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Just the facts, Ma'am.
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I am certainly glad I tried growing dry beans before I actually need to feed my family from what I can grow in my yard. Mind you, I didn't expect to get a huge yield from 7 square feet of cranberry beans, but neither did I expect to harvest under a quarter pound of beans. Perhaps it is that the soil is in its first year and hasn't broken down and developed into good growing media. Compost, peat and vermiculite are a good place to start, but plants need better than that to flourish.

My eyes have really been opened this season since I set my goal to be able to feed my family on exclusively what I can produce at home. I never intended to do it all at once, but this gardening year has shown me exactly how little I can do, how little I know, how much there is to learn, and how long it will take me to reach my goal. My hat is off to all of you who do produce most or all of your needs. I wish you lived near me so I could pester you into becoming my mentor!

I have a few questions about producing enough to live on. How do I find information on typical yields of various food plants? It would be nice to know if I am in the ball park, or doing rather poorly. It would also be good to know if I even have enough land to devote to growing food. It seems to me that I have a huge yard, but I'm not sure if it is enough to grow beans and grains.

This year has given me the opportunity to assess a good deal of vegetables. Eggplant and kohlrabi may not reappear in my garden. I am going to keep trying to get a harvest of swiss chard, cabbages and cauliflower. Corn gets another year or two, after all, I am the one failing here, not the corn. Green beans, peppers, tomatoes, cukes, carrots, radishes, lettuces, onions, garlic and peas all get invited back. The sun flowers look big and beautiful, but haven't bloomed yet. We'll see if they are worth getting more of the garden next year.

Gardening is probably one of the most enjoyable pursuits I have taken up. Learning better how to use the harvest is right up there as well. I just made up a few batches of refrigerator pickles, stared a crock of sour pickles, frozen about 10 pounds of green beans, am fermenting a batch of hot sauce, and have dried some jalapenos and radishes (not sure I've developed a taste for dried radish yet!). And I am going to try to make some pickled green beans as well. I love those!
 

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I am also trying to produce most of my food in the backyard. I used to search for the answer of how many "X" plants do I need. Now I realize that it doesn't work that way. The answer to your question will come from you in time.

I remember hearing someone say "it will take at least three years of growing to begin to learn how to actually produce enough food to live on." In my case, I've found that to be true. I'm 2 years ahead of you but still learning as well. Currently my wife and I are producing about 75% of our meals with this years garden, last winters pig slaughter/deer hunting, and the chickens.

Dry beans have worked well for me this year depending on type. The "Trail of Tears" bean has produced 2 1/2 Quarts while "Good Mother Stallard" produced less than one pint from about 25 plants each. Now I know what each variety will do for me.

Grow slowly and be organized.

Frozen Music

Edit: There are a few books that I keep going back to; The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan and Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth
 

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The best reference I have found is the county extension office. I too am learning what grows well in my climate / location and they have years of experience with the local climate and growing preferences. I tried calypso dry beans this year and so far the results have been dismal, yet the Mississippi cow peas in the next rows over are completely loaded with peas. Other beans are doing well to good, but each has a different yield and vitality. I am convinced it has to do with where they grow optimally, and how different my location is from optimum. Just because something will grow in my zone doesn't mean it will thrive and produce. The extension office can best advise you what will produce reliably in your area, but experiment a little as well.
 

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It can get to a point, as it did for me this year, where the garden takes up an enormous amount of your time. With all the tilling, raking, rowing, planting, fertilizing, mulching, trellis building, potting, re-potting, staking, spraying, watering, picking, pickling, peeling, shelling, shucking, blanching, freezing and canning I've done this year it left little time for much of anything else for months. Wife helped all she could but it was a load to do.

Good thing construction work is so slow or I'd have lost a bunch of veggies. Thinking a little smaller next year.

Like was said before every year you'll learn more and end up planting more. It can't be helped. Lots of great info here and on the net. You'll eventually find what likes your area, best of luck.

Rick
 

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thank you vets
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Hi Doc
The best advice I can give you is this.Make friends with some of the older folks in your area that garden,go to your local farmers market.I can say that these people are a world of knowledge and all it takes is to start a convo. with them about how they grew there veggies.Most will talk your ears off about this just to have someone interested in what they do and how they do it.Listen to them even if you think it may not be the right way to grow something,these folks didn't get the produce they have by doing it wrong.At least thats how I started some thirty years ago and it worked for me.Oh and I'm still learning.Hang in there and don't give up it will get easier.
Act
 

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I think it comes down to 3 things, or these are what I believe to be the 3 most important. Soil, the right plants for the location, and water.

