Tag Archives: Florida gardening blog

How to Grow Yard Long Beans (aka Asparagus Beans) (aka Snake Beans) (aka Noodle Beans)

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How to Grow Yard Long Beans (aka Asparagus Beans) (aka Snake Beans) (aka Noodle Beans)

If you want to grow traditional green beans in North Florida, you get planting times in the spring and fall, but the summer can be a bit tricky for fresh garden produce.

Enter… yard long beans! They are related to the southern peas that do so well in the heat, only they grow longer and stay tender.

If you were not familiar with yard long beans, I could show you my incredibly long green beans, and then sell you whatever brand of fertilizer I wanted.

Speaking of fertilizer…

It was David from www.thesurvivalgardener.com who first got me started with this great crop. He has an entertaining post about these beans as well as an efficient (albeit dubious)method of fertilizing plants.

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I had a few precious seeds saved from last year, and so I rationed some out into flats to be sure of optimum survival rates. I planted them about 1/2 inch deep, gave them water, and exposed them to the blistering heat of summer.

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They twine like typical pole beans, but did not complain about my netting. I think they would grow 50 feet long if I let them.

I have to admit that they did not get much care from me. My garden is a pretty dismal sight in summer and so it kinda depresses me to go out there too much. I tend to stay inside and make yummy stuff like peach jam and sand pear butter. Gotta work on the summer gardening a bit more.

Okra grows well for me. Maybe I’ll divide the garden among these beans, sweet potatoes (grown mostly for the greens), and okra. Sounds like a good plan.

Anyway…

growing yard long beans

The vines took a while to get flowers, but then the beans started growing.

Pretty neat, huh?

yard long beans

I think I may just skip regular green beans next year and plant these starting in the spring. If I can get these vines to grow from April to October, I may not even have room for ice cubes in my freezer!

Have you ever had yard long beans? Would you grow them?

I have this really neat recipe for Yard Long Bean Knots that I’m going to share. I wanted to do something to showcase them in an interesting way, and I thought it turned out pretty well.

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A $0.75 Cover Crop

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Right now I have a few summer crops growing: okra, basil, yard long beans, eggplant, pink-eyed purple- hulled peas, and cherry tomatoes. However, my soil is in desperate need of replenishing, so I decided to plant the bare spots with nitrogen-fixing legumes.

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I found this bag of pinto beans at the grocery store and decided to plant them as a cover crop.

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I’ve already got some popping up! Hopefully they will fix nitrogen in the soil, shade out summer weeds, and provide good organic matter for the soil. The plan is for them to be tilled under around the beginning of September, then to let them set and compost in place for a few weeks, then to plant my fall garden. Growing beans from the grocery store – what an inexpensive way to plant a cover crop!

My Little Corn Harvest

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We planted corn as an experiment this year, not knowing quite what to expect. Corn likes fertile soil, and, well, I’m essentially gardening in a sandbox.

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Looks like incomplete pollination on some of them, but overall I was pleased with how many ears we got from our little planting.

Merit corn

We grew ‘Merit’ corn and got these cute little ears, perfect for a single serving.

ears of Merit corn

Some of these beautiful ears of corn will be boiled, slathered in butter, and sprinkled with salt.

I also plan to take some of these ( the ones that -ahem- were harvested too early) and simmer them in ham stock with some ham chunks, red potatoes, sauteed onions, and make some corn chowder!

Will I grow corn again? Yes!

I Just Can’t Help Myself

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Some women can’t be trusted to walk past a shoe display without buying. I can’t be trusted to walk past a seed display safely.

“I’ll just look, ” I tell myself, “maybe they have some of those colorful carrots that I’ve seen advertised.”

seeds for fall garden in Florida
Suddenly I find myself clutching a handful of seed packets like a kid with a fistful of forbidden candy, justifying myself.

I really have struggled with cauliflower, maybe it’s the variety?

Oh yes, there’s those colorful carrots- won’t they be fun?! Imagine the looks on people’s faces when I bring those out for a snack!

Swiss chard, well, I always see it growing so large and luxurious in my gardening books, maybe it’s time to grow a colorful variety like everybody else.

Kohlrabi, doesn’t it look fun? Like a UFO? No, I don’t have an obsession with UFOs, despite the fact that I also grow UFO squash. 🙂

Broccoli, now that is a vegetable that I would like to succeed in growing. With a name like ‘Sun King,’ it’s bound to do well for me here in Florida. I’m sick of growing broccoli florets.

