Have you ever sprouted a bean seed? Every one of my kids did this in preschool, and I remember sprouting beans in grade school. At some arts festivals and county fairs, I’ve seen booths where you could plant a bean seed and take it home to watch it grow. Maybe you’ve sprouted a bean seed?
Amazingly, bean seeds will sprout even under somewhat unnatural conditions. For example, the seed I started in grade school was in a clear plastic cup. We folded a piece of paper towel into a strip, rolled it into a cylinder, and lined the cup with it. Then we wet the paper, shoved the bean seed between the paper and the wall of the cup, and set it on a windowsill. We watched roots grow down while stem and leaves grew up.
I’d be willing to bet that most people who have sprouted beans have never seen their bean plants grow up. Let’s reverse that trend! Make a point in the next growing season to plant some beans in your kitchen garden.
There are bush beans and climbing beans (also known as pole beans). Bush bean plants grow short and nearly support their own weight. They can look like very small shrubs. Climbing bean plants grow long and twist around whatever they find nearby that’s at least as tall as they are; they’re vines. All the climbing bean plants I’ve grown have reached at least 10 feet in length. The photos show what you can look forward to if you plant climbing beans (which I recommend over bush beans in an article titled Canning and Freezing: How Big Should Beans Be?)
In hopes of encouraging you: I gave the bean plants in the photographs no special care. Before I planted seeds, I dug an eight-inch circular hole about eight inches deep, filled it halfway with compost, and added back soil I’d removed to make the hole. I tossed the compost and soil to blend it a bit, and then erected a support in the center of the hole. Then I set four seeds around the support.
I watered heavily the day I planted seeds, and kept the soil damp until seeds sprouted. Then, for the remainder of the season, I left the plants alone except when I harvested beans. It’s that easy. You can grow that!
You Can Grow That is a loose coalition of garden bloggers encouraging people to garden. Please visit the You Can Grow That website for a list of other participating blogs.
My kitchen garden is so small that I plant very intensively. By late August, nearly every inch is under vegetable plants, so I rarely add a third planting for cool-weather crops. I got lucky this year.
I had planted onions which matured and begged to be harvested in late summer. In the same patch, at least one carrot plant put out a seed stalk; a clear sign that the roots were mature—perhaps too mature. So, by September 5th, I had a generous space in which to plant fall veggies.
After harvesting my summer vegetables from my garden annex, I pulled weeds and raked the soil smooth. Then I “broadcast” seeds. That means I threw them on the soil. I put pak choi in one area, mixed lettuce varieties in two areas, and spinach between the others. Then I gently raked the soil to work the seeds in just a bit.
In six weeks, the lettuce and pak choi have done beautifully, and I harvested my first lettuce salad in the spirit of Post Produce! Despite a few nights below freezing, the salad greens are growing beautifully, though shooting photos for this blog post revealed a modest slug population dining on the leaves.
I’ve erected the ribs and spine of a hoop tunnel to provide protection for one of the lettuce patches as nights get colder. I’ll cover it with clear plastic and try to nurse the lettuces along into winter.
Post Produce is a link party hosted by Daniel Gasteiger at Your Small Kitchen Garden blog. Link to your entry at Post-Freeze Post Produce.
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania – the town where I live – got a new gardening hotspot this year. Bucknell University turned a chunk of downtown real estate into a community garden. The garden covers what might have been two or three in-town lots and is obviously very popular.
The Lewisburg Community Garden includes 22 garden plots available for rent by citizens. These small gardens within a garden vary in dimensions, though they seem roughly to have equal square footage. From the looks of it, all these individual plots are in use.
Each gardener brings unique style to the community garden. Some of the plots have a Square Foot Gardening flavor, while others have more of a post-Neanderthal sensibility. In each, vegetables of many types grow with promise of fine harvests for the community’s gardeners.
Personnel from Bucknell and community volunteers maintain nearly half of the community garden for charity. What they grow in it goes to a local food bank – and there’s a lot growing there.
Experienced gardeners provide expertise, and it’s clear from the associated blog that many involved parties are learning gardening through this project.
It’s such a joy to see plants emerge and develop in the community garden. I hope this becomes a focal point for people to learn about real food; about how plants convert sunlight into stuff we can eat, and about how homegrown produce is so much better than the processed, packaged stuff crammed onto shelves in the local grocery stores.
While my home kitchen garden deteriorated from neglect (and nasty elements), I spent a week at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium. There, I had the great pleasure to meet Brenda Haas whom I’d known for more than a year on Twitter, but had never met in person.
