Attracting Bees to your Yard

Cosmos have to be the easiest annual I have grown here in Austin. All you need to do is chuck some seeds on a sunny garden bed. I’ve done that at any old time of the year and gotten plants eventually. Cosmos are also great at reseeding themselves and spreading through the yard.

Bees love cosmos! The buzz all day long around the blossoms. I took a bunch of images over the past few days and picked my favorites.

Here’s a bee crawling from blossom to blossom on a sunny afternoon:


And here’s one on a cloudy day (yesterday) stuffing its face:



How to Grow Fava Beans

I experiment with different plants in my garden. Some have been utter failures. We do not speak of them. This winter, I have planted turnips, carrots, lettuce, two kinds of radish, and faaaaavahh beans. The first four have been successful in the past. The fava beans are my experiment. They are supposedly easy to grow, but I’ve heard that before….

Lackluster winter garden.
Lackluster winter garden.

My husband loves fresh fava beans, even though they are a big huge pain to cook and kinda pricey. But, what were we expecting of Hannibal Lecter? He has fancy tastes, after all.

I wanted to start this post back when I planted the beans, but I was too scared my experiment would go awry  too quickly to be of any assistance. They’ve been in the ground 5 weeks now. Basically, all you’ve missed out on was a long germination and some cotelydons (AKA “leaves” on the sprouts). Hey, I took Agronomy 101 in college. I can throw out the big gardening words if I want!

My goal is to update this post as the beans grow. Unless they die. Then the update will be: THEY ALL DIED. OMG. 😦 😦 RIP

Here they are at 5 weeks:

Side view
Side view
Top view
Top view
Ruler is 6 inches. Plants are on average 8 inches.
Ruler is 6 inches. Plants are on average 8 inches. Some a bit taller, some a little shorter, because you know…averages.

My experiences up to 5 weeks:

1. Package said to plant them during a cool season right before last frost. The plants cannot handle 90 degree weather. So, this means you must plant them during the winter in warm climates. I chose December here in central Texas.
2. Soak the beans for 24 hours prior to planting.
3. Space according to the package directions.
4. There have been a few “hard” freezes this winter. Therefore, I covered the plants with Plankets to protect my babies from 20 degree weather with winds (just in case). They’ve been fine with 30 degree weather at nights.
5. The plants took over a week to germinate. A few took a bit longer.

8 weeks

There’s been some aphid activity, so I dusted the affected plants with an eco-friendly insecticidal dust. I have read that aphids are an issue with these plants. On a happier note, the first flowers have bloomed.

First flowers @ about 8 weeks.
First flowers @ about 8 weeks.

April 4, 2013: My goodness. The aphids. THE APHIDS. They are just such a pest.

It’s been an abnormally cool spring so far. Therefore, I can’t vouch for these plants in any other year. But, I do have some pod formation, which gives me hope the plants might give me precious fava beans. It’s just a few of the plants. Maybe more pods will form!

May 19, 2013: Today is the end of a good run. We got enough beans for 4 meals (as a side dish for 2-3 people) over the course of the growing season. This last harvest was larger than previous ones because it was time to clear the beans out to make room for summer crops like okra.

My child would not quit photobombing my shelled fava been pics. ;)
My child would not quit photobombing my shelled fava been pics. 😉

As it had gotten hotter and more humid, the plants ceased to make flowers. In addition, the plants developed powdery mildew. I would have applied copper soap fungicide to them, but it didn’t seem worth the bother considering that I was just going to rip them out.

Fully grown plants. They were multi-stemmed and bushy.
Fully grown plants. They were multi-stemmed and bushy.

All things considered, they were a fairly easy crop to grow and produced enough beans to make it worth the effort. The beans were far superior to the fresh ones available at the grocery store. And those grocery store beans are expensive when you think about how much of the weight as sold is from the puffy pods.