Florida fall flower seeds

Oh boy, gotta have some of those flowers.

Won’t these look great together this fall? I saw a snapdragon/pansy combo that I really liked. Think of all the money I’ll save by growing these from seed!!

I can put them in the flower bed by the front porch, fill the flower bed out back once the summer flowers have been cut back, maybe put some in the garden too, Oh how about some pots of them on the front and back porches…

I don’t know who I think is going to do all this, but it is so fun to plan. 😀

NOTE: These are all fall crops and will not be started until late summer or early fall. By then, seed displays will be gone, despite the fact that THIS IS FLORIDA, PEOPLE, WE CAN GARDEN ALL. THE. TIME. so please leave out the displays!!

Ahem. Anyway, I think I am set for the fall. Unless… maybe I should buy some sugar snap peas, just in case the feed store doesn’t get any in stock???

Hey, at least gardening is a relatively cheap hobby. Productive too. I could collect stamps. At least I can eat my hobby.

If I save seeds from the non-hybrids, I’ll save even more!

Any others out there who need to be restrained when going by a seed display?

North Florida Gardening April To-Do List

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I hope you had a happy Easter! Seeds are sprouting and tomato plants are being set out into the warming soil.

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Daikons are bolting, garlic is growing, mustard greens are providing final harvests, and a random volunteer collard plant is sending out pretty yellow blossoms.

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The large garden has yellow, purple, and green beans sprouting. Kale still producing; it hasn’t started to bolt like the mustard on the other side and the collards in the back corner.

Corn and okra in center box have sprouted.

Not much to see this month- but what a difference a month can make! I’m excited to see the difference between the young seedlings of this month and the progress they’ll make in a month.

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Look at all the greens I harvested! Their quality tends to decline with the warmer weather, so I wanted to get most of them harvested. I’m going to eat, freeze, and gift them away. I got a bag of collards, two bags of mustard greens, and two bags of kale.

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My largest head of broccoli is underwhelming. I’ve determined to try again next year.

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Tomatoes started on Valentine’s Day are doing well.

My to-do list:

1. Finish planting tomatoes.

2. Replace few straggling turnips with rows of bush beans.

3. Put up trellis for pickling cucumbers– they’ll be needing it soon.

4. Trellis tomatoes.

Pretty short list this month- mostly just let the seeds and plants grow. I made some strawberry-lemon marmalade that turned out really good. I’ll share that soon. 🙂

How is your garden? Thriving? Or are you waiting for the snow to thaw?

I’m ready for a juicy BLT! How about you?

Fresh Salad from the Backyard Garden

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Some are concerned with food miles. Not me. This salad was harvested mere yards from my kitchen.

salad from North Florida garden

Crunchy Bibb lettuce, colorful Swiss chard, sweet pac choi, and crisp radishes were fresh additions to a winter salad.

It is great fun to wander through the gardens, picking and pulling food from the ground, then enjoying its intense flavors soon afterward.

Have you started dreaming about your spring garden yet? If you are in North Florida, check out my February To-Do List for some ideas to get you started.

If your view of the garden is obscured by snow drifts, check out my post on how to get free seeds and start your collection.

If you are new to gardening, you can get some ideas from my posts on the basics of starting seeds, how to start composting, and why I mulch.

Gardening is soooo much fun!

February To-Do List

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Will spring be early this year? I sure hope so.

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Until then, I am enjoying delicious greens from the garden. The collards pictured above have survived our light frosts pretty well.

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Turnip harvest have been good, and the mustard greens and kale have kept us supplied with veggies.

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I have been pleased with the ‘White Egg’ turnips this year. Despite being planted too closely, they have still produced many turnips. We ate the thinnings as greens, and now they are bulbing up nicely, no succession planting needed.

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The shed bed has been producing mustard greens, and the garlic is progressing nicely.

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Broccoli has been a bust. Again. Last year I blamed myself, the weather, and the soil and decided to try it again.

This year, I blame it on the variety. I’m going to spend a little extra and get a named variety or hybrid for next time. Do you have a favorite variety that you recommend?

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The pac choi is bolting, and I welcome the cheery yellow flowers. I plan to let my mustard bolt too, I’m hoping for an impressive display from them.

My to-do list:

1. Start tomatoes and flowers on Valentine’s Day. Last year I had spring fever so bad…do you remember the strange place that I sprouted seeds?

