The fall growing season starts now

By early August the garden you started last spring, 7 months ago, probably has some ragged edges.  It may have stopped producing.  Plants you watered and kept alive will get a second wind when the first autumn cool front arrives in September.  Meanwhile the first half of August is the beginning of our north Texas’s growing season.

The ground is already warm so if you’re going to be in town with access to a hose you can put a lot of seeds right in the ground, and have a second go.  As they say at the racetrack, ladies and gentlemen start your engines.

One of the easiest second season plants to cultivate is the common green bean, phaseolus vulgaris.  Other names for this particular fruit are string bean, snap bean, French bean, and haricot bean.  The seed is the true bean, but we also call the pod a bean.  We eat immature pods, but can let the fruits mature then collect the seeds to eat or save.

Thoroughly mature bean pods have a tough texture.  “Horticultural” beans which produce large but tender pods may be purchased through catalog companies.  I have a friend who pickles horticultural bean pods for a savory treat.

Bean aficionados actually plant seeds every two weeks after the last spring freeze so they have a continuous harvest, in Texas until about Thanksgiving.  You can also do this during the fall growing season.  Personally, by late June I need a break from eating and preserving beans, and a single crop in August meets my bean needs.

Beans belong to the legume plant family.  They like full sun, good drainage, consistent water, food, and friable low acid to neutral pH soil.  Their roots “fix” nitrogen in the soil which is a good thing.

Friable means ground that crumbles when you give it a drink and a squeeze.  Add lots of organic matter–compost, manure, and mulch–to make black gumbo clay or sandy topsoil friable.  If you do that, you can fudge on the pH as far as run of the mill beans are concerned.

Common green beans grow into bushes that mature in about 8 weeks; vines (pole beans) mature in about 10 weeks.

If you plant in early August you’ll have a crop by October.  Bush beans top out at 18-inches high, while the vines grow to 8-feet and need a trellis of some sort.  (Interplant the vines with corn in the spring for nature’s own trellis.)

When a bean vine reaches the top of its trellis, pinch the terminal tip to tell the plant to make side branches.  The only limit to trellis designs is your imagination.


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