A few weeks ago, I posted a “How to Start Gardening” post. I wanted it to be an inspiring way to just start gardening if you never have. You don’t need a huge plot of land to start. We all WANT it, but you don’t NEED it. And if one day in the future you do get that plot of land to have a dream vegetable garden on – Starting now, by growing some lettuce in a pot by your front door, will give you more knowledge and confidence to take that land head on and make it productive for you. Even if you only get one salad all year from that bit of lettuce you grow, I am willing to bet that it will be the best salad you have ever had. Because you grew it.
Anyway, I’ll stop waxing philosophic and get down to what I really wanted to talk about today, and that is picking seeds. All the seed stands are showing up in the big stores right now, and its a good time to check them out and see what you may want to grow.
They can also be daunting. You just want to grow some beans, but which ones to pick? SO MANY CHOICES! Beans are actually a good first example for me to pick, because it is easy to narrow down your choices. First, are you growing them in a pot? If so, stick to ‘bush’ or ‘dwarf’ varieties. You don’t want it to say ‘climbing’ ‘pole’ or ‘runner’ if you are growing it in a pot. I haven’t had much luck with climbing beans in pots (not that I have tried much as I always have some ground to put them in), but bush beans seem to grow where ever I put them.
Basically, you can just pick whichever bush bean variety you want. I tend to grow different coloured ones. The purple ones are really fun, and not something you can usually find at the grocery store.
IF you have some ground to grow in… Beans are a great first crop to try out, as they can help improve your soil at the same time as giving you a crop. Because they are a legume, they have little nodules in their roots, that store nitrogen from the air. This helps turn it into nutrition in the soil for other plants. They also tend to grow almost anywhere making them a good confidence builder.
If you have the ground and something pretty tall for them to climb, and a pretty sunny location… Keep “Scarlet Runner Beans” in mind. They produce beautiful red flowers (that attract bees, butterflies and if you are lucky, hummingbirds!), and give you a great crop of delicious beans… The more beans you pick, the more the flowers keep coming. You can either find them in the flower area or the vegetable area of the seed rack.
I will end this post with a few varieties that McKenzie seeds carries that I have had great success with. I am not sponsored by them or anything, they are just the most accessible seeds around here. If you are picking anything a little bit different, like the purple varieties, now is a good time to pick them up before everyone else does.
- ‘Climbing Trionfo Violetta’ -I am growing this again for 2016. It is a definite favourite.
- ‘Amethyst Purple Stringless Filet’ -this is a great gem coloured purple, and tastes amazing.
- ‘Royal Burgundy Bush’ -These grow anywhere I plant them, or accidently drop the seed… Plus they are delicous.
- ‘Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole’ – This is actually the only yellow bean that I have grown personally. It does well, but you need to check it often. It produces a huge yield everytime I’ve grown it.
- This year, I picked up some ‘Goldrush’ (bush) beans from Burpee to try too. I’m sure I’ll let you know how they grow. Curiously, it is not on their website.
Green Varieties: (I have narrowed this list down to just a few favourites, but pretty much every green bean I have tried I have loved, so just pick one that sounds good to you and give it a go)
- ‘Contender’ (Bush)
- ‘Green Crop’ (Bush)
- ‘Tendergreen Improved’ (Bush) (additional note on this one-The seeds stay viable for a really long time! I just finished my pack of seeds I had of these from 2011 last year, and every seed germinated)
- ‘Scarlet Runner’ I think its obvious that I love these beans and couldn’t recommend them more!
DRY BEANS. These are ones that you plant and let grow without picking the beans. You want the bean pods to dry on the plant, and then you harvest the beans inside. For these you need a nice long season to give them the required time to dry out. Typically, they are climbing/pole/runner type beans rather than bush varieties. Seeds for this type of bean are typically sold through catalogues or online and you can find some really cool heritage and heirloom varieties this way. If you are building your confidence (especially in a climate like mine), I would stick to the fast maturing bush beans. If you are branching out and trying new things, give these few easy to pick up varieties a try before venturing into heirloom territory:
- ‘Rattlesnake’ These are sometimes sold as a “kids” seed pack. They look cool and grow well.
- ‘Borlotto Lingua Di Fuoco’ (Bush) – These are a GREAT one to try. You can eat some of the beans when they are young and green, and let the rest mature on the plant for some dried beans. They are a nice speckled red colour. They tend to sprawl out a bit rather than keeping to an actual bush habit, so keep that in mind when growing them. The beans in the photo above are from these Botlotto beans.
- ‘Pinto’ beans. I have found these in the past from McKenzie seeds, but I can’t seem to find it on their website now. They grew so good for me last year, and I got a decent harvest (over 2 cups of dried beans) from only 3 plants.
Broad Beans– (or Fava Beans) These are way different, and I have only had success with one kind- ‘Windsor’. I also don’t LOVE the taste of them, but the flowers are gorgeous and the way they grow is fasinating. If you have some open ground to try them, go for it. They are fun to grow. Their seeds are HUGE. I won’t be growing these again until I have more garden space, or I find I miss their flowers.
I know I mentioned before, But I want to emphasize that I am in no way sponsored by McKenzie seeds. They just happen to be the easiest to come-by seeds around here. The varieties mentioned are also only suggestions that I have personally had luck with in the past. Pick something and experiment – The worst thing to happen will be it not growing… Then you just try again next time.
I know I started this post using lettuce as an example, and I will get to writing a post about which lettuce seeds to grow… I just wanted to pick something I thought was a good and easy place to start growing straight from seed.
This year, I will also try and get more harvest pictures of beans. I went through the archives and I have almost zero pictures of the hoards of beans I have harvested over the years. Probably because I am too busy shoving them into my mouth rather than taking pictures of them.