Soil is not dirt, it is full of living organisms that provide the nutrients for your plants. Without these organisms there is no breakdown of plant matter to nutrients, or composting. These organisms can take years to build up but can easily be killed. I am on year 3 of a growing garden that before was part of a soybean field, sprayed with roundup every year. I am finally getting some decent stuff out of it, and may actually have corn from that area this year after 2 total failures. But I also have been building it up. Do not throw anything away that can be composted. Get chickens, you get eggs, meat, insect control, and lots of good stuff to add to the compost pile. Go easy on fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. All these can and will damage the soil and it is a long road back. I try to keep as organic as possible, but sometimes it comes down to harvest or no harvest, in these cases I use unnartural items sparingly. It is also amazing to see the different areas and the weeds that grow in and around my garden. Stuff I don't touch is practically barren. New area has slightly different weeds. Areas that this is the second year on have taller, thicker, and more leafy weeds. And the area that I have been gardening on for the 3rd year can get kind of crazy. This shows the health of the soil, the healthier the soil the better the weeds.

Climate. Grow what is good for your area. Don't try to grow sweet potatoes in Alaska, you aren't going to have very much luck without great expense. Don't grow lettuce that bolts when it gets hot out if you live in the South, pick a variety that is heat tolerant. Peanuts in MN is not a very good idea since they need a long season, but in my backyard they are doing good this year. Also consider your average rainfall, do not grow watermelon in Tucson, it may like the heat but it needs lots of water.

Water. You need to supply your garden during the dry spells. I have 500+ gallons of rainwater for this. We are not in a drought, but it mother nature does not use a timer to rain on our gardens so when we go for a couple days without it is good for the plants to get watered accordingly.

There is a lot more to it than that. But if you are trying to grow crops in sterile soil, in a climate that the crop is not compatable with, and you don't keep it watered .... well then no matter how much work you put into it you will not get a good harvest if any at all. Last year I failed on water when we had a drought, I added 3x the amount of water storage for this year and was still very nervous about the weather. But it has been a good year for rain. Tomatoes are running a little late but finally starting to come in. Should be awash in another week. I have more pickles than I know what to do with, and have done well with squash even though we have lost several plants to vine borers, but also saved a couple that are starting to produce again. Salsa has already been canned with one tomato variety that has done well, many bags of greenbeans and a couple gallons of peas are in the freezer.

Sorry for the long winded reply. My garden is not pretty, and we are not feeding ourselves from it, but it sure is putting a large dent into the food bill. Keep at it and when you start making meals from your garden I'll bet you will be glad you learned. And you never stop learning.
 

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I have been gardening to learn this very thing for around 4 years now and I feel less secure than when I started! I just feel like there are too many promises in a can of seeds that unfortunately could give false hope to people. The work involved in one pound of flour (for example) is unreal and far more than I was expecting. Tilling, planting, cutting, drying, threshing, winnowing and then grinding the wheat will make anyone wish they had just picked up a bag from the store for a few dollars. Corn on the other hand is easy to plant and harvest, but requires more nitrogen and doesn't make bread...

Cranberry beans (mine are actually tongue of fire, but identical to cranberry) don't produce much for me either. I have grown them 3 times now for shellie beans and I'm not pleased with their productivity. Honestly, the taste is what keeps me growing them!

Plain old pintos produce quite a bit more, and black beans produce quite a bit more than tongue of fire. Azuki produces way more than I expected (probably 4-6 times tongue of fire), but I haven't figured out exactly what to do with them yet.

Jackie Clay grows much of their own food and has for many years. She claims they need a 50x50 foot patch of wheat to feed the 3 of them for one year, but climate, variety, soil, etc will dictate everything.

For me, I had to explore other vegetable options to have on hand in case we ever needed to grow them. Butternut squash pretty much grows itself and keeps most of the winter in a cool place. It also cans easy and is more versatile than I knew it was. Cucumbers are prolific no matter what I do with them and they can be preserved easy, same with tomatoes.

But for me, chickens are the closest thing we have to feeding ourselves. They eat junk that we can't and give us eggs and meat in return. I'd love to have a milk cow and a couple hogs too, but not where we live now...

A book called Small Scale Grain Raising has really helped me in more ways than just understanding grains. He talks a lot about feeding animals with grain that you raise yourself and how it doesn't need to be cleaned, threshed etc. The book is full of crop rotation techniques and storage ideas, and it's written by a man who has lived what he writes about. It's a well rounded book that I'm very glad I found.
 

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One thing about gardening is that there are gardening nuts in every part of the country. You need to befriend one in your area they can give you a lot of good info on how to grwo in your area.

Not everything grows well everywhere, no matter how well you do, there will be stuff you can't grow.


Some questions....

How deep did you till? The deeper the better, and the finer the better, it allows for faster root developement.

How much did you add to the soil? I will usually add about 5 parts admixture to 5 parts new ungardened soil. If I am tilling to 1 foot deep that is a lot of admixture.

