Saturday, November 7, 2009

2009 Overview Beans (and Corn)

Beans overtaking the corn

This year I tried growing a Three Sisters Garden. I won't do it again. If the weather is bad early on the plants don't have time to mature. I tried planting the corn early. I heated the ground up with clear plastic and germinated them inside (in soil blocks). As soon as they were up they were put outside, but the corn never really grew well. The variety was supposed to get over 6' tall, which I deemed tall enough to support my corn, but it never grew more than three feet. Then when the ears started to form, earwigs took up residence in all of them and cut off the silks. Arrrggghhh!. I gave up and pulled all the corn. I've tried growing corn numerous times and it is never a great crop. I should just give my money to the local farmers and buy from them. They seem to be able to grow corn well.

Trail of Tears

Since the corn wasn't tall enough, I had to scramble and buy some bamboo poles to support the beans. I had one pole for one or two bean plants. It worked quite well.

Bean timeline:

  • May 24th direct sown
  • May 30th germinated
  • July 23rd Kentucky Wonder snap bean harvest started
  • August 26th Dried beans harvest started (both varieties)
  • Mid September, Kentucky Wonder harvest almost over
  • October 6th Dried beans harvest finished

The timing was fine. I probably would have started them a week earlier if I wasn't waiting for the corn to get high enough. All but two pods dried before the first frost. The Ottawa Cranberry is a slightly later bean than Trail of Tears.

Ottawa Cranberry

Harvest stats:

  • Kentucky Wonder: 3.8 lbs snap beans with four poles - maybe six plants
  • Trail of Tears: 2.5 lbs dried beans
  • Ottawa Cranberry: 2 lbs dried beans

I don't know how many poles or bean plants the last two had. They each had three times the area of the Kentucky Wonder beans. So the Trail of Tears is more productive. The beans are much smaller, but there were more pods. The autumn weather was very cooperative for harvesting dried beans. We had a few large rain storms, but had mostly dry sunny weather. We didn't have any of the constant drizzle of the spring that rotted out the peas I was trying to dry.

The beans weren't much bothered by insects once they got large enough. Slugs took out some seedlings. They developed rust over time, but the harvest was set on the plants by then.

The Trail of Tears was a vigerous grower. It would have grown to 10' if they had a tall enough pole. As it was they sprawled over the tops of the poles intertwining with one another. Next year maybe I should plant them in the lowest bed and let them crawl up the maple tree when they get to the top of their poles. The Ottawa Cranberry was a much more restrained plant. It did not outgrow its 6' pole. Kentucky Wonder took the middle route. It outgrew its poles, but didn't try to take over its neighbors as much.

I liked all the beans and will grow them all again next year though I've yet to taste them so might change my mind. I'm thinking I might want to add a bush dried bean to the mix. If all the beans are pole tall all the way across the 4' wide bed, none of them will get a lot of light except the front ones. It might be prudent to do a foot to a foot and a half wide section at the back of the bed and bush beans in the front. I'm not sure what variety, maybe Jacob's Cattle. It is a very historic bean in this area.


  1. I'm sure the corn had problems because of the crazy June weather we had. I was planning on trying it next year for the first time. My kids are really wanting to plant it. We'll see how it goes. The beans look wonderful. I have some Jacob's cattle beans that I want to plant as well. They're so pretty.

  2. Your beans look fantastic, Daphne!!! But, er, you didn't try the 'Kentucky Wonder' as snap beans? Isn't that what they're for? Since we're surrounded by farm cornfields here, we wouldn't dare try to grow corn ourselves, either. I can sympathize with your experience. Fortunately, tons of market gardeners do grow corn here so we can enjoy it to our hearts' content. We think that's the way to go. And next year, you should definitely grow yellow wax beans and 'Dragon Tongue' beans. SO good! Then you can mix them together with the green beans and/or pickle them. Yum!!!

  3. I am making room for a big bed of dried beans next year. It has been over two year's since I have grown dried beans and I feel it is time to make room for them again. Not sure yet which variety I will grow. Last time I grew dried beans I did pintos, kidneys, and some small white navy beans. The kidneys were the most productive, so I am leaning in that direction again.

  4. I LOVE these pictures Daphne and reading your overviews. It gives me a better sense of what the spring and summer growing season is like here. I've learned a lot this fall. Hopefully, my gardening sense will become a little more instinctive.

  5. The Mom, It probably was, but it just takes up so much space and I want to grow more dried beans for eating over the winter.

    our friend Ben, yes as you suspected I ate the Kentucky Wonder beans :> and froze a bunch too. So I did taste them. But those I knew what they tasted like already. I've been growing them for years. They have always been my favorite snap bean. I'll have to look into Dragon's Tongue.

    kitsapFG, hmm maybe I should grow kidney beans. I buy enough of those at the store. We love chili. I like things that produce well.

    Thomas, thanks. I cheat since I can go back over the season and pick my favorite photos. Well just so you know our June was abnormally cold this year. Our weather wasn't "normal" at all. We do have chilly weather in the summer compared to most of the rest of the country, but I think our average is 13 days a year at or over 90F (Boston's average not mine). I think we might have gotten two this year. It is a really rare day that goes over 95. But I'll still complain of the heat :>

  6. Those beans are gorgeous colours, but do they keep their colour when they're cooked?

  7. I haven't bothered with corn in years, it takes up so much room for the yield and I can get great local corn at the farmer's market.

    The Trail of Tears beans are a beautiful color. What color are the dried beans? I'm forever trying new varieties of snap beans but next year I may go back to Kwintus or Spanish Musica - they're huge flat beans that stay tender when they get large and are very flavorful. The plants are really productive.

  8. Jan, the Trail of Tears is a dried bean so the pretty purple pods don't ever get cooked. They can be picked young as a snap bean, but the pods are green when they are young. I never did this since I wanted the dried beans. I don't know about this cranberry bean since I haven't used it yet, but in general cranberry beans don't retain their color when cooked, which is really sad since they are so pretty. So I'm guessing this one won't either.

    Michelle, The Trail of Tears bean is a black bean. It looks a lot like a black turtle bean, but is longer.