Chinese Longbeans -- Arkansas Crop Failures

greentongueSeptember 1, 2007

I am growing 3 varieties of Chinese Longbeans (Vigna unguiculata cultigroup Sesquipedalis) this year... and it HAS BEEN A CHALLENGE! However, I have accidentally impressed two local gardeners who are from Taiwan.... because I got a crop at all!!

I would like to know the following, if anyone has enough experience with this group of beans to fill in the blanks for me.

My 3 varieties are Philippine Purple; Yardlong, Purple Pod; Anna's Taiwan Green (I posted lots of pix of them in the photo galleries as GREAT VEGETABLES)

1) HOW MUCH WATER DO THEY REALLY NEED? I grew 2 varieties (both purple podded types) in a fenced area in my "Back 40" because that was the only place I really had a trellis system heavy enough to support them. I had good soil moisture until end of June, then no rain since, and we had about a month of triple digit temperatures.. nearly all of August. I mulch (meadow grass clippings), and I deep-soak watered all of them at approximately 15 - 20 day intervals. I have had some foliage loss, but Yardlong, Purple Pod still made an abundant crop...

The Philippine is considered day-length sensitive, and it came into bloom unseasonably early, possibly from heat and drought stress. Many of the pods did not fill at all, or had only 2-3 beans at most in them. It also showed the most foliage loss in the 100+ degree heat. Now that the temps are down to 65 nights / 90 days and we are near the fall equinox, it is covered with blooms. However, it was last watered about 2 weeks ago and doesn't seem to be showing drought stress...

Anna's Taiwan Green was sown mid-June, and it was watered regularly. I got an incredible first crop from it (harvested this week), but now it is making very few new blossom stems. I spent another $3 yesterday to deep soak water again... it had been only 10 days since last watering, but lots of root competition in this area...

The lady who gave me the seeds grew hers at their weekend property. She has had excellent crops in past years at that location, but with this year's exceptional heat and drought, she had a crop failure... reported only 2-3 beans per week.

2) WHAT IS THE LOWEST NIGHT / DAY TEMPERATURES THEY WILL TOLERATE AND STILL SET AND MATURE PODS? Johnny's Selected Seeds sells only one variety... says to expect reduced crops in cooler growing areas. Is there a general rule of thumb on how cold the nights have to become to shut off their blooming? What about maturity of pods to save good seeds?

3) WHAT SOIL FERTILITY IS BEST FOR THESE BEANS? I used innoculant on all of mine... and I'm eager to see the roots when I can dig them at end of season. However, I have reason to wonder if very rich soil can actually inhibit their growth.

My basic soil is raw clay with about 50% chunky rocks(limestone - unaltered Ph is 6 - 6.5, but low on all basic nutrients). Some Yardlong, Purple Pod were planted directly in this soil (unimproved, with organic mulches to retain moisture), some went into soil that has had compost added for a couple of years, and one plant shared a root zone with a specialty greens crop, to which I was supplying daily water and high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Philippine Purple is in soil with compost added last 2 years.

Anna's Taiwan Green is growing in raw clay / rock PLUS a chat (limestone) fill abutting it.

All plants in raw clay/rock and moderately fertile soil have come into bloom and cropped well at expected times.

However, the Yardlong, Purple Pod sharing the root zone with the watered and fertilized greens was a full month longer coming into bloom; however, it has produced well since.

Another gardener... also a Taiwan national ... deep composted her garden with cotton gin waste last fall.... and she waters regularly. She had magnificent crops from all her other vegetables, but a total crop failure from Anna's Taiwan Green. Great, healthy vines which did not set a single bloom!

Any additional information on the subjects of water requirements, night temperatures, and soil fertility ranges will be greatly appreciated.

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The only one of these that I have grown is the traditional "Yardlong" which has been grown in this country since the 18th century. But there are 45 cultivars that I know about. Like everything else some cultivars perform better in specific conditions than others. They are most often referred to by the common name yardlong, or asparagus bean. Actually they are a subset of southern peas, usually do well anywhere a southern pea will grow. There are several long threads here on Yardlongs/ asparagus beans. Just scroll down and read them and they will probably answer all your questions.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 8:31AM
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Thank you... will do, as soon as I come back from moving the water hoses again!

What a year... if you're in zone 8, you must have had a very challenging year also!


    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 1:46PM
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Jan, I've grown these in pretty alkaline conditions and they did well for me. They seem to slow down when nights start getting cool. But in my experience they keep setting pods until killed by frost. I grow Georgia Long, a putty red seeded yardlong. It can be a challenge to get much seed. Traditionally we hog all the beans until the tail end of the season and then scramble to leave some for seed. Then, because nights are cool, the seed doesn't fill out like it should. This year I'm leaving 12' of row, without picking, just to multiply seed!

