After too many years of failed experiments with beans, I was delighted to plant several dozen seeds into the inaugural raised bed. Bush, Pole, and Black-Eyed Peas — all of them! The Hurricane loves snapping beans nearly as much as eating them, and sitting on the porch, snapping beans, has to be one of my fondest childhood gardening memories.
Strangely, they all seemed pretty happy and it looked like they just might make it onto the porch and onto a plate. Until a raging thunderstorm blew through, leaving all sorts of house-related drainage problems in its wake as well as cruelly snapping bush bean limbs from their trunks.
These Royalty Purple bush beans are scattered throughout the 4×8 raised bed and were planted on a 15-day staggered schedule. They’re packed in pretty tight, six to a square foot, to provide support for one another and shade for the pods on hot summer days. Still, the winds whipped a little too hard for the earliest seeded Royals, taking up real estate at the south/front edge of the bed.
So, Hey Self: next year remember to plant the bush beans along the penultimate/northern row of the bed. Allowing sturdier, shorter plants to offer some shelter from the storm. Besides, it’s good form to rotate from year-to-year.
So here’s the thing: notes are great, but they inevitably find themselves lost, just when you need them most.
One of the last times POD attempted to grow beans, they wound up yellow, brown, and blighted. The yield: one measly handful, not even enough to anchor the amazing pesto/pasta/potato summer weeknight mainstay.
This year, hopes are high and POD’s going all-in on beans. The first batch of purple bush beans were planted on May 9 and have germinated and been thinned to six plants to the square foot. To ensure a staggered harvest, the next installment of seeds are scheduled to hit the dirt tomorrow and again on May 29. The Kentucky Wonder pole beans have been thinned to 9 per square foot and, come May 29, the remaining dedicated space will be home to 5 per square foot.
There’s simply nothing as pleasurable as watching corn grow. Last year this desperate container gardener fell for the dwarf corn nonsense, which so didn’t work, but was enjoyable to watch, nonetheless. This year, we’re going for the real deal. After today’s slightly belated thinning (POD’s Silver Queen are already about a foot tall), 12 plants occupy four square feet. This year they’re all planted in a nice soldier row, but in the future, consider planting two rows of two or three to encourage pollination. Let the second-guessing begin.
Each year POD ties to walk the delicate line between trying new things, planting a nice variety of edibles, and planting enough of any given vegetable to make a meal. When your garden is a 10×10 roof deck and a bunch of pots, it makes things tricky.
And, every year, some things work and some things don’t. This year’s experiments included four cherry tomato plants versus the standard planting of two traditional plants. Good thing, too. The chocolate cherry got tossed before it could offer much to the table but the remaining three were pretty vigorous producers (despite an impressive case of early blight). Producing enough, in fact, for an almost-weekly dinner starring or, at the very least, co-starring sweet homegrown tomatoes.
The year’s biggest regret, however, is the inconsistent stream of green (or purple) beans. Next to tomatoes, beans are simply one of the summer’s greatest gifts and next year POD really needs to do something about this. Filet nickel bush beans are pretty marvelous: they’re tasty and prolific, but because of their short life span they take a lot of dedication to keep an even yield on the table. Two rotating pots (with a total of three plants) simply couldn’t come close to keeping up with the demand.
Next year a bucket of pole beans may appear on deck. Perhaps McCaslan, Dade, Kentucky Wonder, or Blue Lake. Your suggestions are welcome…
Green beans are a wonderful, wonderful thing. If you’re an urban gardener, odds are you don’t have room for the gorgeous towering beans castles that make one of gardens POD knows so striking. (Well, the beanscrapers and the adjoining poulet maison, really tag-team the eye-catching.)
The perfect solution for roof deck gardens? Filet nickel — a high-yield, short-lived French bush bean. These little suckers do well in two-gallon buckets — two plants in each bucket. They grow quickly and produce in one or two concentrated spurts. It means you’ll have to replant often, but POD tends to have several buckets at different stages of maturity to keep a steady stream of beans flowing into the kitchen.
Since beans are highly susceptible to disease this quick rotation keeps nasties in check, too.