Friday, July 17, 2009

The magic beanstalk

The first vegetables I started from seed were beans. Our son actually picked the seed packets off the rack at Tea's Nursery -- "Royal Burgundy" from Botanical Interests, and "Stringless Green Pod" from Burpee. Both are bush beans, and produced our first bumper crop of the year. I especially love the Royal Burgundy beans. The dark purple color stands out in the garden, and makes it easy to find the beans for harvesting. Unfortunately, they turn green when cooked, but the flavor more than makes up for this. We ate beans almost every day in June until the plants started dying back and I reluctantly pulled them out to make room for new plants. We started harvesting beans about a month after I transplanted the seedlings into the garden, and the plants were highly productive for about five weeks. I finally understood the source of the Jack and the Magic Beanstalk story. So many beans from one little did seem quite magical. Beans are also an easy vegetable to harvest, no pruners required, and our sons loved searching for new beans each day and then yanking them off the plants.

While we really enjoyed those beans, it was a fairly short harvest, so I selected several pole beans to provide us with a longer harvest. I planted "Carolina" lima beans from Victory Seed, "Romano" from Botanical Interests, and "Christmas" lima beans from Vermont Bean. The Christmas limas were started at the end of April, and the Romano and Carolina were planted in late May. I was initially leary about planting pole beans because of all the extra work. But really, after you plant the seeds, the only work involved is sticking the stake in the ground. These beans all miraculously find their bamboo poles and twist themselves around -- no twine or ties needed. So far, I have lots of tall healthy plants but not a single bean. I guess the trade-off for getting a longer harvest period is that it takes a lot longer for the harvest to start. I'm really missing my Royal Burgundy beans during the long wait.

I'm also growing several shelling beans to store away for the winter. I've planted "Coco Rubico" from Vermont Bean, and from Seed Savers Exchange I have "Good Mother Stallard" and "Tiger's Eye". In a bit of creative genius, I planted the Tiger's Eye beans with our Hybrid Tiger eggplants for a little themed garden. My kids were not impressed with my cleverness, and neither was David, but I still like the idea of having the two tigers together.

All these seeds were sown directly in the garden with some innoculant from Park Seeds. Germination was fast -- four days for the Tiger's Eye, and five days for the others -- and close to 100%. I planted them fairly close together, and made neat geometric patterns with the seeds. We'll see how apparent that pattern is once the plants start filling in and expressing their individuality. The beans are planted in new raised beds we built this year, and I'm hoping an added benefit of growing them will be extra-fertile soil for the plants that follow them in the autumn. For once, I'm actually planning ahead.

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