Also, my experience is that Georgia Long (and probably your varieties as well) is not a water hog. We went through a terribly wet spring and early summer and then at least 6 weeks of 100+ days without rain. I didn't have to water ours at all.

Tahlequah, OK

PS. Contact Zeedman, who frequents this forum. He has a lot of experience and interest in these.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2007 at 2:06PM
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Very much appreciate your comments, especially as you live in an ajoining state = similar growing conditions in many aspects.

I am forced to bag blossoms on my 2 purple varieties because I planted them on adjoining trellises, and I have hummingbirds and bumblebees visiting them. The hours I'm spending on them is ridiculous. I joined Seed Saver's Exchange last fall... after 30 years of saving just seeds for myself... and this has been a year of hard study and many lessons!!

Zeedman has been great about answering my questions in the past... but I think my long replies probably wear out a lot of people. No accident I picked GREENTONGUE as an identity....

I'm guessing that he is very busy with his own gardens right now, considering how much closer frost is for him than for me... and that he will comment when he finds this message if there is anything not previously stated that he deems worth adding.

I did find a lot of answers when I followed "farmerdilla's advice to search and scroll.... and your comments that they are slowed by cooling is also very helpful. I'm going to talk to my friend about committing most / all of the Anna's Taiwan Green to making seeds, too, considering that she probably needs seed herself, too. Her garden experience is from a land that never freezes, gets lots more rain, and doesn't have the solstices we do. She has been gratified to see me succeed with some crops which did not grow for her, and we'll be comparing notes in person next year when she visits my garden weekly to see all my successes ... AND FAILURES.... firsthand.

Jan - Arkansas Ozarks

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 7:21AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Jan, you didn't wear me out... anyone who has read many of my posts knows that I too can get long-winded! I've speculated in the past on the role that beans might play in that... ;-)

The South was not the only area with a challenging year. In the Upper Midwest, we had below-normal temps for much of July, over 2 months of drought, followed by over a week of torrential rains at the end of August. But then, how often do you get a perfect year? I count my blessings; most of my garden - though somewhat late - is now thriving.

I think George hit the nail on the head. While yardlongs will tolerate a wide range of day temps, low night temps really shut them down. For me, they never really get going until summer nights climb above 50 degrees F., and they just explode if the nights are over 60 degrees F. When the temps return to the 50's at night, the vines will mature existing pods, but new pods will be stunted. A quick dip into the 40's, and they are done for the season.

As George also noted, if you wait too long before leaving pods for seed, they will mature during the cool wet days of early Autumn - which can cause poor-quality seed. Yardlong pods are thin, and offer little protection from moisture, which can lead to excessive spoilage during prolonged rains. (I lost all of my yardlong seed during my recent "monsoon" - but only some of my cowpeas, which have tougher husks.)

With my short seasons, I need to allow some pods to set early, to ensure that I get a good quantity of viable seed. Since yardlongs produce relatively small amounts of seed, it's best not to put all your eggs in one (late) basket.

Up until this year, I had not thought them to be too water-sensitive. But this year, I had drought conditions from mid-June to near the end of August; maybe 1-2 inches during the whole period.

One of my most reliable varieties (the Black Seeded) hardly grew at all. They were well mulched & watered occasionally; but without good rainfall, they were yellowed & weak, and bore only a few poor-quality pods. The other half of the row was "Garafal Oro" pole snaps, which grew normally. I should have watered more! Following our recent heavy rains, they have recovered somewhat... but the leaves have yet to fully green up, and the stunting is undeniable. So apparently, it has only now - for the first time - reached its water-starvation point.

However, the response of other varieties varied widely. "Chinese Red Noodle" grew slowly, but seemed more tolerant of the drought, and is now recovering nicely. There was a row of tomatoes directly adjacent, providing a "green mulch" to half of the root zone. Two Philippine varieties that I grew this year fared even better, and bore a good crop of high-quality pods - I can only wonder how they would have done with normal rainfall!

And a Malaysian variety even seemed to thrive on dry conditions; it climbed to the top of a 6-foot trellis & beyond, with rampant growth. But after over a week of rainfall, its leaves were browned, as if by frost. (It has only now begun to blossom, and may be another day-sensitive variety.)

My personal opinion is that yardlongs require more water than cowpeas grown for seed, because the pod quality is more critical. Mulch them _heavily_, and inspect the ground frequently for blossom drop... water them when the blossom drop becomes excessive.