How close are you spacing your plants? spacing to close on beans will retard bean developement, also if you did not till very deep a hard pan soil under that can retard growth.

How early did you plant?, can you plant earlier safely? can you start plants indoors a few weeks before last frost? I have a late start here, I have had 6 inches of snow the third week of June, I start many of my plants in plastic sided buildings early and transplant as soon as I think it will be safe.

I noticed you did not have radishes on your list, radishes are not only fun but are nice in that you may plant them very early, they thrive in the cooler late winter early spring temps and they are only 4 weeks to harvest, I grow three or four crops per year in the same area, some years I even grow them in the fall.

Another crop that grows well in most environs is cabbage, cabbage is another you want to plant good and early for it also really likes the cool temps.

Do you water your garden or just use natural rainfall? If you water try watering between sundown and sunup , less likely to get sun damage to the plants.

The watering made me think also of the beans, most beans are a dry land crop, which is why they grow so well here in Idaho, a bean needs to have the early spring moisture and then start drying out, here it is usually drying out about beginning of July, from there they get the drying soil and high temps, the drying soil stimulates the plant to stop growing and start producing seed.

Are the beans you are growing self pollinating? many of them are but not all of them, if you do not have a good bee population this could greatly reduce your harvest, try a self pollinating bean if yours is not and see if there is a difference, you might even go out with a paintbrush and pollinate by hand. I grow beans in the kitchen in the winter and I Lightly squeeze each flower between my finger tips to make sure they get pollinated, even a self pollinated flower needs the movement of wind to pollinate itself, in the kitchen I do not get wind so I have to ensure pollination by hand.

I am also thinking it may be a little early yet to be expecting a lot of beans, they may still be coming in, do you still have a lot of flowers on the plants?

Any time you want to talk gardening I am more than game.
Hope something here helps you out.
 

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Just the facts, Ma'am.
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Wow! A lot of good information and good questions here too. Thanks all for the info.

I'm hooked on gardening. It is fun, relaxing and productive. One of my favorite things about it is that I get to use my brain a little bit more. It appeals to the scientist in me, which has been stifled for a long time (by choice).

I agree with you, Mountain, that radishes a darned near a guaranteed crop. I let a couple of my icicle radishes and french breakfast radishes go to seed. The Icicle is done flowering and it has nice, two inch pods all over it! The French breakfast is just starting to flower. This is fortunate since they are planted next to each other! Bad planning on my part.

I am following the Square Foot Gardening method, and it seems to work fairly well. Spacing for beans is 9 plants per square foot. I should mention the raised beds started out at 6" deep, but have settled to about 4". The carrots are going to be stubby this year!

In large part, I think it is the growth media I am using that is at fault. I should have had it tested but I waited too late in the season to finish building all of my raised beds. Peat is very acidic, and it didn't have time to mix and play well with the compost and vermiculite. It will be much better next year as it will have developed fauna and additions of homemade compost should help build character!

I use well water on my garden, but do have plans for rain barrels in the future. The well water is very good though, and I am sure it causes no problems in the garden. My watering technique is more to blame there. I am moving my watering times to very early morning so the garden has a chance to soak the water into the ground before sun up.

I am growing Cranberry, Pinto III and Montezuma beans. The Cranberries are just finishing now and the others have stopped flowering. The Pintos look good as do the Montezumas. Once the leaves fall, I will see the reality though. I thought the Cranberries were doing well, but when the leaves were gone, I could see how few pods there really were.
 

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Now is the time to learn, with a little luck you can enjoy your garden another 25+ years

I agree with Mountain it's still early for beans, I'm just starting to get pods on my limas

Next year buy some plants at a local nursery, ask them questions, most will be more than happy to help.

I tried to buy some peppers a few years back at a nursery near me, the guy kept telling me it was too cold, I said it had been in the 70s for a few weeks, that is when he told me it's the ground that was too cold, and if I plant now it will shock the roots and will hurt how the plants do the rest of the season.

It's going to be in the 100s this week do some internet searches you should find something on yields.

I haven't tried pickled beans yet, but canned up some "Dilly beans" this week and can't wait to give them a try.
 

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Amazing the differences in growing seaons around the country. I plant potatoes and English peas in early Feb, rest of the veggies by early March.

By now corn, potatoes, bush beans, English peas, onions, tomatoes and the spring crop of pole beans are long gone. I started harvesting English peas in early May, taters shortly after.

The pole beans will live all summer and produce a fall crop. Okra lives and produces all summer and I've planted a crop of purple hull peas that thrive in the summer here. They'll be ready in a couple of weeks.

It would be nice to be able to grow veggies all summer but the intense heat here bakes everything to a crisp, including me. You can walk outside at midnight, stand in one spot and bust a sweat just standing there. We won't see a cool evening until late September.

