I’ve been busy planting several varieties of beans. Can they cross-pollinate?
The regular Phaseolus vulgaris beans may cross, even pole beans to bush beans or vice versa. But others I’ve been planting are “black” garbanzos (botanical designation is Cicer arietinum), Michels Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) and Dixie speckled butter pea (actually a baby lima bean, Phaseolus lunatus). According to Suzanne Ashworth’s “Seed to Seed,” there’ll be no cross pollination between P. vulgaris and P. lunatus, V. unguiculata or C. arietinum. Cicer is an Old World bean, Vigna is from Africa and the others are New World.
The lack of cross pollination is good news for those of us who want to grow similar crops in limited space. My snap beans (Slenderette) can cross with Good Mother Stallard pole beans and perhaps with the Zuni gold beans I planted for dry bean use, but if they cross it’s of no concern because we’ll just use them ourselves. Cross pollination will show up in the coloring of the beans, and it’s more of a concern to commercial growers and seed savers.
Reaching interior rows on my 4-foot-wide beds is quite a stretch, so I’m using a piece of white PVC pipe and rolling seeds through it after placing it where I want the next plant, then pushing beans into wetted soil with the tip of my long-handled trowel. A stick would work as well, I suspect. They’re a little shallower than they should be, but I think deep enough.
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The garbanzo seeds came from Nichols Garden Nursery, and they included a small packet of inoculant to increase fixation of nitrogen from the air. All of the above are legumes that fix nitrogen from the air to some extent. The inoculant increases that activity. Instructions recommended dosing moistened garbanzo seeds with the inoculant, so I used the same method I use to make bean sprouts: a square of nylon net over the mouth of a canning jar, the net held in place by a jar ring. Then a flush of water and emptying it before removing the garbanzos.
As many of you know, I garden from the seat of an electric scooter. I recently had a scare when my scooter would not surmount the major ramp onto the deck. I set the speed to rabbit (i.e., fastest), and took a run at it, four times. Each time the scooter stopped a few inches short. No cell phone with me that day, and husband wasn’t feeling well. I finally was able to get over the ramp by pushing the 250-pound scooter with my good leg the way ordinary scooters work. I had new batteries, so that wasn’t the problem. Then I realized the scooter is 17 years old, and I did abuse the motor in the early days when I got stuck in garden paths.
Scooter failure at the beginning of the garden year is unacceptable. A friend drove me to the Meridian Norco (recently their repairmen had replaced the inner tube in one of my wheelchair tires so that the locks worked and I could transfer safely). There I bought a new four-wheel Pride Victory scooter, and they delivered it within two hours of my purchase. I couldn’t hope for better service. This scooter is much peppier than the old one, and I’m still using it on the slowest speed until I get better used to it.
fighting the squirrels
I’m unusually late in getting my garden planted because we have an overpopulation of squirrels in our neighborhood now. Squirrels have pulled out seedlings of several plants, so I had to start all over from seed to get the plants I wanted. The time loss from the growing season is the worst of that problem.
Please do not feed wildlife. The population grows too large for the natural sources of food, causing wildlife to seek other sources for food or fight over what is readily available. They’ve already killed one of their own in our yard. Overpopulation also means they’re more vulnerable to disease or starvation. Moreover, their natural diet is well-balanced nutritionally, but human offerings may not contain the right elements for animal health.
They don’t eat all of the peanuts they’re given, but bury them in my pots and garden beds, tossing my plants aside. They are rodents and can carry disease transmissible to humans, so handing them food is dangerous for humans. I know that some folks repel rodents (including squirrels) with hot chile powder, but they can get it into their eyes, and then the gardener feels cruel. I don’t do that, but gardening in this population is nearly impossible. Are we gardening for human food or for squirrels?
Send garden questions to email@example.com or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.