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Beans, corn: Warm-season crops kick off

Corn grows well in raised beds if plenty of nutrients have been added to the soil. In windy areas, it's advisable to provide extra support with stakes and twine. (Susan Mulvihill)
Corn grows well in raised beds if plenty of nutrients have been added to the soil. In windy areas, it's advisable to provide extra support with stakes and twine. (Susan Mulvihill)

It’s always exciting to plant warm-season crops because they are the superstars of the garden: tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, beans, corn, melons, winter squash and pumpkins, to name a few.

Beans and corn can be planted out in the garden in about two weeks, but the other crops will have to wait until late May or early June.

I start all of my warm-season vegetables indoors to give them a good start in a protected environment. I also have to do this because quail and other birds in my garden like to nibble on freshly sprouted seeds.

Today is the day I’ll be planting the bean and corn seeds indoors. I use deep-root flat inserts since the seedlings will have a substantial root system by the time I need to transplant them outdoors. You can find the inserts at large garden centers like Northwest Seed & Pet.

I use a germination mix that is sterile and lightweight. As I’m planting, I take a little extra time to orient each seed in the correct direction.

For beans, this means planting the seeds with the little scar – located in the middle of the curved side – pointing downward. Corn seeds get planted with the pointed end down.

This may sound tedious but it makes a huge difference in their germination rates.

Think of each seed as being a little package of energy. If the seed is planted with the wrong side facing upward, it uses up its energy orienting itself in the correct direction in order to send the roots down and the plant sprout up. By the time it does this, it can run out of energy and die.

Until I learned about this, I had low germination rates, particularly for beans, so it really does make a difference.

Both bean and corn seeds should be planted at a depth of one inch. Once the seeds have germinated and have their first set of true leaves, feed them with an organic fertilizer like Alaska fish emulsion diluted to half-strength.

In a couple of weeks, it should be safe to plant the seedlings outdoors, although it’d be wise to keep an eye on the weather reports. If you are growing beans, plant bush bean seedlings about six to eight inches apart and pole bean seedlings about three inches apart.

Pole beans require tall supports. You can make teepees using bamboo stakes with twine running from the top of the supports down to the ground.

Or you can set up an arbor or arch that spans the path between two beds, which makes it much easier to pick the beans. I started doing this two years ago and it works great.

When transplanting your corn seedlings into the garden, remember that the plants will pollinate each other later in the season. This means you should plant them in blocks – rather than in long, single rows – to get better pollination.

The plant spacing can be a little tricky. Traditional spacing calls for the rows to be three feet apart and the plants spaced 18 to 24 inches apart within the rows.

In my raised beds, I space the plants one foot apart in all directions but still get great yields.

Good varieties for bush beans include “Blue Lake,” “Provider,” “Top Crop” and “Maxibel.”

My favorite pole bean variety is “Italian Pole,” although other good varieties are “Fortex,” “Kentucky Wonder,” “Helda,” “Roma” and “Romano Italian.”

Tasty corn varieties that I’ve enjoyed are “Silver Queen,” “Stowell’s Sweet,” “Peaches & Cream” and “Bodacious.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at inthegarden@live.com. Visit her blog at susansinthegarden.blogspot.com for more garden tips and information.


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