As for fertility... my soil is fertile, and receives little nitrogen other than that left behind by legumes (which make up about 50% of my garden). There was a time (at another site, in San Diego) when I tilled in manure to the entire garden. I experienced the lush growth & late bean yield so often mentioned on GW (although they then bore heavily). Apparently, the beans would not flower abundantly until the excess N had been depleted. Jan, the experience of your friend who fertilizes her entire garden parallels my own; good performance for most vegetables, poor performance for beans.

Now, I spot-fertilize my N-hogs (like corn & squash) and other than inoculant, leave the beans to fend for themselves. They have done consistently well. To what degree this was due to the inoculant is a question that I hope to answer (at least partially) from an experiment I am conducting this year, with multiple legumes & their respective inoculants.

Thus far, there have been few noticeable results... except for cowpeas, where the difference in yield between treated- and untreated- has been obvious. Remember, as Farmadilla pointed out, yardlongs are just specialized cowpeas. Perhaps the difference is due to the fact that cowpeas were never cultivated here, so there is no resident bacterial population... and perhaps they just respond better to the treatment. Last year, the largest nodules I found were on the roots of a yardlong.

Jimster & I once discussed the use of low-N fertilizer for soybeans, to cover the 3-4 week gap between germination & the point where nodules supplied enough N for the plant. For poor soils (or for bad years) a similar technique might benefit yardlongs.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2007 at 6:54PM
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Zeedman, thanks AGAIN for your detailed comments. Long-windedness afflicts everyone who eats heartily from their gardens, beans or not!! I took liberty of posting pix under Garden Galleries>Great Vegetables of a Dry-Fried dish in progress and finished. I'm hoping the colors will sell the idea of these beans to more gardners. If there was a way to put FLAVORS on the internet, there might not be enough longbean seed in American to meet the demand next year.

I did find pictures of some of the dishes you cooked... they looked great, too. Mine has no vinegar to preserve color... just what colors the beans changed to when heat hit them. The rest of the ingredients are onions, pork, and soy sauce from the supermarket.... and drought-strickened sweet peppers, garlic, and Korean hot peppers from our garden. I'm attempting to put the picture here as is a real nuisance, but not as much as not having one. I am progressively losing contact with some old friends just because they refuse to communicate by internet, even when it's available to them.

Strange as it may sound to most people, I have learned over the years to APPRECIATE the difficult weather years. Such years let us refine our vegetables to the most versatile and conditions-resistant varieties... which may become critical as we slip into a future of Global Warming and increasing climatic chaos.

2005 and 2007 have absolutely ground my plantings in the crucible of natural selection. In 2005 I did nothing but observe. This year I spent $30 in August to water a few chosen plants from which I especially wanted crops and saved seeds. We... and 2 friends from Taiwan... ate most of our vegetables from my gardens, plus we ate Chinese dinners worth 3 times that retail for our trades. Good deal!!!

Even with only 3 varieties of long beans and no cowpeas, I could see differences in resistant to drought. I am bordering on accusing the vegetables of South Asia of requiring a monsoon's worth of water to perform as they should.

One legume that may tolerate heavy nitrogen... garden peas (Pisum sativum). The greentongue story behind this statement:

My late father-in-law came from 8 generations of orchardists and truck gardeners in Western New York, used to working with quality soil and nearly unlimited farm bi-products for improvement. His evaluation of the rocky clay we have here was that is was probably impossible to add too much fertilizer to it, and he kept his soil green from algae feeding on his fertilizer.

Lots of competition between us... I'm 95% organic; he's pro-chemicals. He though my plants looked "sick" cuz they weren't the artificial green of his with so much bagged fertilizer. One year he cheated and had a load of chicken manure delivered to his garden, the invited me come look at his peas. Yep, they were out-producing mine, growing on only deep composted soil and innoculants, about 2 to one. My mother-in-law "ratted" on him.

Note that by the time he could no longer garden, he was mulching everything .... and claiming he thought of it first!

I mulch (generally meadow grass clippings, but have used about anything an earthworm can eat later when I'm desperate), and this summer I watered as a deep soak with garden hose with bubbler on end about every 2 weeks. I observed a strong tendency to leaf scorch on the Philippine Purple because it doesn't fold its leaves vertically during the heat like other beans do, and it DEFINITELY resented the triple-digit heat more than the Yard Long, Purple Pod.

Anna's Taiwan Green didn't get same evaluation, as it was started quite late (mid June) and never wanted for water. My friends had so much interest in it, intently studing every picture I sent them of this and the bitter melons. They even speculated at one time that I would not get a crop as I had planted them too late. I am not going to get a LONG production. They set an immense first crop, but now seem to be "between waves" on bloom, and I think cold nites are going to catch them. I will have limited seed (not enough for SSE, but enough to share with 2-3 friends... you = friend if interested), but I will probably regrow this one next year.

