Readers of this column might argue that the writer is full of beans. Well, it’s true. I’m not only full of beans, but our pantry is too. These are dry beans that I have harvested over the past few weeks and will continue to do this until the last bean pod is plucked from its plant. It is not unusual or difficult to grow dry shell beans. Many are simply beans that can be eaten fresh, but can also be left on the plant until the pods and beans inside are dry. Anyone who enjoys a meal of baked beans, bean soup, or beans and rice can grow these beans.
Red Kidney, Black Turtle, Great Northern Cranberry, and Vermont Cranberry are common varieties that most gardeners are familiar with. However, there are many other varieties of various colors and color patterns, so much so that cultivating them can easily become an obsession. Currently, I am growing 11 varieties including the orca which gets its name from the white and black color pattern resembling that of the killer whale of the same name. Another strain is Lazy Housewife, one that I feel guilty about growing given my wife’s workaholic habits.
Dry beans in the shell are not harvested until the pods are dry and crispy when pressed. If impatient, plants with mostly yellow leaves but not quite crispy pods can be pulled out and hung on a trellis or wire until the pods are completely dry. This can be indoors or outdoors, but preferably outdoors. Once dried, I collect the pods and place them in bushel baskets or onion bags until they are ready to be shelled. My favorite time to peel is in the evening after a day’s work and while watching TV or listening to music and sometimes contemplating the role of beans in musical composition.
You don’t need to be full of beans or spend time thinking before you embark on these tasks:
- Now remove the tip of the Brussels sprouts. This should promote an increase in the size of the sprouts. In the meantime, feel free to snap off some of the lower and larger shoots as needed.
- Harvest butternut, acorn, and other winter squash when the skin is tough enough to resist nail puncture. Secure the squash by leaving them outside, on a picnic table for example, in direct sunlight for about a week. Then store the squash in a single layer in a cool, dimly lit place in the basement or under your bed like the early settlers did. Do not store squash near apples or pears as these fruits give off ethylene gas (a natural growth regulator) which will shorten the shelf life of the squash.
- Cut off the spent corn stalks and use them for fall decorations. Do not surround the mailbox with a stack of corn stalks. Your courier finds it very boring.
- Cut back any garlic plants that have dried out in the past 6 to 8 weeks. Cut off the shoots, leaving about 2 inches of stem attached to the bulb. Then cut the roots. Sort a few of the bulbs with the larger cloves and use them as a source of “seeds” to plant them towards the end of this month or early November. Bulbs in which the cloves have separated should be used first, as they will not keep as long as those with the skin intact.
- Don’t delay moving houseplants indoors. Since nighttime temperatures are now consistently in the 40 Â° F range, it would be best to acclimatize these plants indoors by placing them in the coolest but brightest room in the house for a week or two. .
- Plant crocus and other spring flowering bulbs now that nighttime temperatures are consistently in the 40 to 50 F range. Do not apply fertilizer yet. Fertilizer applications for spring flowering bulbs are best made right after flowering in the spring. Plan to have some sort of mulch available to cover the bulb plantings once the soil begins to freeze. A 2-3 inch layer of straw, pine needles, mower-shredded leaves are good mulch options.
- Visit the Berkshire Botanic Gardens, Chesterwood, Naumkeag, Springside Park, The Mount, and other public gardens in the area for fall-flowering perennial ideas to add to your flower garden. Fall foliage shouldn’t be the only color in your home landscape this time of year.
- Do not cut ornamental grasses now. Miscanthus, feathered reed, barbon, and blue oat grass are a few examples of ornamental grasses that maintain interest in the conservatory even when the ground is covered in snow. Besides their ornamental value, these grasses also provide food and shelter for birds.
By the way, in British slang, “full of beans” means energetic and bouncy. So that leaves me out.