The fourth and final instalment of this series focuses on two more warm-climate plants: beans and cucumbers.
Originating in Central and South America, beans require warmer temperatures than peas. As they are very sensitive to cold, they should not be sown until all risk of a late frosthas passed.Also, germination will be poor if the soil temperature is below
Dwarf bean plants form a compact bush, with production concentrated in a short period of time (two to three weeks). For successive harvests, plant your beans at intervals of three to four weeks, from mid-May to early July (harvesting between July and September). The soil temperature should be above 15°C. Sow the seeds 10 cm apart, in pots of 25–30 cm in diameter. Climbing varieties produce later but over a longer period of time. Of course, they need a support to climb on.
Beans like soil that is rich in phosphorus and potassium. Subsoils that contain a lot of nitrogen result in leafy plants with less fruit. The plants should not lack water during sowing, flowering or the formation of pods. Avoid getting the leaves and flowers wet when the weather is very hot.
The pods are harvested when the seeds are just visible on the outside.
This herbaceous plant develops long, creeping stems. Its shallow, branching root system radiates from a tap root that can go as deep as 1 m in the ground. It is therefore best to grow cucumber in a large container (45–50 cm in diameter) and allow the stems to climb a trellis sheltered from the prevailing winds.
It can be sown in the ground from mid-May to mid-June. The soil temperature should be above 15°C, while the nighttime temperature should not dip below 10°C. For accelerated production, you can sow the seeds indoors three to four weeks before transplanting outside. Plant three or four seeds in a 10 cm pot and keep the two most vigorous seedlings. They should not be too big when they are transplanted, as they risk being damaged by the sun and wind, which will cancel out any time gained. Young plants may be covered with a piece of geotextile until they adapt to the outdoor conditions.
Cucumbers develop quickly in hot weather. It is therefore important to provide plenty of water and fertilizer. Use soil that is enriched with compost and feed regularly with nitrogen- and potassium-rich fertilizer. Add mulch on top of the soil to keep in its humidity. Avoid getting the leaves wet when watering, as cucumbers are vulnerable to fungal disease.
Of course, container gardening is not limited to the vegetables we have covered in this series.Carrots, beets, cooking and medicinal herbs, edible flowers and many more useful plants can find a home on your balcony. Now it’s your turn to explore new avenues.
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