Fertilizers: working with hopeless (to many gardeners!) soil on the front end, I sheet compost (ie, I pile on the organic stuff, and the worms and soil microbes do all the the work). Back in the late 1980's, I spent the whole month of November for 4 years hauling bagged leaves as townspeople raked and bagged them for trash pick-up. I wasn't the only hauler... one hog farmer had a wagon with side rails and 2 strong boys; I had only a GMC utility van, but I could still get 50 bags X 5 trips a day. I used a bag per square yard in my 100 foot x 100 foot garden, and even did leaves 3 feet deep in the "Back 40" one time.

My gardens were really beginning to produce, but still lacked fertility... 10-20-20 seems to make up the difference, and the decayed leaves plus worms working topsoil do the rest... I haven't plowed, except to use a hand pick to make the hole for plants/seeds... since 1990. Tillers cannot be used on this ground... the rocks tear off the blades.

Then I was gone for 3 years... 1992-1995... and sapling trees and experimental forage grasses seeded in and thought they had found paradise. I had made soil that wouldn't grow a 2 foot weed (under my father-in-law's system) into soil that produced 10-foot lamb's quarters and 8-foot grasses easily.

I am now trying to reclaim that soil so that I really have a place to garden again. Several times I have started over again, only to have more interruptions. My "Back 40" garden where I produced most vegetables and purple longbeans this year is only 4 years under cultivation... a lot of irregularities in the soil yet but being progressively improved and has strips of good fertility. Since it's the only place fenced against deer and mega-rodents aka woodchucks, it's half devoted to strawberries, which tie up soil all year.

Winter comes... and I hope to be better prepared next spring to do field crops. Already asked my husband to watch for end-of-season sales on water hoses so I can lay them down under mulches early in the season, then just connect them as needed, instead of dragging 50+ yards of them to wherever I next hope to save...

For most of my years in Arkansas, I have solved the water problem on most crops by choosing carefully what I planted, then maxing out how far I spaced plants so they could keep going for water as the drought deepened.

I read once that tomato roots have been found running 17 feet in New Mexico adobe... and I put my bell peppers 30 inches apart... and got excellent crops with no added water or maybe one time on the peppes. A friend newly arrived from New York wanted so much for me to try the spacing used by a commercial grower there that he had worked for... about 18" apart. I did a dozen plants his way, plus my mulches. We got one light picking and they killed each other off. I hauled in 2+ bushels a week from my 24 plants with deep mulch and 30 inch spacing. Tomatoes 10 feet apart (I think I had Giant Tree that year mostly) filled all the ground between them and churned out bushels and bushels of tomatoes for canning.

I have read that SouthWest Native American tribes farm corn on the mesas by trenching 18" deep and planting their corn in the trenches, to protect the roots from the heat and get them down where there's water.

Some of my "Back 40" garden is planted on a trench filled with bean-sized river rock to a depth of 10 inches... almost no soil with it at all. Roots of plants above it(Burmese okra and assorted staked tomatoes) OBVIOUSLY perked up from water seeping into trench while I was watering above them... and required nothing more to keep on producing.

Organic gardening guides say that most of the action (food, water, oxygen take-up) of plants takes place in the top 4 inches of topsoil, so that's what makes mulches so important, especially under baking heat like we have here.

Shortly after WWII, A Brit (Sykes Friend... unsure now?) wrote a book entitled PLOWMAN'S FOLLY, in which he states that OBVIOUSLY regular human cultivation of soil is unnecessary, as proven by the forests and grasslands of this planet. Nightcrawlers burrow to 3 ft or more, making fertilizer-lined channels into subsoil for roots to follow down to water, and making a drainage system in healthy soils. Add our regular earthworms, who make work a little more shallow than that... and I am finding thru the years that I really don't need plowing, and NOT having to wait to till means I can be out planting as weather and opportunities permit, which is usually mid-February here.

Looks like I digressed from just beans again... oh, well.

Jan... Arkansas Greentongue

It's raining here today... first time since end of June. I been out standing in the yard several times... just making sure it's real!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Chinese Long Beans... A cook's viewpoint..

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 5:41PM
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For Zeedman: A comment on tomatoes as neighbors to beans. I chose to put a lot of plants in a fairly tight space in my only fenced garden, so I had tomatoes... with their publicized long, moisture-seeking roots... close to okra at one end, Philippine Purple beans at one place, and Christmas limas at 2/3 of their "stick" spots.

At one place, the limas were protected from tomato roots by 2 ft deep aluminum flashing (it's an underground bamboo barrier)... and that group was 3 times the size of those sharing root zones with tomatoes. Pix of that stick is linked below and posted in Garden Galleries>Great Vegetables, as example of leaves closed to deal with 102 degree heat... and it was 15 ft tall but still green all the way to ground at that time (still is... what the deer left of it!) Those sharing root zones with tomatoes had defoliated to about 4 feet above ground by that time...

