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Growing a Bean in a Bag

Or, How to Train Your Plant Part 2 1/2

Kathy J. —  May 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Garden blog followers may remember that in “How to Train Your Plant” I demonstrated a way to grow a bean seed in a plastic bag to test geotropism. I started working on that project around Thanksgiving week last year. At that time, I started a few bean bags just to see what would happen. I kept one seed growing in the bag all winter, adding water as needed.

PHOTO: A ziptop bag was used as a container to grow a bean plant. Roots, stem, leaves, and the remains of the original seed are visible.

The bean plant grew for five months, leaning toward the window in my office.

The plant produced a white flower about a month ago. I should have taken a picture. Now this week I discovered a seedpod growing where the flower had been! In the picture, you can see the wilted flower petals still hanging from the tip of the reddish colored pod. Botanically speaking, this is the fruit of the plant, even though you might not think of beans as fruit in your diet.

PHOTO: a red bean pod, about 2 and a half inches long is attached to the stem of the plant.

The red fruit was hidden under the leaves.

So if you try this activity, and you stick with it for six months, you, too, may be rewarded with a little treasure!


©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

As farmers’ markets wind down, many of us want to preserve the bounty of this year for the next. Why not save save seeds from your last tomatoes so you can grow them yourself next year?

1)    Make sure to save the seeds from an open-pollinated or heirloom tomato. These seeds will reliably reproduce the “parent plant.”

2)    Choose a ripe, disease-free tomato; one past being edible is best.

Heirloom Tomato Weekend_RJC8698

3)    Cut the tomato ‘around the equator’ and squeeze out the seeds and ‘goo’ in to a strainer over the kitchen sink. Run cold water over and use your fingers to try and separate the ‘goo’ from the seed.

Heirloom Tomato Weekend_RJC8715

4)    Knock the strainer on a paper plate lined with a coffee filter, dislodging the seeds from the strainer.

5)    Label the filter with the tomato variety and let dry which could take up to three weeks. The top of the refrigerator is a great place for this.

tomato seeds in envelope_RJC6138at

6)    When dry, scrape the seed in to an envelope labeled with the variety and the date for storage. If the seeds stick to the coffee filter, simply fold the whole thing up and store in the envelope. The filter itself can be planted; it will disintegrate.

7)    Store your heirloom tomato seeds in a cool dry place indoors. I like to put them in my top desk drawer.

8)    Seeds have varied life expectancies. Tomato seed is viable for 4-10 years.

9)    Check back in late winter for a blog post about a simple germination test checking to see if your seed is viable.

Mark your calendars for the Second Annual Seed Swap on February 23, 2013. For more information on seed saving visit our web site.

Our volunteers are awesome. We recently sat down with 16-year volunteer (and 2008 Volunteer of the Year) Sam Darin, pictured above, is famous for both his tool-sharpening skills (stop by for summer tool talk in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden on Thursdays, May through October) and his tomato-growing expertise.

tomato cages009

Three heirloom tomato beds held 19 different varieties in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden this year. With harvest complete, the beds await their leaf mulch “blanket” for the winter.

We asked a timely question:  How does a Master Gardener (Sam was Illinois’ Master Gardener of the Year in 2010) put a vegetable garden to bed for the winter? His approach is so straightforward that even first-year gardeners can follow his lead:

1. After removing spent vegetables plants, pick up all leaves and fruit from the beds, clearing them of debris that might harbor diseases or pests.

2. AFTER the first hard frost, add a 4-6” layer of chopped leaf mulch to cover the beds for the winter. (Rake dry fall leaves and store them in a garbage can; use a mower or weed whacker to chop them.)

Mortgage Lifter

One of Sam Darin’s favorite tomato varieties, ‘Mortgage Lifter’ can weigh in at over a pound apiece.

3. Beyond the bed, continue to water shrubs and trees until frost. Late fall is usually quite dry, so it’s helpful to give larger plants a good drink before winter sets in.

As Sam says, “That’s about it.” Thanks, Sam, and see you at the Garden next spring!

Enchanted Kale Forest

Kathy J. —  October 4, 2012 — 1 Comment

PHOTO: a variety of kale plants are growing in the raised beds of the Children's Growing Garden.

We’re all adjusting to the recent drop in temperature, but some plants actually thrive in cooler weather. Check out the redbor kale in the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden. Forget bonsai, these kale varieties look like a miniature forest. Notice the branching leaf shapes are very similar to the trees in the background.

If you look at the kale from just the right angle, it appears to be part of woods that surround the garden.

PHOTO: The branching pattern of the kale leaves resemble miniature trees.See what I mean?

Kale is a member of a plant group called Brassica, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and mustard. These plants grow well in the cooler months, and so they make excellent spring and fall crops. Since they come in a rich range of colors (dark greens to dusty teals to deep purples), and have an attractive variety of leaves (from smooth to lacy to ruffled), they are a favorite for fall garden displays.

Come to the Garden this month and take your picture near our enchanted kale forest!

Visit chicagobotanic.org/learningcampus/growinggarden for more information on the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden.

Yesterday, we unveiled our collaboration with Kraft Foods to build a corporate garden that provides fresh produce to area food banks. Angela Mason, Director of Community Gardening, tells us how the Kraft Foods Garden in Northfield, IL came to be in such a short period of time. Windy City Harvest and Cook County Boot Camp graduates will maintain the garden. Fourteen thousand pounds of produce will be given away to area food banks. For additional information on the program, visit http://chicagobotanic.org/windycityharvest.