Garden q&A: veggies don't like fluctuations
Q: We grew green beans in our garden last year and had a problem that we'd like to avoid this season. The plants grew lots of beans, but each pod was curled up at the bottom and the leaves had yellow markings on them. What happened, and how can we produce a better bean crop this year?
A: To ensure optimum health and adequate production from all your veggies, start your season by getting a soil test. Improper soil pH and fertility issues can lead to deformed or dwarfed vegetables. Contact your county's office of the Penn State Extension Service to purchase a test, and when the test results are returned, adjust your fertilization program accordingly. Most vegetables, green beans included, prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
That being said, I suspect there may be a few other factors at play in regards to your deformed beans. During pod-set, fluctuations in soil moisture and excessive heat can lead to pod curling. While you can't control the temperature, be sure your bean plants are well mulched and water them regularly throughout the growing season if necessary. Most veggies require 1 inch of water per week. Set an empty tuna can in the garden and measure the amount of rainfall collected in it each week. If you need to water the garden, put the can under the path of your sprinkler and run it until the can is full. That's about 1 inch of water.
It's also possible that your beans were infected with common bean mosaic virus. Mosaic virus creates a yellow and green mosaic pattern on infected plants, stunts growth and causes the bean pods to curl. It arrives in the garden via infected seeds and can be transferred from plant to plant by aphids.
Be sure to purchase your bean seeds from a quality source and dispose of any infected plants. Rotate this year's bean crop to a new area of the garden. Because mosaic virus is a viral disease, there are no products available to control it. Plant only varieties with a noted resistance to the virus. Some of my favorites are Venture, Renegade, Blue Lake, Maxibel and Contender.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to email@example.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.