I removed one tomato 2 feet from the Philippines, but left one 3 1/2 feet away... and thought about removing it, but desire for my tomato crop eventually won. If you had tomatoes only a pathway away from beans, I'm guessing they were playing "KingKong at the dinner table" with the beans. Check this fall when you take out the plants at end of season, and see how far the tomato roots really went. When I grew tomatoes 10 feet apart with deep mulch and no water around 1990, the tomato roots filled up all the space between, and it was possible to tell by observing plants when their water ran out. The tomatoes declined in size from 1/2 a football to a medium baked potato by end of summer, but they still managed to keep going on available water with that much space each.

This summer, one "Back 40" okra plant unlucky enough to fall 2 feet from a trellised tall tomato was 1/3 the size of its siblings. The pix to the right of linked bean pix is the field-planted okra trials in mid-day heat and over 2 weeks into drought. Note the difference in wilt-down in foreground... that's introduced forage Bermuda grass weeded above ground AND its underground roots dug a full foot back from the stems of the okra, but okra still ain't got enough water with only a 2-foot wide root zone to pull from. A Silver Queen presumed raiding the bean's pantry can be seen in the distance standing tall and crisp... with a big bud right on top. The hazy stuff on right is drought-suffering asparagus... and it has proven competitive enough to stunt okra growth at 2 feet from plant center.

I don't seem to have great invasions from pepper roots, but most of the hot-climate vegetables I grow have an underground presence similar to what's above ground... just like trees do. I have roccoto peppers growing to winter over inside and set out next year... can hardly wait to see what they develop underground!!

One time I had a hill of very pampered Charantais melons sized up and just ready to turn.... and I came out one morning to find the vine totally crashed. Watering barely revived it.... and only for a few hours. Autopsy revealed the culprit to be a mass of roots much stronger that those of the melon.... from a Lagenaria gourd over 20 feet away but with vines still 5 feet from the melon...

I will admit I deliberately seek out species and varieties that have published track records for resistance to heat and drought. Thus I've grown Gold Coast okra for over a decade. It was bred to set deep, strong roots immediately to prepare the plant for heat and drought of the deep south. Even as hatched seeds in a sprouting test, you can see the difference in that variety's deep, strong root system. Takes loppers and a pick to take out Gold Coast plants at end of season .. and roots 3 feet long in every direction from main stem.

I have one okra of Silver Queen this summer that is not wilting in the heat like the rest and is nearly a foot taller than siblings. I suspect I am going to find roots that ran 5 feet to slurp water provided to Anna's Taiwan Green longbeans.... and of course every blossom it's made since Aug 30 has been bagged for seeds!

The 5 varieties of tomatoes (of 24 trialed) that survived this year's heat and drought will be dug for evaluation after frost, too. 3 trellised types... with feet in a pebble-filled ditch surrounded by clay/rock and topped with meadow hay mulch... are still green all the way to the ground and still have usable tomatoes set on them and still ripening.

I waited too long to save protected tomato seed, but I'm sure SSE will not miss a few tomato listings....

Jan in Arkansas Ozarks

Here is a link that might be useful: Christmas Lima Bean,,, heat adaptation

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:17PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Jan, I'm surprised by the problems you have encountered with beans & tomatoes grown in close proximity. Many of my best tomatoes grow in the partial shade (and wind protection) of pole beans; runners, limas, yardlongs, and common beans. The beans do not seem to be adversely affected, and may actually benefit from the moisture trapped beneath the tomatoes' dense canopy.

Okra, however, does not tolerate competition. A row interplanted with soybeans was 1/2 the size of the other rows... an experiment that did not go as planned.

I admire your dedication, in digging up & studying the root systems of your plants. My shovel & I are not on such good terms. ;-) But later this summer, I will be digging up some of the legumes in my inoculant experiment, to observe the nodules.

"...I'm sure SSE will not miss a few tomato listings...."

Actually, this year, they might. I just spent the Labor Day weekend there, examining their fields... it's an annual pilgrimage. They were hit HARD by over a week of heavy rains, and were in the "FEMA zone" of southwestern Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northeast Iowa. They had nearly total losses of some of their beans & tomatoes, and extensive erosion & flood damage.

Makes me count my blessings; 200 miles northeast of there, my garden had only minor losses (only the seed that was drying at the time) but came through it healthier than ever.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 5:03PM
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Soybeans must be SUPERCOMPETITIVE. I can hardly believe anything could hold its own against the roots I see on my bred-for-the-south okra. I think it could even give cotton a run for its money... (Hmmm, that would be interesting to try... they're even kinfolk!) Cotton is infamous for its ability to take every last bit of moisture... and nutrients!!!... from the soil.