Brenda manages a weekly online conversation called #gardenchat. At 9 PM EST on Mondays, gardening enthusiasts log on to Twitter and post questions and comments, creating dozens of wild, intersecting conversations. I always enjoy #gardenchat, even when the subject is ornamental plants, and it’s a great privilege to know its curator.
Brenda had scheduled a special #gardenchat broadcast to take place at the Garden Writer’s conference. For this, she did a series of interviews using Ustream.tv, and they went out live while a tweetup of garden enthusiasts took place in the next room. I was one of the interviewees!
The Youtube video embedded in this post is a big chunk of the conversation I had with Brenda at the conference. There’s a lot of background noise because there was a party in the adjacent room, but you can hear our conversation if you like. We talk about several of the topics I wrote about in Yes, You Can!
There has been a lot of fuss recently about turning front yards into home kitchen gardens and I’ve been making a lot of it:
During these months, I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of a new garden that appeared this spring in my neighborhood. Yep: it’s in a front yard. We walk past it occasionally on family walks with the dog, and I’ve watched the plants grow from seedlings into young adults. It warms my heart and I hope the homeowners expand their planting bed in the coming years.
Your Home Kitchen Garden’s sister blog, Your Small Kitchen Garden is giving away food! Food? OK, it’s giving away seeds from which you can grow food. The promotion started a few days ago and runs until February 13, 2011.
Neck pumpkin, Pennsylvania Dutch Crook Necked Squash, Long-necked squash… get them all through the Small Kitchen Garden giveaway. Actually, these are all names for the same squash. Plants are very resistant to Squash Vine Borer and they produce fruits that resemble butternut squash only generally much larger. In fact, I’ve seen neck pumpkins that weighed more than 20 pounds!
Neck pumpkins are common in central Pennsylvania, but I’ve never seen them in other states. When you buy a neck pumpkin at a Pennsylvania farmers’ market or a farm stand, there’s a pretty good chance the farmer will ask, “Making pie?”
I’ve used neck pumpkin in pies, and I’ve also served it in all the ways I serve butternut squash. Butternut squash is a tad smoother and it has a richer flavor, but neck pumpkin tastes just fine.
My neck pumpkins grew to about 12 pounds this year, but the seeds I planted came from a 20 pound behemoth. The giveaway includes enough seeds from one of my neck pumpkins for you to plant at least one hill of squash.
Also in this year’s giveaway are seeds from my crop of Andes paste tomatoes. I don’t know for sure that my tomatoes are of the Andes variety, but they match descriptions I’ve read and they look identical to photos of Andes. I started with seeds from some tomatoes a neighbor gave me, and the seeds I’m giving away came from my second year’s harvest.
I love these tomatoes. They are indeterminate and have performed extremely well in my garden… and they taste terrific.
The blue Hubbard squash is among the most beautiful of squashes. It’s exotic, and you might even feel that a whole fruit is ugly. However, the meat of a blue Hubbard runs from blue/green toward the skin, to yellow toward the center of the fruit. It’s gorgeous.
The meat is also delicious, having a squashier flavor than butternut; I like blue Hubbard for my pumpkin pies and other baked goods, but it would be terrific mashed, grilled, or baked.
My home kitchen garden is shot. We’ve had some frost and we’ve had a few deep freezes. This year, I felt no panic about frost; I’ve been overwhelmed with tomatoes and chili peppers so I was kind of looking forward to a night cold enough to shut it all down.
On the morning after that night, I shot a few photos. They capture what I love about the first frost in my home kitchen garden.
My home kitchen garden is quite modest in size, yet I squeeze an enormous amount of produce from it. This season, I planted way too many tomato plants in way too little space, and harvested at least 300 pounds of tomatoes (I wish I’d kept a tally… in peak season I harvested 15 pounds of tomatoes per day).
When I grow too much produce, I muse a lot about selling some of it at a farm stand or a farmers’ market. I give a lot away, and I preserve what I think we’ll use in a year. And, despite the hassles of dealing with so much produce, every fall I develop winter squash envy, feeling a great urge to add more varieties of winter squash to next year’s garden.
This year I planted four types of squash: Butternut, Neck Pumpkin, Blue Hubbard, and Kobocha. Sadly, vine borers decimated the kobocha and the blue hubbard; I got no viable fruit of either type. On the other hand, the butternut and neck pumpkin plants were healthy and prolific.
