Growing Beans and Corn--written by Joseph Cash
My father was a believer in vegetables, he had a big garden with several types of beans and several rows of corn. After cultivating the plot, he would lay out rows about five feet apart.
He would make a long mound down the row, raking soil from both sides. Using the corner of a hoe, he would open a shallow furrow down the center of the mound. Next he would sprinkle 10-20-10 fertilizer in the furrow about a handful every two or three feet. A little soil was then raked over the fertilizer.
Beans are planted after any chance of frost has passed for the season. My father would tell me to plant them in the furrow. Three seeds in each spot about eight inches apart. "Plant them so you can get a hoe in between," he would say.
After the seeds are planted, we would rake an inch of soil over the beans covering the furrow. If the soil is dry, you can improve germination by watering.
The beans will absorb moisture and swell, cracking the skin and causing the two halfs of the bean to split. The embryo bean plant is between the two halves. Gravity will cause the root to grow downward.
As the root plunges downward, it lifts the bean to the surface.
If a crust has formed at the soil surface due to hard rain, it can be difficult for the bean to poke through. Be gentle if you need to help the sprout get through the crust by lifting it away. You can prolong the season by planting more beans every three weeks until July.
The two halves of the bean turn green after they break the surface. Just above them are the seed leaves or dicotyledons. And above those will be the first two true leaves. Sprouting beans can sometimes be purchased as six packs at garden centers, but the beans develop so quickly that planting the seeds is usually the best choice.
My father grew Kentucky Wonder pole beans, still popular with gardeners today. And he grew lots of butter beans (limas). Some info on varieties: Garden Guide
Snap beans or pole beans are long narrow beans up to 8 inches long that can be easily snapped in two, some grow stringy fibers along top and bottom of the beans that will need to be removed when harvested. Butter beans are four inches long and have two flat sides. Butter beans have to be removed from their shells.
As the vines grow, weeds need to removed and water supplied during dry spells. When the bean plants are four inches tall, soil should be raked against them from each side, butressing the plants.
Butter beans need no support and will grow about 20 inches tall. Pole beans, of course, need supports to grow, traditionally slender saplings were formed into tepee shapes by stripping their branches and sticking the butts in the ground along the rows and tied four at time near the top. They should be stuck in the ground four or five feet apart and at least five feet high. But bean vines can also grow up wire fencing, strings, tomato cages, trellises, or other similiar objects.
Pole beans will naturally twine their way up the supports though you can help any vines that miss finding the supports and try to twirl around each other. Gently wrap them around the supports. To give them an extra boost, apply manure tea or other liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every four to six weeks.
When the plants have grown for six to eight weeks short stalks with multiple blooms will appear. Insects such as bees and butterflies will probe them for nectar, carrying the pollen needed for fertilization from bloom to bloom. Some types of beans self fertilize.
Blooms that receive pollen will soon have a swelling at their base. The swelling elongates into a pod as the old bloom falls away. The beans take several weeks to develop and fill out the pod.
Pole beans will have many of their pod clusters hanging from the supports as well as some along the sides of the rows. Butter bean pods are formed in a similiar manner but more will be hidden by the leaves.
The bean pods gradually fill. They should be picked when the beans inside feel plump and you can plainly feel the bulge of each bean, three or four per pod.
Pole bean pods also fill out and are picked when the beans can be felt inside the pod.
Corn stands tall as a garden favorite. It’s easy to grow though it takes a lot of square feet to produce much of a crop. But you do remember, fondly, the times you enjoyed fresh corn on the cob.
Not all corn is the same. Garden corn is called sweet corn because it has a sugar content than field corn which is grown by farmers to feed cattle. Sweet corn also has smaller plants and ears with thinner skins on the kernel.
Corn is usually grown in rows much like beans, but it is best to have several rows together in a block rather than have one long row. Corn is pollinated by the wind which is facilitated by the plants close together. Poor pollination can result in corn ears that are not completely filled out. It is also a good idea to keep sweet corn away from any other type of corn such as popcorn, field corn, or “Indian corn” to avoid cross pollination.
Corn is planted after the last frost of spring. Prepare the rows just as you would for beans. Plant two seeds about every six to eight inches. Thin to one plant after the corn is three inches high. As the stalks grow, rake soil up against each side of the growing plants to help support them. Keep corn watered and keep the weeds out to prevent competition.
After reaching four to five feet tall, the top of the stalk will develop a tassel. The male part of the plant that produces pollen. At the point where the long leaves grow from the stem is where the corn ears will develop. When they enlarge, the tips of the ears will develop light green fibers called corn silks. Two or three ears will develop on each plant, only one or two will eventually reach full size.
The yellow pollen will land on the silks and begin the fertilization process.
Some of the problems sweet corn or popcorn may have are at garden guide.
Each kernel has its own silk. The ear is not ready to pick until the silks start to dry and turn dark. The ear becomes plumper as each kernel grows and fills with a white “milk”. To check if the ear is ready to pick, gently pull the end of shucks back a few inches and see if the kernels look full. Squeeze a kernel with your fingernail to see if the kernel is till soft a little of the corn milk will squirt.
To pick, firmly grab the ear and jerk quickly downward with a slight twist of the wrist. Pull the shucks off and use a silk brush to remove the silks. Cook within 24 hours since the sugar in sweet corn turns to starch soon after it is picked.
With the rapidly increasing price of food, and everything else, gardeners in America, Austrailia, Canada, New Zealand, Britian, or anywhere else may want to take up the age old practice of gardening. Unless you have the space, time energy, and comittment, it is rather unlikely you will be able to raise enough vegetables to seriously impact your food budget right away. However, that does not mean you cannot grow worthwhile tasty vegetables (especially tomatoes) your first year and grow into a large scale gardener in time.
Fall Salad Garden
.... More to come....