Variety differences could also account for some of it. One okra I planted this year was a hybrid bred for the north (I bought it for its earliness and sent seeds to my siblings in Denver and SE Wyoming, so I figgered I should try it, too). It was fine til the weather got really hot and dry, then it was the first to wimp out.

My brother in Wyoming, with unlimited water cuz he's the ranch foreman and his provided house is on the same meter as the stock tanks, used almost daily drip irrigation on it and was thrilled with his results. My sister in Denver...not even a strongly wannabe gardener... planted it in most-of-day shade. Far as I know she's still waiting for her first pod....

I can't use a shovel in my ground... too many rocks. I have 2.5 pound maddock picks mounted on 2 handle lengths, plus a few smaller diggers, and I use yardsale rollerbladers' knee guards to kneel with when I plant stuff that requires going to ground.

I dig roots cuz that's how I get old plants out of way for the next crop, plus I guess I have just learned that powerful root systems mean success or failue here in this extreme climate and rocky clay soil.

Also, where I do not cultivate except by earthworms, pulling out plants by the roots (and hand weeding) is a cultivation, of sorts. Hoes don't work very well on my ground, either. I have a pix... intended as humor mostly but it's the facts... which is my tool kit for Ozark gardeners. I'll post it and do a link below....

Dreadful to hear what happened to Heritage Farm's crops! When I watched weather reports all this spring and summer, my heart would just sink thinking about what it was doing to gardeners all over the country. The endless rain in Texas and all the way north from there would have just rotted seeds and plants. A garden underwater will never happen to me on my hilltop, but a 6-inch rain is quite a mess until it finishes draining away. I can barely imagine what week after week of it would mean... or maybe I CAN imagine it!

We had a spring of uncommonly warm 3 weeks early, then a once-in-100-years hard freeze in mid-April (ie, all fruit trees and wild oaks already bloomed, strawberries brought into premature bloom, corn 6 inches high, most people's tomatoes and squash already up and growing) It was devastating... tomato plants actually became scarce around here for a short time... until Walmart via Bonnie's consignment hybrids filled the void.

After the freeze, it rained just enough each day to keep foliage wet... and my generally dependable Brandywines and PA Amish / Mennonite / Upper Midwest varieties went down like 18th Century European soilders marching headfirst against cannon fire.

This became a bit of an embarrassment to me. I had decided to go all fresh seed this year, so I grew off for transplants my left-over 2004 seeds of red and yellow heirlooms and gave them away to senior citizens, many of whom I have to face once a month. They had a lot of crop failures from foliage diseases, and most of them ain't that knowledgeable as gardeners, so they are acting like I lied about the plants' potentials!

Anyway, back to my garden results. Only one open-pollinated tomato did not get BER. It was a variety bred for New Orleans! Unfortunately, it also turned out to be determinate, and last week the deer ate 100% of the mature green & ripening tomatoes off my sucker-started clones of it for fall tomatoes... no seed crop!

Next came 2 months of drought, the last month of it with record triple-digit temps for a whole month. The survivors of the foliage diseases now began to produce quality tomatoes... til the heat felled a few more... and now there are 3 staked tomatoes still standing, plus a wildcard I bought mostly for its name but with low expectations because of its north Europe origins... Blondkopfchen from Germany!! Also had one red almost-cherry hang in there, and of course Matt's Wild Cherry from Mexico, but do you consider that a tomato? I think of it as a semi-wild berry.

Beans as ripened seed on the vine are nearly impossible for me ... I take in very mature pods still leathery and let them finish inside. Heat + humidity doesn't dry off bean pods very well. I had some Christmas limas dry off on the vines, and in several of them the seeds actually sprouted before they dried!! Usually the problem is molds....

Oops, almost sunrise... I gotta finish and get out to see what deer and armadillos did last night, and be a "presence" while Chuckie McVarmit is figgering out where to have breakfast.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tool kit for Ozark Gardeners

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 7:40AM
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You make me feel better about this year's garden! We had all your conditions, but I never did sum it up so eloquently. I happen to have a yellow and red beefsteak tomato, which does seem to handle our conditions extremely well. All these plants are thriving, and have thrived through it all, with the addition of a constant battle with blister beetles. During our extreme heat they didn't set fruit. But they're back to it now. My main crop tomato, Baker Family Heirloom, has about fizzled, but that was more my fault. When the spring freeze hit I dug up my transplants (in a big hurry and by flashlight) and put them back under lights. But when I replanted them over two weeks later, I got them mixed up. BFH ended up scrunched into a little corner with inadequate support. Blister beetles and crowding finished it off.

