Saturday, May 1, 2010

Get Growing in May

Get Growing

Welcome to our sixth Get Growing entry. This series will span 12 months, and is designed to help aspiring vegetable gardeners get out of the kitchen and into the garden. On the first of each month, we will discuss one garden project for the novice vegetable gardener. Because we are located in Houston, Texas, our growing conditions differ from many parts of the English-speaking world. To help guide gardeners in cooler climates, our Get Growing partner is Daphne of Daphne's Dandelions. Daphne gardens in Boston, and she will be providing monthly advice for Northern gardeners (although her excellent site is a wonderful resource for gardeners everywhere). For Get Growing in May, Daphne discusses starting summer vegetables and growing tomatoes.  Regardless of where you live, her advice is invaluable.

Zone 9 in May

In Zone 9, the temperatures start heating up in May.  Here in Houston, the average highs for May are over 90° and it won't start to cool off until October.  While most of our fall vegetables are on the way to the compost pile, our favorite summer vegetables are thriving right now.  This includes tomatoes, eggplant, basil and chile peppers.   Our snap bean plants are loaded with flowers and tiny beans, and the cucumbers and melons are filling in.  Seeds that can be started this month include succession crops of snap and pole beans, arugula and other year-round greens such as mizuna and senposai, and cucumbers.  Sweet potatoes, lima beans, winter squash, melons and corn can also be started in May.
Growing Edamame (Soybeans)

Another crop to consider for your Zone 9 garden is edamame or soybeans.  These plants love the heat, are low-maintenance, and extremely productive.  Edamame are in the legume family, which means the plants improve the soil, a significant benefit for an organic vegetable garden.  In fact, soybeans are so beneficial that many organic growers plant soybeans as a green manure to add nutrients and organic matter in the off-season. This makes soybeans an excellent choice to grow alongside heavy feeders such as corn and tomatoes that are part of the summer vegetable garden.

Growing soybeans could not be easier.  The seeds are large and forgiving, and should be planted an inch or so deep in full sun.  Plant about 6 inches apart in rows, and be prepared to stake the plants depending on the variety you select. 
Our favorite soybean is "Moon Cake" from Southern Exposure.  These plants grow over three feet tall, and eventually need support, especially when loaded with pods.   The beans are extremely tasty, and many of the pods include three big, fat soybeans making for an abundant harvest.

For more exotic soybeans, try "Black Jet" from Johnny's, a black soybean that matures early, is extremely productive, and loaded with flavor.  Another great choice is "Kouri" from Kitazawa, a brown-seeded soybean that is prized in Japan for its sweet, nutty flavor.  We're growing both of these edamame varieties for the first time this year, so check back for reports as our plants mature.

Why Grow Edamame

Edamame are not only good for the garden, but also one of the super foods that should be a part of any healthy diet.  Soybeans are a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids.  They are rich in omega-3 fat, calcium, iron, folate, B-vitamins, and isoflavones (which are found only in soy).   They are also an extremely versatile vegetable in the kitchen; while they are prominently featured in many Asian recipes, edamame work in most recipes calling for peas, beans, chickpeas or limas.

Soybeans are readily available frozen, either shelled or in their pods, but it is not easy to find fresh soybeans at the market.  Freshly picked soybeans are reputed to be the healthiest option, and, like most organic vegetables fresh from the garden, the taste is far superior.  In Japan, fresh edamame are considered such a delicacy that they are eaten raw, straight from the pod.  Our fresh edamame were so delicious last summer that our 9-year old became passionate about growing, harvesting and eating soybeans.  Thanks to him, we couldn't grow enough to keep up with demand in our household.  Add in how easy they are to grow, their versatility in the kitchen, the significant health benefits of eating soybeans, the fact that these plants love our Zone 9 blistering heat, and the soil benefits of growing soybeans, and you'll see why we love edamame for the summer vegetable garden.

Other Posts in the Get Growing Series

Determining Your Gardening Zone and Growing Peas
Garden Planning, Planting Methods and Seed Selection
Growing Lettuce
Starting Seeds Indoors
Growing Tomatoes
Compost:  What is It, How to Make it, How to Use It
Growing Snap Beans
Spinach, Row Covers and Peas
Growing Eggplant
Growing Brassicas


  1. wonderful and useful info! I wish I had a garden!

  2. I'm finding your blog so helpful! Thank you! I'm thinking now of trying arugula and soybeans.

  3. nice blog site with very good info. I just started my container garden this year and we are now eating fresh tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, peas and jalapenos thus far. I am not sure what i am doing and probably doing lots of things wrong but the produce tastes so good and it is lots of fun doing it. I look forward to your subscription updates.

  4. this is great info. i'm new at this. i just found this site and i'm trying to see if i can get info on when to start prepping the soil and exactly when and what to plant, any help would be greatly appreciated... sandra houston, tx.


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