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Dear Editor:

I ordered your heirloom soup beans last spring and it was one of the best investments I’ve made. First of all, they do taste great! The misses and I love them and eat them often. I also planted two rows of 16 feet each—that’s 32 feet of each of the 9 beans. I have a bumper crop of beans, I got nearly a 100% germination rate and with regulated watering in this drought year, I was amazed. I just wish I had known which ones were the climbing vine types up front. Now I know which kind to plant where for the climbers and will double the crop again next year. I haven’t harvested them yet so I don’t know exactly how much I will yield, but by the looks of them it will be a lot! I am looking forward to tasting the ones I’ve grown.

Which leads me to my question—how in the heck do I harvest them exactly? Some are dry already and some are still green and growing. I can’t shuck them one by one, it would take forever. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’m also looking forward to next spring to plant my own seeds for a second generation in my soil and climate type (Central-Minnesota). I’m hoping to get the same germination rate I got from my ordered seeds.

Thank you so much for the tip on these beans. I will never regret it!


Dear John,

Thank you so much for your letter! You’re absolutely right – these beans are the best! Next year I’ll be planting them as well and cannot wait to see my bumper crop! J

As to harvesting—it is so easy! No, you don’t have to shell them one by one! However, you will need to get them in before the first hard frost occurs or the beans may be damaged. Once the seeds have matured (about six weeks after harvesting the beans for eating, when the beans rattle in the pod, and the pods are dry and brown, and before they start falling to the ground), simply pull the plants up by their roots and either stack them loosely on some screen mesh or slatted shelves, or hang them upside down in a cool, dark, dry place for a week or two to thoroughly dry out the seed.

To thresh the seeds, either hold the plants over a barrel or some other type of container (a trash bag, even) and gently whack the plant against the sides which will split the pod and cause the seed to fall out. What I do is take a body pillow pillowcase (the HUGE ones) and put my plants in there. Then I either roll the entire bag between my hands (not too rough—you don’t want to damage the bean embryo) or gently whack it against another object. After I’ve gotten all the pods to split and the beans are loose, I go outside and pour the beans from one container to another in a breezy area. (You need to pull the big plants and pieces out before you do this). This will allow the chaff and debris to blow away. For a final cleaning, take a large screen mesh (not so large your beans will fall through) and shake them across that for one final cleaning. I always allow my beans or seeds to sit a few more days to thoroughly dry out and then I jar them up.

Thank you so much for writing!

The Editor


Dear Editor,

I would like to try composting but have a very small yard and do not want to get a special container for composting. I have two raised garden beds and would like to use a section of one of them to do some composting. Can I do that and if so, how do I begin?



Dear FP,

There is no right or wrong way to compost. First of all, I always say that if we understand the “whys” behind what we do, then we can make intelligent course corrections during the process, whether that be composting, canning, or gardening. To understand the composting process, allow me to direct you to the EPA’s page on that found at: (imagine, one good thing we’ve gotten for our tax dollars!). There are a lot of useful links within the page that you can read about various methods of composting, including on-site composting, aerated static pile composting, and in-vessel composting.

After you’ve read that, the page found at will give you a good brief overview of the composting process, possible approaches to take, the composition of the compost pile, and the materials you can and cannot add to your compost pile.

You can also go to the Books and Reading category at the Solutions From Science store, type in “composting” and see a variety of books that are available on the subject as well.

Thanks for writing!

The Editor


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