I haven't spotted a wood chuck closer than a mile from my place. If I ever do... I'll BLAST HIM! In NJ they were a plaque out of control.

During the rains I was almost depressed as I couldn't work my garden, to get rid of grass and prepare for planting. Then, in a moment of inspiration, I tried using my Grub hoe, the one I got in the high cold RAINFOREST in Mexico. As it worked for those farmers it did a marvelous job for me. I was almost sad to see the rains end, and the soil harden up again. This summer, I learned what you already knew, the mattock pick is the tool of choice here. I use it whenever the soil isn't real soft and it does a great job.

For two years now I've planted soy in July; the main planting, in fact, being a tall hay variety developed in Hawaii. This, which is the later variety, I put in on July 30 and it is growing like gangbusters. It withstood the heat and outgrew the weeds. We should get a good crop, again. The other variety was developed for the North and is named Jewell. I only got a few seeds to sprout, as they were old. But the few plants I have are covered in pods. They went in on July 7 and displayed great tenacity. I will probably use soy as a late cover crop in the future.

But what truly impresses me are cowpeas (peas, Southen Peas, etc.). I doubt they can be planted as late as soy. But I LOVE their resistance, hardiness and ability to grow up over weeds and onto corn, etc. I want to do a LOT MORE of them next year!

Your posts on how you garden are very helpful for me, as Tahlequah is so very different than places both North and South where I have gardened before.

When you say that your maddock is on 2 handle lengths, does that mean that the handle is extra long?



PS. I did the right thing letting Georgia Long make seed first. We're getting a much better, more filled out, harvest than last year. Perhaps, in October, if it's still flowering, we'll start eating the rest.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 2:31PM
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Sorry to be so long responding to your great comments!! Even yet today my time is limited!

First of all, REST ASSURED that if you are having a bad garden year, so is everybody else, cuz we are all living with the same weather and results thereof, be it plant diseases or late freezes or drought.

You are SO RIGHT about hand tools working just fine... and they do free us up to get out there in almost any soil condition and do the basics, like planting, digging up stuff, etc. Much of the modern world... and all our ancestors... wouldn't get to eat if that method didn't work. If our soil is health and has plenty of earthworms, it's already tilled enough for plant roots to go in fine...all we got to do is dig just enough to get the seed or plant in the ground to proper depth.

I do it mostly of necessity... working with little spaces here and there for so many years... and soil so rocky it can't be tilled except by a big tractor, which of course makes spots of hardpan in clay likes mine. When I came here to this hill 24 years ago, my first available areas to garden were only that I was allowed to garden wherever a tree died in an old orchard... no long rows, no tractor or tiller possible cuz there was still tree roots in the soil, etc. A neighbor already had permission to use the side yard, and my father-in-law the transplanted orchardist had trees or his own garden in every other place!!

Eventually, I actually came to prefer using hand tools for the freedom they gave me. The drawback ... it GREATLY limits how much soil I can work in a season. The advantages are that I CAN work in any season and any weather, and if one plant dies, I can put something else in its place immediately. My garden resembles a patchwork quilt by end of season, but I seldom have idle soil.

I never got to soybeans this year. The Easter Freeze killed off my first planting just below the surface of the soil. I dug up their rotted bodied with necks crooked to push thru in the next 1-2 days. My intended next planting was to follow corn in July, but replanting the corn after the freeze made it almost 3 weeks later in the ground, so it was nearly August when the space opened up again. By then we were in severe drought. So instead I hacked down the corn in 10-12 inch sections with loppers, dug the roots, and left its chopped remains to protect the soil during drought. I have now transplanted / seeded in winter-over cole crops and given my evergreen bunching onions some much needed room.

My 2 of my 3 longbean seed crops are still in jeopardy. I have about 35 pollination-protected pods developing on the Philippine purple, but so many do not fill that I suspect that is not enough to be able to reoffer the seed. I am getting average of only 5 seeds from Anna's Taiwan Green -- even tho they are 20+ inches long!! I have about 70 pods left for seed and none being picked right now.

Anna is not complaining ... she's eaten over half a bushel of them from her 25-seed gift... plus a share of everything else my garden produced in season... and ALL the bitter melons except a few left for seed. And we have enjoyed Chinese dinners in trade. Everybody is happy!

My woodchucks get blasted... but not by me! I save them until my husband gets up, and he does the assasinations. I had 2 seed crops destroyed by one Chuckie McVarmit... first she pulled down a whole patch of lettuce about to go to seed, then she ate the snap peas... pods nearly ripe... off the vines. It was finally fatal, but she was exceptionally smart about the trap...most of them ain't!!

