It’s mid-April and in one of our raised vegetable beds, the first leaves of yard long beans (Vigna sesquipedalis, also known as snake beans, asparagus beans, or Chinese long beans), are just unfolding. When vegetable growing in Jacksonville Fl, this feels like a whole new chapter. It is important to start out on the right footing.
To protect my bean crops from cutworms, I sprinkle organic diatomaceous earth around the seedlings, being careful not to breathe in the fine powder. Yard long beans grow well here. They are a southeast Asian vegetable accustomed to hot and humid weather. They need a long growing season, which we can also provide. Although yard long beans resemble climbing pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), they are closely related to well-known southern cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata), another good summer crop. They have pretty lilac flowers that grow in pairs.
The vines grow long, so give them tall, sturdy support. This could be a tepee-like construction, using six or seven foot canes to support three or four plants. Alternatively, secure wide-spaced netting over a long A-shaped frame. This can support two rows of plants spaced nine to 12 inches apart. Harvest the beans when they are about a foot long for really tender pods and cook them like snap beans. By the time they reach a “yard long” their texture will become tough and spongy. If they do become too long, cook the shelled beans. Towards the end of the season, allow a few pods to mature and dry, and save the seeds in a cool dry place for next year (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1268).
Another Asian vegetable I’ve sown recently is fenugreek or methi. It’s used in Indian cuisine, both as greens and as the dried seed. I scattered pre-soaked seed in a narrow band between rows seeded with okra. I am hoping the fenugreek will produce small tender greens in 20 – 30 days, before the okra shades it out. This is definitely an experiment. (Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenugreek.)
Many of our Master Gardener Volunteers find vegetable growing in Jacksonville FL quite satisfying and a source of great joy. We volunteer at the Urban Garden at 1032 Superior Street. Our crops go to City Rescue Mission down the road. We also grow vegetables in two of our other demonstration gardens – Mandarin Garden Club (2892 Loretta Rd.) and the Heritage Demonstration Garden at the Beaches Museum. 381 Beach Blvd. But whether our yards are predominantly veg, perennials, annuals or a glorious mix, (now called Edible Landscapes) we all believe that by encouraging the public to care for their yards and gardens, using information based on sound horticultural research and practice (https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/), we can enable people to appreciate and take care of our environment. We can all play our part to keep northeast Florida green, healthy, and flourishing into the future. Let us help you.
Written by Master Gardener, Lesley Arrandale, this article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Mandarin NewsLine. Reprinted with permission of Florida NewsLine.
For timely tips, see A New Leaf Yard & Garden (https://tinyurl.com/yhm4ejyu) and The Neighborhood Gardener (https://tinyurl.com/hefbmyzz).