Mary's Veggie Garden

September 30, 2013

An Easy Way to Increase Harvest

Filed under: Gardening,Tomatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 3:59 pm
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Sometimes a very  small and easy action at planting time can make a big difference at harvest time.

Several years ago I bought a pepper at our local Master Gardener plant sale and planted it in my garden next to the transplants I’d grown at home. The MG plant looked enormous – with twice as many leaves and each leaf twice as big as my home-grown plants. The MG plant was big enough that it already had open flowers and a baby pepper.

By mid-July I harvested the first pepper – from the MG plant. The peppers on the other plants were small, still far from being ready. In early August I noticed something curious – the MG pepper plant was about half the size of my home-grown plants. It had only a couple small fruits while the other plants were loaded with peppers of various sizes.

What happened?

I’d planted them together and watered and fertilized the same way. The MG plant, transplanted with a pepper fruit, had put all its efforts into growing the fruit and maturing the seeds instead of producing a strong root system and a big plant. Thus it had little strength to grow additional fruit. Because of this experience I tell my vegetable gardening classes to remove fruit and open flowers from peppers and eggplants when transplanting them into the garden. Peppers and eggplants are slow growers in the cool spring weather and need all the help they can get.

Does the same rule apply to tomatoes which seem more vigorous? This year I had the opportunity to run the experiment with tomatoes and I weighed the harvest to measure the effect. The results were dramatic. (Click on any picture to enlarge.)

Healthkick plants before pruning.

Healthkick plants before pruning.

I got two Healthkick tomato plants in early June. Healthkick is determinate – genetically programmed to grow to a certain height (about 3′) and set a lot of tomatoes in a short time. It produces plum tomatoes.

The transplants each had  two clusters of open flowers with several small fruits. Both plants had about the same number of leaves but the shorter plant had bigger fruit which I removed along with the flowers. They were transplanted side-by-side into my garden on June 10.

Healthkick plants after pruning the shorter plant.

Healthkick plants after pruning the shorter plant.

June 30 - L - plant transplanted without fruit & flowers; R - plant transplanted with fruit.

June 30 – L – plant transplanted without fruit & flowers; R – plant transplanted with fruit & flowers.

July 14 I started harvesting from the plant transplanted with fruit. The tomatoes were small, about 2 ounces, but they were early. It was another month before I harvested any tomatoes from the other plant, but the tomatoes were noticeably bigger.

Aug. 10  Healthkick on the vine. This is the plant whose flowers & fruits I removed at transplanting.

Aug. 10 Healthkick on the vine. This is the plant whose flowers & fruits I removed at transplanting.

In total, the plant transplanted with fruit produced 5.8 pounds and the plant whose fruit & flowers I removed at transplanting produced 20 pounds, more than 3 times the other plant.

August 31 Healthkick harvest

August 31 Healthkick harvest

The picture shows my Aug. 31 Healthkick harvest. The 15 tomatoes on the left are from the plant whose fruit and flowers were removed at  transplanting time, while the five tomatoes on the right were from the plant transplanted with fruit.

It is counter-intuitive, but because I removed the open flowers and fruit at transplanting, the plant grew bigger and produced more tomatoes and heavier tomatoes.  For me, it is worth sacrificing the early tomatoes in favor of more and bigger tomatoes later.


June 28, 2012

Growing Edamame Soy

Filed under: Beans,Gardening,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 11:15 am
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Do you eat edamame soy? Then consider growing it in your vegetable garden. Soy is easy to grow and has few pests in Dutchess County, NY.

Edamame Soy ‘Butterbeans’ seedling June 19, 2008

Soy likes full sun and warm soil so it’s best to wait until early June to plant. In D.C., N.Y. sowing on May 23 can result in 50% germination due to cold soil, but plant seed from the same packet on June 7 and almost every seed grows. (Yes, I did this.)

Edamame soy produces stocky, bush type bean plants 2′-3′ tall. I plant my edamame in three rows running the length of a 4′ or 5′ wide bed. The plants eventually touch shoulders and shade the soil, preventing weed germination. I also mulch heavily between the rows with shredded leaves to preserve moisture and prevent weeds while the plants are small.

Edamame soy planting in mid-July.

All the flowers on an edamame soy plant open within a few days, therefore all the pods are ready for harvest about the same time. Harvest pods when the beans completely fill the pod and you see the shape of the beans in the pod. Don’t delay too long, because the beans continue to mature and will eventually dry in the pods.

Harvest edamame soy when the pods are well filled and the shape of the beans shows through the pods.

My Harvest Process 

At harvest time I cut the plants off at the base with pruners or loppers. I trim off the leaves because the pods are more visible on a bare stem. The leaves are recycled back into the garden as mulch. Next I either pull off the pods or use scissors to snip them off.

Edamame harvest: clockwise from top left: plants awaiting processing, bucket of leaves, stems stripped of both leaves & pods, scissors, stems with pods, and center – bin of harvested pods.

It is extremely difficult to remove the beans from uncooked edamame pods, and not worth the effort. Steam or boil the pods for 5-6 minutes then cool in cold water. Squeeze the pod and the beans will pop out easily. Sometimes twisting the pod helps open it.

Removing the beans from the steamed edamame pods.  The variety is Shirofumi.

For fresh edamame, sow small quantities of seed every 7-10 days throughout June. Most varieties of edamame have a long maturity and plantings after mid-July could run into cold weather before harvest. A large planting can provide edamame to freeze for the rest of the year. I make a big planting which I harvest over several days. Evenings I steam the harvest, then we (my family) squeeze the beans from the pods. I freeze the beans on cookie sheets then pour them into containers for storage. If you have a lot of freezer space you can freeze the beans in their pods.

These days there are several varieties of edamame available. ‘Envy’ is common. It has a fairly short days-to-maturity but it’s flavor is mediocre.The other varieties I’ve tried all have a longer maturity but their flavor is much better.

Rabbits love edamame, they eat the beans out of the pods.

And those pests I mentioned? Rabbits love edamame soy and they will sit in the patch, snipping off pods, eating out the beans and leaving the pods behind. Rabbits will also eat young plants. They are the reason my deer netting fence has chicken wire around the bottom. Chipmunks will dig up the seed or nip the top off of a seedling.

If it’s a bad year for Japanese beetles, the beetles eat everything, including soy, but most years they do very little damage. Mexican bean beetles generally ignore soy, and eat it only as a last resort, after the green bean plants are gone.

Many ask ‘What do you do with edamame?’ The frozen shelled beans thaw quickly so it’s easy to throw a handful on a salad and they are also a good way to add protein to winter soups.

I wrote this article for the June 2012 Dutchess Dirt, an email publication from Cornell Cooperative Extension/Dutchess County (NY). I’ve extended the article for this blog publication and added several pictures.

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