I gave away one neck pumpkin, and have three on my dining room floor. They weight about 10 pounds apiece. I also have a quickly-diminishing heap of butternut squashes; we’ve eaten it grilled several times, and I stir-fried a wok-full of sweet & sour squash that went nicely alongside beef & broccoli. With Thanksgiving just a month away, I anticipate cooking up some “pumpkin” pies (using squash instead of pumpkin), and I’ve been on a soup-making kick lately, so I expect to be making squash soup in the near future.
Baileys Farm Market, about eight miles south of here, sets out an impressive selection of winter squash each fall. I took my camera and visited this past weekend, hoping to capture some of the magnificence of their squash display.
Wading through the field pumpkins at Baileys is entertaining in its own right, but even a very experienced kitchen gardener is likely to discover new things. My photos reveal only some of the winter squash treasures I saw this weekend. It was so hard not to bring home five or six samples of squashes I’ve not tasted. There’s a reasonable chance I’ll visit Baileys again before winter and pick up a few squashes to taste and to seed next spring’s home kitchen garden.
My favorite item at Baileys was a rather uninteresting squash: it was more or less round, mostly orange, and warty. The squash itself wouldn’t have held my attention, but according to the sign, the variety was simply, Orange Warty Thing. Apparently, this is a very eatable squash, but people tend to use it more as a decoration than as a food.
Garden Bloggers Bloom Day today, was very wet in my home kitchen garden. That’s a good thing for the garden, but not so much for the photographer. Thankfully, for the first time ever, I shot my Bloom Day photos a day early. It was heavily overcast yesterday, so there wasn’t a lot of contrast, but the photos reveal a garden very much trying to produce more food before the season ends.
What is Bloom Day? Carol over at May Dreams Gardens started this monthly celebration of flowers. Garden bloggers the world over participate by posting photos of whatever’s abloom in their gardens. I manage a home kitchen garden with the philosophy that I don’t want to expend energy planting stuff I’m not going to eat. So, my focus is food, but happily, fruits and vegetables start out as flowers. Here are the August babies in my home kitchen garden:
I had very low confidence that I’d have honeybees in my home kitchen garden this year. As I reported about six weeks ago, I rebooted my effort to get a beehive started (Beekeeping at my Home Kitchen Garden) after last year’s discouragement. However, because of budget constraints, I was planning simply to bait a beehive and hope to capture a wild swarm of honeybees.
In the past six weeks, I cleaned up a hive body (called a brood chamber) and the component frames that will eventually hold honeycomb made by bees. So, on Saturday I decided to visit a local apiary to buy foundation. Foundation is a sheet of beeswax pressed with a pattern of hexagons that bees will happily build upon to create honeycomb and brood comb.
The apiary was closed on Saturday, but its operator told me there’s a beekeeping supply store just up the street. This was news to me, so I drove out to see what the store had to offer.
While I wasn’t paying attention last October, a company called Brushy Mountain Bee Farm opened a branch store about five miles north of where I live. The store sells everything a beekeeper needs to succeed. Coincidentally, on that Saturday, the store had received a truckload of honey bees customers had ordered.
I browsed, I chatted with the staff, and I watched a customer load a station wagon with about sixty packages of bees. I don’t know how many packages had passed through the store that day, but some people who ordered failed to show during the scheduled pickup time. It became apparent that there might be unclaimed packages of bees… and here my reclaimed, ancient beehive was ready for occupants.
I left my phone number, and this morning I received a call. Some bees had, in fact, been abandoned by the people who ordered them. Yep! I bought a package of bees.
It was raining and miserably cold today by the time I had the beehive ready to receive its new residents. It was so unpleasant that I didn’t even try to take photos of the procedure. The bees were sluggish because off the cold, and they got a bit wet. Not one tried to sting me, and I’m afraid several hundred didn’t make it into the hive.
Of the more than 10,000 bees that made it into the hive, the livelier workers immediately started examining the beeswax foundation. I hope they quickly find the food I provided for them. As they mill about and feed, they’ll warm the inside of the beehive… and that will make them livelier still.
The rain and cold will continue for another day, but by the weekend, it will be warm enough to draw the bees out so they begin exploring their new neighborhood. I’ll keep an eye on the food and replenish it when it runs low (which I hope it does quickly) and I’ll check inside the hive in ten days to make sure the bees have settled in OK.
I’ll share more about the beekeeping experience in coming posts.