Growing Green Beans

Several green beansGreen beans, aka snap beans or string beans, are pretty easy to grow in the Midwest. They are a very popular warm season vegetable.


There are two groups of beans: bush and pole. Bush beans grow as a bush and require no support while pole beans need a framework to hold them up. We have had great luck with Blue Lake 274 bush beans. They take 58 days to harvest and are plump with good yield. Also, they are bean mosaic resistant.
A good pole bean is Blue Lake which takes 65 days to harvest and are stringless.


Plant after the last frost (May 15th in Peoria area) has subsided. We have always grown beans from a seed which you can get in packets from a nearby supply store. Space out planting 2 weeks so a plentiful supply is available through August. Do not plant beans in the same spot as last year since disease and/or pests may have wintered over. It is best to get new bean seeds every year.


Beans are planted at a depth of 1 inch. Bush beans are spaced out 4 inches between beans and 18 to 24 inches between rows. Pole beans are planted 6 inches apart in rows of 30 inches. Water after planting. Do not soak beans in water before planting as they tend to crack.


Beans have a shallow root system so cultivating nearby with a hoe can damage them. We recommend hand-picking weeds within 1 foot of the plant after a rain if possible. We have had good luck mulching bean plants as it keeps the ground at a more stable temperature and holds moisture in.


Since beans are legumes, they require no additional nitrogen. A 0-10-10 fertilizer will work well but can be hard to find.


Pick beans after they are thoroughly dried (i.e. do not pick in the morning). The beans should be plump and long. Bean plants are brittle and easy to break so be careful. You can use a small scissors and snip the bean off or carefully yank on it. The plants will continue to generate new beans after they are harvested. We usually get 3 or 4 pickings in a season.
Toss the beans in a plastic bucket as they are harvested. Store unwashed until ready for use. Remember, the best tasting beans are immature ones; that is they do not have full seeds in them. The longer they linger on the plant, the tougher they become.


Bean mosaic disease turns leaves yellow and reduces yield.
Bacterial bean blight causes bright yellow or brown spots on the leaves. Avoid contact with wet plants and use disease-free seeds.


Beans can be stored, unwashed, for up to 3 days in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper part of the refrigerator. The bag prevents moisture loss and wilting. Green beans are excellent candidates for canning. We have canned them nearly every year. Beans dated 2004 are still being used in our soups or casseroles. Before freezing, the beans need to be blanched.


Growing Broccoli

Broccoli floret
Enjoy easy to grow broccoli in your garden.


  • Planting method: Transplant 4-6 weeks before last spring frost date; for fall crop, transplant in late summer.
  • Spacing: 12-24 inches in rows 24 inches apart; 1 per square foot for intensive beds
  • Days to harvest: 55-65
  • High in vitamin C and beta carotene


Many varieties do well in the home garden. Try two each year. Choose the one you like better and grow it again the following year with yet another variety. Keep doing this each year. This is a simple way to find out which variety does best in your garden.

  • Cruiser (58 days to harvest; uniform, high yield; tolerant of dry conditions)
  • Green Comet (55 days; early; heat tolerant)
  • Green Goliath (60 days; spring, summer or fall; tolerant of extremes)


Get broccoli into the garden as early as possible. Start your own seeds 4 to 6 weeks ahead of the frost-free date in your area orr buy transplants from a reliable garden center. Look for compact, stocky plants.

Broccoli plants grow upright, often reaching a height of 2 1/2 feet. Space plants one foot apart in all directions in beds.

Transplants are recommended though you can start from seed. Set seedlings outdoors as soon as you can work the soil. If frost threatens, protect the seedlings with cloches. To prevent cutworm damage, place a two-inch collar of stiff paper around the stem of each plant before planting. At least 1 inch of the collar should extend below the soil line, with 2 inches above. Space rows about 2 feet apart, with at least 20 inches of space between the plants.


Use starter fertilizer for transplants and side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer (10-10-10) when the plants are half grown.

Broccoli likes a lot of water. Use a thick mulch around each plant to keep soil moist. Weed regularly.