Doc, you can also till leaves and kitchen scraps into your soil when nothing's growing in it. I mulch my plants with naval live oak leaves and till them in after the season. The soil gets better every year and this year was exceptional.

Rick
 

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Mountain, what types of beans are self pollinating?? I too tried to grow dry beans this year without much success. On the other hand I have TONs of eggplant & tomatoes. But I was interested in growing beans to store for winter use. I also have not had my scarlett runner beans produce. My yard has always been "alive' with bees, butterflies, dragonflies, etc. Not this year. Perhaps you are right and it is the lack of pollinators that stunted the production.
 

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Hi Doc
The best advice I can give you is this.Make friends with some of the older folks in your area that garden,go to your local farmers market.I can say that these people are a world of knowledge and all it takes is to start a convo. with them about how they grew there veggies.Most will talk your ears off about this just to have someone interested in what they do and how they do it.Listen to them even if you think it may not be the right way to grow something,these folks didn't get the produce they have by doing it wrong.At least thats how I started some thirty years ago and it worked for me.Oh and I'm still learning.Hang in there and don't give up it will get easier.
Act
Excellent advice!
Most growers I know are always ready to chat about veggies. At market, I do the same. Many folks can benefit from the advice dished out straight from a grower in the area....one who is successful.

I think some might be a bit foggy when it comes to sharing specifics in composting tho... its like a recipe!
 

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KDC...

I went looking for specific types of beans that are self pollinating and learned that "all" are supposed to be self pollinating.

I am getting curious now, on these problem beans..

How many flowers open compared to how many beans develope? Most self pollinating plants need a bit of wind to touch the stamen to the pistil, maybe we should try aiding the self pollination process.


I have been trying to get potato seed for years now and have had no success at all. Fishlore posted a picture of his potatoe plants with little tomato looking seed pods on them. He then mentioned that they were a bit of mess because of a wind storm.

Might be worth a try to artificially pollinate these beans by hand especially if they tatse as good as you guys are saying.

Has anyone had good wind during the growing of their beans? If so, what is your harvest like?
 

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I had the best bean crop ever, 5 different kinds. English peas did the best ever also. We do have no shortage of wind here, especially during March and April when the spring crop is blooming.

The pic is the current crop of purple hull peas. Looks disorganized but it's actually 9 rows spaced 2' apart. They seem to be doing excellent too.

Rick
 

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Just the facts, Ma'am.
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Has anyone had good wind during the growing of their beans? If so, what is your harvest like?
It has been very windy in my part of New Jersey. My corn has been flattened three times this year. The last time they stayed down because of the pole beans I'm growing with them.
 

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Just the facts, Ma'am.
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Another question on dry beans

Can I harvest the pods if they are dry even if other pods on the same plant are still a bit green? Also, how dry is dry enough for storage? I harvested my Cranberry beans and a few of them were a bit on the moist side. You could tell by dropping them on the table top. The dry ones sounded hard an were a bit bouncier. The moist ones sort of hit the table and went "thud." Can I just leave the beans in an open container in my kitchen for a few days to finish drying?
 

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Hi all!

I'm very new to it myself, but might I suggest the book Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe? She talks about growing foods for hard times (and not so hard) and focuses on the foods she thinks are best for this: corn, beans, squash, potatoes, and eggs. I haven't been able to try out most of her book, but it is PACKED with info on these five crops and how to grow them, cook them, and save seed from them (where applicable) with recommendations for varieties, yields, etc. She also talks about more general topics related to survival gardening. Highly recommended. Also, I tried to grow some green beans this year, but they all got the mosaic virus. :(
 

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Can I harvest the pods if they are dry even if other pods on the same plant are still a bit green? Also, how dry is dry enough for storage? I harvested my Cranberry beans and a few of them were a bit on the moist side. You could tell by dropping them on the table top. The dry ones sounded hard an were a bit bouncier. The moist ones sort of hit the table and went "thud." Can I just leave the beans in an open container in my kitchen for a few days to finish drying?
Some beans I've left on the vines to dry eventually ended up sprouting in the shell. To dry them on the vines it needs to be dry. Constant water from rain or sprinklers won't let them dry properly and around here the humidity doesn't help either. They'll end up rotting or germinating. If you can keep them dry and bug free in your area you might get away with it.

So I try to pick the beans I'm saving for seed when they just turn brown. long before the shells bust open. I then spread them out in a beer flat and cover with a paper towel. I set them on top of the fridge to dry, or out in the the garage if they're still real wet. Once they're dry I shell them and continue to dry the seed in the beer flat.

It's hard to explain how to tell if they're dry. I just go by how they look, and maybe how hard they are. When they look and feel like store bought dry beans you're there. It will come with experience. Some use a food dehydrator to dry beans, probably fine for food beans but I don't want to subject my seed to a lot of heat. The garage is plenty for them.

Rick
 
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