Kohlrabi, whose name comes from a German word meaning “cabbage turnip,” originated in Northern Europe.
A member of the mustard family, the plant has edible purple or white globes that form at the base of the stems.
It’s a quick and easy crop: all it asks for are cool temperatures and plenty of moisture and sunshine.
These three vegetables are grown as annuals: kohlrabi is a cool-season crop and yardlong beans and white eggplants are warm-season crops. They can be grown in USDA zones 3-10.
Because kohlrabi is a cool-weather crop, most gardeners plant it in late winter or early spring and again in the late summer or early fall in order to get two crops a year.
There are many good varieties of kohlrabi available. One, a purple variety called Kolibri, has a globe the color of a frosted grape; another, a white variety named Kongo, produces a greenish-white globe. Both have creamy white interiors that are good for eating raw or cooked. They grow quickly, going from seed to table in 60 to 65 days.
Kohlrabi likes rich soil, so add fertilizer to your garden if required.
Work the fertilizer into the soil using a pitchfork, and then smooth the soil with a rake prior to planting.
To plant the seed, use the edge of a hoe to create a trench about 1/2″ deep. Place the seeds about an inch apart for the entire length of the row. Create another row 12″ away from the first and plant a second row of seeds. Because kohlrabi plants don’t take up a lot of space while they’re growing, they can be planted fairly close together.
Cover the seeds with 1/2″ of soil and water gently to settle the soil.
A hose attachment that adjusts to a fine spray is a good way to water without washing away the soil or disrupting newly planted seeds.
Yardlong beans are another easy to grow crop — and their length gives them a definite “wow” factor.
Also commonly known as asparagus bean and snake bean, the pods will grow up to 30″ long; they grow especially well in hot, humid climates because they’re native to tropical Africa. They’re also an important food crop in Southeast Asia and in the U.S. can often be found in Asian markets, where they are labeled Sitao, Changjiang dou or Cheung kung tau.
Growing Yardlong Beans
These beans like full sun and moderately fertile soil.
They germinate best and grow best in warm weather, so plant in the spring when the soil temperatures warm up to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A type of pole bean, they grow on long twining vines that reach 8′ or 10′ long. To give the vines the support they’ll need as they grow, you need to build trellises or tepees.
Planting Yardlong Beans
Tepees are simple, attractive, and easy to build.
For each tepee, use four 1×2 cedar poles, each 8′ long. Cedar is a good choice because it’s long lasting and has a rough surface that the beans can easily climb.
Mark out a circle inside the planting bed, about 3-1/2′ in diameter. Next place the four poles equidistant around the circle, setting them into the ground about 10″ or 12″ deep. As you set them in the ground, angle each of them slightly toward the center of the circle. Pull the four poles together and overlap their ends by about 6″ to form a cone. Using heavy-duty twine, lash the poles together where they intersect.
When the tepees are ready, you can begin to plant the beans.
Before planting the seeds, it’s often a good idea to use a bean inoculant, a type of beneficial bacteria, in this case a bacteria known as rhizobia. Dampen the seeds with a light mist of water, then put the beans in a shallow tray. Sprinkle the inoculant over the beans, and stir to get a light coating of the powder on each bean.
Rhizobia are naturally occurring bacteria that help beans utilize nitrogen. Soils in which beans have been grown in the past usually have enough of the bacteria to make inoculant use unnecessary. But if you’ve never grown beans before, adding the inoculant will ensure that your soil has the bacteria that beans need to produce well. You can find inoculant at most garden centers.
Once the bean seeds have been dusted with inoculant, create 1″-deep holes in the soil, and place one bean in each hole. Put six seeds 4″ or 5″ from the base of each tepee pole, cover the beans with soil and water them in.
The beans should be up and growing in a little over a week. At this seedling stage, thin them so that there are two or three bean vines per pole.