Broccoli has two mortal enemies: rabbits and cabbageworms. Protect the plants with a fence or small, individual wire cages. I use cut-up 1 gallon milk jugs. Because rabbits stop feeding on broccoli when it gets big, remove the cages when the plants get large. To combat worms, spray broccoli plants at weekly intervals with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a biological control that kills worms but is totally safe to animals and humans. Organic gardeners accept its use.


Pick the green flower buds before they start to spread into little yellow flowers. The buds should be firm and tight, just as they are in the grocery store, and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Cut the bud with a sharp knife five inches down the stalk.

Heads that start to flower are past their prime, although the flowers are decorative and edible. A number of smaller buds will form below the central bud after you pick it. Harvest these in the same way as the original, larger bud. Keep harvesting to force continued production.


Store the broccoli, *unwashed*, in loose or perforated plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator up to 5 days. Broccoli left unrefrigerated quickly becomes fibrous and woody. Wet broccoli quickly becomes limp and moldy in the refrigerator. Old broccoli may look fine, but it develops strong undesirable flavors. It tastes best and is highest in nutritional value when storage time is brief.


Nipped leaves – rabbits
Holes in leaves – diamondback worms
Yellow flowers – Heads ready to flower. Planting too late in the spring or failing to give the plants a good start contributes to this condition. Premature flower development also may be caused by interrupted growth resulting from extended chilling of young plants, extremely early planting, holding plants in a garden center until they are too old or too dry, and severe drought conditions.
Small heads – They form soon after plants are set in the garden (called “buttons”) and usually result from seedlings being held too long or improperly before sale or planting.


Try this stir-fried steam broccoli recipe. I make this ad infinitum when broccoli is in season. Also frozen broccoli works well, too, in the off-season.

Growing Onions

Single yellow onion

I have had very good luck growing onions – and am I glad! My favorite are red onions – they are so much better than yellow or white onions on most everything. Unfortunately they do not last as long as yellow ones which is not a problem because they get used so quickly. Another plus is I can grow green onions; which I love. Check out some good recipes at Make sure the onions bought are long-day onions; short-day onions are for the South and do not grow well in the Midwest.


My onions are planted in the spring from sets as that is the easiest way. If the onion is larger than a dime, use those for green onions. Remember to plant them with the roots down (one year I planted several with the roots up – they were about one half the size of the ones planted with roots down). Good Friday is when I plant the cool weather crops: onions, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, and radishes. You could plant the last week of March but Cletus insists on Good Friday. The onions should be planted 1 inch deep. If you are growing green onions, plant them 2 inches apart from the dry onions and put them every other onion. They will be pulled before crowding becomes an issue. If no green onions, put them 3 inches apart. Put the rows about 1 foot apart. Do not hill onions or else they may rot at the base.


Onions have shallow roots and are easily taken over by weeds. Boy, do I know about that! Late in the season the onions are almost indistinguishable from weeds unless you are ruthless at keeping them weeded. Foxtails are especially prevalent near harvest time. Many farmers do not bother weeding them – too much work…and I agree – it is a lot of work keeping them weeded.
I side dress onions with 10-10-10 fertilizer about half way through the season. Onions are watered once a week, depending on the rain, so they get 1 inch total.


Yank the green onions when they are about 6 to 10 inches long – they should be crisp. If any have stalked, use them immediately as they are not very good if they sit out. Harvest dry onions in late July or early August when most of the tops fall over. I use a potato fork to harvest them. Trying to pull them out resulted in too many broken tops. Allow them to fall over naturally; that way they produce the biggest bulb. Scallions have no bulb while green onions have a 1 to 2 inch bulb.


Try and use green onions and scallions soon after they are harvested. Store in a perforated bag in a refrigerator up to 1 week after harvest.

Post Harvest

After harvesting the onions in the morning, let them sit in the shade for the rest of the day; unless it is raining. Put them on screens or hang them for 2 or 3 weeks. They need full air circulation in a fairly low humidity place. Many farmers put their onions in the attic where it is nice and dry. After the bulbs have dried cut their tops off 1 or 2 inches from the bulb. Discard any bulbs that have green growing from them. Store in a cool, dry place. They should last until late winter. Ideally storage temperature is 33 to 39 degrees. 40 and over they start to sprout. Some farmers put their onions in burlap sacks to store them.