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Dry beans are quiet garden stalwarts. Kidney and black beans — my legumes of choice — produce abundant yields with few needs.

To maximize yield, plant beans early in the summer once the soil has warmed, then pull them from the ground when the pods are dry and the plant is mostly dead, in about 100 days. I plant seeds two or three times a season to increase yield.

These are bush beans: They don’t climb, and they grow to be about only 2 feet high. They don’t block light from other plants, and they are dense enough to control weeds. If you’re varying the planting order, mix in marigolds (to repel pests), as well as beets, carrots and cabbages, which thrive on the nitrogen that beans add to the soil.

 

In lieu of seeds, plant dry beans in rows one-half inch into the ground, 2 or 3 inches apart, then gently cover them and lightly water the soil. In a few weeks, repeat the pattern in a different section of the garden.

To harvest, pull the plants out of the ground completely when the pods are brown and the leaves are fading. I hang mine on a clothesline in the garage for about two weeks to prevent mildew, then I separate the beans from the pods and compost the waste. The plants can be threshed too. Keep the beans spread out on a tray for a few days to ensure the moisture is gone. Store them in a sealed container away from direct sunlight; you can consider adding an oxygen-eating packet for added freshness. When you’re ready to cook them, they’ll need as little as two hours of soaking.

 

PRODUCE REPORT: Start pruning tomatoes now. Prune only indeterminate plants (ones bearing fruit over a period of weeks) by pinching off new branches emerging in the joint between the main vertical stem and horizontal leaf. This trains the plant to redirect the energy into producing more tomatoes.

EAT WITH THE SEASON: Strawberries are all over the markets this month. For a savory spin, try making strawberry risotto. Start with a basic risotto recipe using vegetable stock and onions, then fold in sliced strawberries during the final minute of cooking. Add a few blueberries and sliced strawberries as a garnish on top for a fun and surprising addition to July 4th meals.

Self-taught gardener Michael Blakeney enjoys his Bedford, N.Y., garden all year: working in it, watching it grow and eating it through every season.  A visual artist and arts educator, Mike has been gardening for 25 years. You can find him at mikegrowgarden.com.

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Comments (19)

  1. Michael. posted 06/27/2014

    The bean suggestion is a clever one!

  2. Deanna posted 06/27/2014

    Such helpful hints! Love it!

  3. NY Rangers Fan posted 06/27/2014

    I always get so hungry reading your blog…now I'm thinking risotto (with strawberries of course) for dinner!

  4. Elyse posted 06/28/2014

    So, it's not too late to start outside? That's great! It's like putting money in the bank for a rainy day.

  5. Cristin posted 06/28/2014

    Love the berry risotto idea! And the photos included are so helpful.

  6. Don Denne posted 06/28/2014

    Beans are so great – so how long do they keep after you dry and "can" them? can you save them for winter meals? Do you use these in your famous Nacho recipe that I hoping you share soon!!

    • Michael posted 06/30/2014

      I store them dry and they keep until the next season. I soak them or just add them as is into chile when i know I'll be simmering on low for a long time.

  7. michael w. posted 06/28/2014

    Love the sound of a strawberry risotto. Sounds so perfect for this time of year.

  8. peter posted 06/29/2014

    This is such a great blog. It makes me wish I didn't gag when I eat beans.

  9. Matty K posted 06/29/2014

    I too love risotto and can't wait to try strawberries in it. I am going to need a bigger garden next year for all of these great ideas.

  10. elle posted 06/29/2014

    You are inspiring me to be much more adventurous in the garden!

  11. Bonnie posted 06/29/2014

    I never thought about planting black beans, probably because I have never seen the seeds in the garden center . This might have to wait until next year, but I will put it on my list to try. Thanks

  12. Chriswburdick posted 06/30/2014

    Michael has been doing a wonderful job with his garden. I know as I've had the pleasure of a tour of it in all its glory! No question that these wonderful garden delights coupled with his cooking skills produce a delightful result!

  13. Joe F posted 4 weeks, 1 day ago

    Strawberry Rissotto? Who knew. I made it today for my parents who are visiting from Florida. They were just amazed at what a cook I've become. Thanks for such a wonderful and insightful service.

  14. Jenn posted 4 weeks, 1 day ago

    Your beans look so good…we might have black bean soup for dinner. Interesting to learn about planting order too.

  15. Linda posted 4 weeks ago

    Strawberry risotto!! Yummy!!!! I never would have thought of that.

    Those beans look amazing. I might have to come over and steal
    A few handfuls.

    Always enjoy your blog.

  16. Cynthia posted 3 weeks, 3 days ago

    it reminds me of Dan Barber recently promoting his new book "The Third Plate" and eating more beans and grains because they are so good for the soil. I love that you can let the plant die and then harvest- the timing pressure lessened. Maybe you could share your chili recipe :)

  17. lee posted 2 weeks, 6 days ago

    Love your blogs ! Very educational and inspirational. Your garden is beautiful !

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