2. Make marmalade!! I love it so much on homemade bread, with hot tea to accompany it. That combination makes me feel cultured and British. 🙂

3. Sketch out a garden plan. I hope to have most of my crops and seeds planted by mid-March, and then to just let them do their thing.

4. Get more green bean seeds. I’m going to buy some in bulk to save money. Maybe this year I will save some seeds from them. Saving your own seeds is a great way to save money in the garden. You can also get seeds for free; check out my popular post on How I Get Free Seeds.

5. Plant out sugar snap starts. Last year I figured out too late that the squirrels were digging up my peas. I found a few peas that I had managed to save from last year, soaked them, and planted them in flats. Hopefully it’s not too late.

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Are you ready for spring? I have to admit, I’m not quite as stir crazy as I was last year; maybe it’s because I have so many crops actively growing and maturing.

We are supposedly in for some cold weather this week. If you have raised bed gardens, look for a post soon on how to cover your raised bed.

Are you going to try any new techniques or varieties this year? It’s never too early to plan!

Are Sweet Potato Leaves Edible?

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If you grew sweet potatoes this year, you probably have a massive tangle of vines overtaking your garden. Those sweet potato vines, in addition to being one of the crops that thrive in Florida summers, can be a tasty addition to the dinner table.

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If  you grow greens like kale and collards, you probably know that they are cool weather crops that tend to bolt as temperatures rise. Not to worry, sweet potato greens can take their place!

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I like to snip some leaves and saute with olive oil and garlic, much like I do with kale. It is delicious served as a side dish, much like spinach.

sauteed sweet potato leaves

Try not to harvest ALL your leaves, though, be sure to leave some to produce food to be stored in the sweet potatoes!

I think that I will have to try some in an omelet soon; starting kale seeds for my fall garden is reminding me of how much I miss kale with my eggs!

Have you ever eaten sweet potato leaves? If so, how do you prepare them? If not, would you be brave enough to try them? Let me know what you think!

Sweet potato vines aren’t the only green in my garden, the basil is still growing. Time to preserve some basil!

Northern Gardeners Are Going to be Jealous

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If you are already breaking out the jeans and sweaters and thinking about the condition of your snow shovel, you may not want to read this post. One of the many perks of gardening in Florida(and what can create so much envy) is that we can garden all year long. The fall garden is really just as big as the spring garden.

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I have started seeds for collards, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, Bibb lettuce, and cauliflower. Soon I will be planting seeds of turnips, beets, rutabagas, and carrots.

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At the same time, I have a zucchini that will be ready to harvest in just a few days. Isn’t that crazy?

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My green bean plants are doing well in the mild temperatures and I hope to enjoy fresh green beans soon too.

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This is the crop that I am actually the most eager to harvest- yard long beans, a.k.a. snake beans, a.k.a. asparagus beans. They have finally started to bloom and set pods. I am going to try to restrain myself and not eat the first few pods, as I want to save seed for next year. According to David over at Florida Survival Gardening, they are not only delicious, but they also grow well in the summer garden. His post on snake beans makes you want to skip traditional pole beans in favor of them.

Fall gardening is so fun! There is a lull in the heat and humidity, making it great weather for starting seeds and pulling summer’s weeds.The warm temperatures mean that your seeds will germinate quickly. The bugs will be scarce in the cooler months, so there will be less bother from mosquitoes and chewing caterpillars.

Let’s get growing! If you invest just a little effort now, your garden will reward you with nutritious and delicious vegetables this fall and into the winter.

If your sweet potato vines are overtaking your garden, don’t look at them as a nuisance, look at them as food! Post on that coming soon!

Ground Cherries

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One of my most anticipated crops this year was a fruit that I had read so much about but never tasted: the ground cherry.

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I was able to get some free seeds from gardenhoard.com, and grew this little plant. It has been quite hot, and the plant has suffered, but it is still producing fruit.

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The fruit is ripe when it falls to the ground. I recommend letting it ripen a day or so more, or the flavor will be a bit reminiscent of a green tomato.

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Eating them is simple. Just peel back the papery husk and eat the fruit. There are hints of pineapple flavor, but it really is in a class all of its own. I’m actually not quite sure that I like them.

However, I’ve gone to so much trouble to get and grow the fruit that I want to like them. I’m considering making jam. In spite of its size, the single plant has been quite productive.

Have you ever had ground cherries? What did you think? Some seem to have such fond childhood memories of them.