to shell them, usually as I watch a football game or British mystery series on the telly. Yes, it is another of those pleasant tasks for those of us who are masters of mindless tasks.

WAIT, THERE ARE STILL CHORES ...


While on the subject of mindless, and a few mindful, tasks, here are a few to occupy your leisure time this week:

- Harvest sunflowers when the heads are brown, dry and the seeds separate easily. To avoid competing with birds for the seeds, cover the heads with cheesecloth or cut the heads with a foot or two of stem attached. Hang these in a dry, airy place, such as a drafty garden shed, garage or breezeway out of range of birds. The harvested seeds may be eaten raw or roasted.

- Transplant evergreen shrubs, if desired. Because the leaves are fully mature with a waxy coating, they are effective at conserving moisture now and, as such, the plants handle transplant shock well. Also, root development will continue until the ground freezes. To ensure good establishment of the plants, water the soil deeply once a week, especially if rainfall is infrequent.

- Space daylilies about 1 1/2 feet apart when planting. They can tolerate part shade, but place them in soil that drains well. In October, plant daffodil bulbs between the daylilies. After the daffodils finish their bloom next spring, the daylily foliage will come up and hide their fading foliage.

- Plant hardy chrysanthemums, flowering kale and late blooming asters to add color to brighten the fall landscape. Retail garden centers should be well-stocked with these plants this month.

- Cut off the leaves of onions which were harvested while some of the leaves were still green when the onion necks are dry and tight. Cure onions in baskets or crates for a week or more at temperatures between 70 and 80 F. That shouldn't be too difficult with the latest heat wave. Once cured, store onions in the coldest part of your basement.

- Scrub carrots but don't peel them. Many of their nutrients are stored in the skin and will be lost if peeled. Also, don't be too hasty to harvest all the carrots from the garden. Carrots can take a lot of cold weather, and their flavor is enhanced by exposure to frosty temperatures.

HARVESTING TIPS

Here are some tips for harvesting fruit this month:

- Harvest grapes when fully ripe, that is, when they are sweet tasting. Grapes do not ripen after picking.

- Harvest pears while they are still somewhat hard and green, and detach when lifted or tilted to a horizontal position. If allowed to turn brown before picking, pears will be mushy. After harvesting the hard, green pears, store them in the refrigerator for a few days for ripening.

- Pick apples when the background color changes from green to greenish-yellow and the fruit easily detaches from the tree.

- Pick plums just as they begin to soften.

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