2013 Legumes (end of season notes)

Bush Beans: all did well, wonderful varieties, didn’t last quite as long as last year
Dried Beans (3 sisters): planted closer to correct time to climb corn, good yield, tasty
Fava Beans: badly attacked by aphids, fairly low yield of very tasty beans
Peas: only early snap-type germinated, good yield. Broadcast late bush variety Super Snappy did well – try bush type shell pea in spring next year?
Pole Beans: Romanos planted early (where shell & snow peas crapped out) did well on trellis. Kentucky Blues planted after peas (which were slow this year) were last beans in garden.
Soybeans: good yield, plants seemed to mature over a shorter period than last year

Green Pole Beans - taking sides

We grew two varieties of green pole bean this year: Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake. The winner of the side-by-side test is Kentucky Wonder. According to Michael (our most devoted bean enthusiast), they were earlier and more prolific than Blue Lake.

Next year, we may grow Kentucky Wonder and the Romano pole bean Garden of Eden on the Pea trellis. Instead of standard pole beans, a dried bean variety (that doesn't need to be picked until the end of the season) may work better for the Three Sisters plot.

The Three Sisters

Three Sisters photos
Corn, beans and squash were the three main agricultural crops of many Native American groups in the continental United States. Known as The Three Sisters, growing these crops together -- as the Native Americans are believed to have inspired Colonial farmers to do -- demonstrates an agricultural strategy known as Companion Planting.
Here's how it works. The Corn stalks provide structure for the pole beans to climb. The Bean roots fix nitrogen in the soil for the Corn and Squash. And the Squash plants spread along the ground like a living mulch, blocking the sun, retaining moisture in the soil, discouraging weeds and deterring pests with prickly hairs of their vines. In this way, the three crops not only occupy the same plot, but also synergize, enhancing the growth of one another.
Robbins Farm Garden introduced a Three Sisters plot in 2011, and is featuring one again this year. This is in happy coincidence with the Arlington Historical Society's 3rd Grade Educational Program on Colonial Life, which includes The Three Sisters. Colonial farmers adopted The Three Sisters planting strategy from the Algonquin, the Native Americans who originally inhabited this land. In Colonial times, Arlington was known by the Algonquin name Menotomy.
In 2011, our Three Sisters plot contained Double Standard Heirloom Corn, Garden of Eden Italian Pole Beans and Chucky F1 Pumpkins. We were unaware that the Corn should be planted first, followed when it is six inches tall by the Beans and Squash. When planted all at once, as we did that first year, the Beans outgrew the Corn and required staking. This, as well as a desire to try different Corn and Squash varieties, led to a few changes in our 2012 Three Sisters plot.
This year, we planted only the corn, Miniature Colored Popcorn on May 12. We will follow when the corn has reached six inches in height, with Garden of Eden Italian Pole Beans again (they did exceptionally well in 2011 and were delicious) and JWS 6823 PMR F1 Butternut Squash. Butternut Squash were selected because they are less susceptible to Squash Vine Borers than most Squashes. The borers can be extracted from the vines, but the lack of access created by the Corn and Bean plants make this disagreeable procedure more difficult.
Nutritionally, The Three Sisters also work well together. In combination with Beans, Corn and Squash contain all the nutrients necessary to produce proteins and niacin. Combining the Three Sisters with other seasonal herbs and vegetables in a stew is a traditional treat. All three crops can also be stored without refrigeration. Corn and Beans can be dried, and undamaged winter Squash will keep for many months in cool, dry conditions.
Variations of Three Sisters abound. Pueblo tribes of the US Southwest adapted the companion planting to a drier environment, often including a Fourth Sister known as Rocky Mountain Beeweed to attract bees to pollinate the Beans and Squash.

Fall Crop Update

The peak of the harvest is past, and yet we tried second plantings of some crops because we had the space, to see what would happen.  With about a month to go, here's their progress.

Cabbage & Cauliflower:  large leaves, producing well, but no sign of heads yet.

Carrots:  leafy fronds are doing well; no sign of poking out of the ground.

Beets:  alive but struggling.

Spinach:  mostly eaten by Something.

Peas:  half-height, base leaves yellowing, no sign of peas.

Lettuce:  looking good!  Might harvest some next week.

Also, here's an update on some first plantings:

Eggplant:  *continues* to produce, though more slowly.

Beans:  the bush beans produced another handful; the pole beans have disappointed.

Potatoes:  we pulled a single plant to obtain some potatoes for display at Town Day.  The number amidst the roots was extensive, and while mostly small-to-tiny, there was at least one big red one.  From just one plant!

Squash:  the tiny zucchini was accidently harvested; there's still a medium yellow squash; and the pattipan has several small fruits (not to mention flowers) which it thinks it has time to make bigger -- we'll see.

The mildew is back to some extent on the squash, and worse, has jumped to the other side of the garden and covered the collard leaves.

The rest of the greens (kale, chard, arugula and other herbs) still doing well.

Beans Update

SoybeansBeans planted the same time often yield about the same time.  However, we're getting a few early beans.  No one can tell the soybeans (several inches taller than the bush beans) had ever struggled against leaf-eating pests when seedlings.  At first glance, one could see no soybean prospects.  But hidden under the top canopy of leaves, close to the stem, one finds bunches.  Plenty to look forward to!

Wednesday night harvesting

Last night's midweek gathering was sparse, damp, and sprinkled upon, but it was fun nevertheless — and because only Lisa, Alan, and I were able to make it, we got relatively large parcels of produce to bring home.

I got a big cache of snow peas and took the two small zucchinis, leaving a larger one each for Alan and Lisa. I also took some arugula (a new delight for me, which I owe to Elisabeth's passion for it) and a head of lettuce.

I also got a nice handful of beans, which I originally wanted to call "green beans," but we planted yellow (aka wax) and purple beans, too. The beans were long and shiny, and the bushes were well stocked, in contrast to the bushes I'm growing at home. I was quite jealous.

July 14 2010 harvest

Persnickety Pests Prefer Soybeans

We are growing two different kinds of beans:  bush beans and soy beans.  The soy beans have been repeatedly attacked by plant-eating pests, while the bush beans have escaped unscathed.  Some weeks ago, with the beans just poking their heads out of the ground, one gardener was concerned that the leaves were being eaten already.  But these were not true leaves, but cotyledons, which come from part of the seed.  In the two weeks which followed, though, as the true leaves emerged, pests continued to eat at the soy bean plants.  I wonder what they know?  Nevertheless, the soy bean plants themselves have been producing more leaf than is being eaten.

This situation makes a point about pesticide use as well.  Yes, perhaps a heavy dose of pesticide might have eliminated any leaf-eating.  But the soybean plants are clearly thriving despite the pests.  Maybe pesticides aren't as useful or needful as advertised.

Brassica backers

I talked to quite a few parents and children over the two-and-a-half hours I was there today. I gave out veggie school cards, for which I noted quite a bit of interest.

People seemed especially impressed with the broccoli and cauliflower, and I even had some radish backers when I complained of our excess. What do we think of pickled radish?

Or pole beans? We've some extra seeds. I am thinking we could plant a few in a corner and put in a bamboo for it to climb to the sky.

When we pull the radishes, how about if we replace them with turnips? They grow fast and are very good when early.

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