Thursday, June 3, 2010

look at them beans

Several years of vegetable gardening doldrums ended for me last summer when Steve and I installed a chain link fence along the south side of our lot. The 30" strip of soil along this fence provides the perfect place to grow pole beans and herbs, with rosemary, sage, gopher purge, and Greek oregano already flourishing in spite of benign neglect and numerous others added in the post-fence era.

As soon as the fence was finished I bought four scarlet runner bean seedlings at our local farmers market and planted one at the base of each "line post." It was too late in the season to raise a real crop, but of course the long-stemmed blossoms were a treat. We ate a few green beans and let several pods mature to save the seed. Now four "1st generation native" runners are flourishing: two in the tiny "cukes and beans" bed, and two in the front yard's "three sisters" planting .

One of the major tenets of permaculture gardening, as I understand it, is that the soil should not be disturbed, and so I've been snipping spent plants near ground level rather than pulling them out.* The scarlet runner beans loved this kind of treatment, and two of the original four have come back with a vengeance. It turns out that they're tender perennials, sometimes known as "7-year beans."

Now that most of this year's sweet peas have been snipped down, the older generation of scarlet runner beans have filled a real void, already out-climbing and out-blooming their first year's performance. Thus the title of this post, from a Johnny Cash** album recorded in 1975.

Hyacinth beans, I hope, will replace the two runners that didn't come back. The one and only seedling from my first planting is starting to reach for the fence. Three seeds out of four germinated in my second planting; one of them is doing well in a "three sisters" planting, and I gave two to Sandy. See mixed messages for the early part of the HB saga.

Meanwhile, the heirloom rattlesnake beans are producing lavender blossoms and tiny pods in their traditional settings, while seedling pumpkins promise to shade their three sisters' tender feet.

"Man, look at them beans!"
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*This does not apply to the major weeds, of course. They go out roots and all unless they seem susceptible to smothering under thick layers of cardboard and other mulch.

**A typically maudlin Carter-Cash narrative (Poppa doesn't live to see his first good crop) is relieved by an exuberant refrain. See the video at

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License