You asked about pick handles. One is standard... the other cut shorter so I can use it while kneeling or with one hand only while bending forward at waist. Hard to see in the photo but another great digger... a real-thing mason's pointing trowel with forged head between the picks. The dinner fork handle kinda obscures it. It will go in sharp and efficient, even among rocks... those little garden hand trowels must have been made for windowboxes!!

The lesser resistance of potato fork = shovel, except I have to scoop out the loosened soil / rocks by hand or with a sharpshooter shovel afterward. Note bent tine... I hit enough rocks to break / bend all of them within a few days, so for years and years I bought all the old ones I saw for $5 and under at yardsales and estate sales. Probably have a lifetime supply now, as I garden less and lighter than I used to.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 4:23PM
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Thanks Greentongue. Great observations. My garden always looks like a patchwork quilt! My family probably just chalks it up to dyslexia :)

I think you forgot the link for that picture of your tools. I'd very much like to see them. Here's a picture of two of my favorite hand tools. The large of the two is called a Homi, and it's Korean, if I recall. The other, I purchased through Johnny's Selected Seeds. It was called a hand hoe. I use them in place of regular trowels they work faster and more efficiently, in my opinion. Below is a link to a thread in which several of us discussed hand tools and I also discussed my beloved grub hoe from the Sierra.

Here is a link that might be useful: favorite hand tools

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 11:02AM
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Thanks for all the pictures and your knowledge.
Would you please share your dry-fried bean method with the bean lover? I don't know how to do it in a correct way. By looking at your cooked bean I know that is the way it should be.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 1:46PM
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I been away a few days to Quilt Arkansas...winter passion!! Happy to report that a lot of long-bean pods are filling with seeds that will be OK, but I'm still going to be short supply for SSE next year. And the deer figgered out I was gone and set about defoliating my okra!

Macmex, thanks for the link on the tools. I have reposted below the link to my pix in Garden Galleries on this site. I put it under Tractors and Lawn Equipment cuz that was as close as I could come.

Pix you posted above**: I have the one on the left but never really got the hang of using it. You have encouraged me to get it out and try again. The one on the right would do everything a mason's pointing trowel would do if turned on its side, plus a lot more!

I am so used to weeding with hand-pulling and with my shorter-handle pick that I seldom think of anything else. As soon as this site's computer format will let me, I'll post a pix of my soil naked, and then I think you will see why a pick is almost my best choice!

Luong, I researched Chinese Dry-Fried beans on the internet at large, and kinda made up my recipe from what was basic to all of them.

It's originally intended for the heat and continuous stirring of a wok, but I did mine in an enamel-lined iron skillet. The big thing seems to be all the heat you can get, and keep the food moving til it's as done as you want.

Here's what I did: get all your vegetables sliced/diced and ready. Ditto meat if you're using any.

Get your wok (or skillet) hot. Add enough cooking oil to just cover the bottom of the skillet well.(maybe 1/4 cup in my 10") I use extra-light Bertolli olive and have canola as non-stick spray. These are the healthiest of the light general purpose types, I think?

Add meat (if using it), and cook until done and browned a little. Remove meat. Add slivered onions. Cook... HEAT IS STILL HIGH... stirring constantly... until they are transparent. Dump in the longbeans, stripped sweet peppers, mini-diced garlic, and micro-diced hot pepper. Keep the heat up and keep on stirring until the beans have shriveled skins and one taste-tested is still firm but tender and has lost that raw bean taste. Add the meat back in, dash of soy sauce... serve!

The "real-thing" Szechuan recipes add much more hot peppers or hot pepper paste, fish sauce, shrimp paste, etc (varies with recipe) and thus end up with a little more juice and serve it over rice. They would also have a much hotter and sharper flavor. I just used mine as a vegetable-laden main dish with a slice of whole grain toast on side. The reason is we are both diabetics, and we can have more bread than rice as a carbohydrate exchange.

Hope that helps... I think the secret is just the high heat and keep stirring. No lid ever goes on the pan. Time is 6-8 minutes.. would vary with how hot you can get your cooking pan. Use something heavy... doesn't necessarily have to be iron. Gas heat under a wok would be the ideal, but electric heat under an iron skillet was what I used...

Jan aka greentongue

**How do you post pix so they are in the text? I've studied the posting directions at length, and I ain't figgered out how to do it yet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tool kit for Ozark Gardeners

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 10:47AM
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Bill P. (a.k.a. gonefishin) did a graphics file with instructions the link is below. You could save the file and print it out, or run the cursor over it and when you see a little magnifying glass appear, click. That'll enlarge it.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 1:12PM
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Thanks for the recipe.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 8:16AM
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