Jack and the Beanstalk or Things Learned

I’m seriously starting to feel like Jack. This year’s bean trellises were put in at around 10′ high. We thought that would be plenty of space. It apparently isn’t. So now they are producing quite heavily. I think I may have planted too many. For the last three days I’ve been picking about a pound a day. But of course, I can only reach so high. Tom can only reach so high. I think we’ll need to bust out the step ladder to reach the top.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have been taken aback this year by our garden’s productivity. I think a large part of that is due to all of last year’s failures from the well water problem. Besides the well, last year was definitely a learning curve for us. It still is. So here are some of the things I’ve learned.

1. Beans grow faster and taller than corn! We planted our beans and corn at the same time in the same beds. Some of the sweet corn never stood a chance. The Indian corn, however, seems to be ok. But I think that’s only because the Indian corn grows to about 10′ tall.

2. Volunteers will always outshine the “planned” plants. So far this seems to read true every year. The last two years it was tomatoes. This year it’s squash. Our volunteer squash have set out for world domination.

3. Watermelons here really do need to have black plastic under them to heat them up more. It just doesn’t get warm enough here for them.

4. Not spraying for bugs seems to work out better than even spraying with organic pesticides.

5. More sun for the sun lovers! Next year the corn and squash will be moved to a warmer spot.

6. Pick one variety and stick with it. Do we really need 3 varieties of corn when 1 that is dual purpose (Bloody Butcher) will work just fine? Do we really need pumpkins? We don’t eat them and we never get around to carving them for Halloween. So next year we’ll just do zucchini so we don’t have to deal with cross pollination.

7. I need to pay better attention to my layout. This year I placed the cucumbers almost in the exact same spot they were in last year. Fortunately it hasn’t caused a pest problem yet.

8. Put compost down in the Fall, not the Spring. Bad things will happen if you don’t!

9. Plant onions and leeks in the Spring, not the Fall. Otherwise they bolt prematurely. Garlic, however, seems fine planted in the Fall.

10. Don’t wait to long to harvest parsnips or they start to get pithy and taste gross.

As the season wears on, I will have more lessons learned, so stay tuned!

I know Wednesday is usually my harvest day, but reality has set in and the list is starting to get unwieldy. Instead I’ll just be updating the sidebar totals weekly to reflect our savings and expenditures. At the end of each year I’ll do a rundown of what exactly we harvested and how much.

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  1. Tatyana@MySecretGarden says:

    I am impressed with your beans! Of course, California is California and Northwest is Northwest… I also like your list!I think it's important what you wrote about cucumbers, compost, etc. Thank you!

  2. How wonderful that you are tracking your lessons in the middle of the season. I forget my lessons learned! Then I remember them only when the plants remind me — the hard way!

    Thanks for stopping by to talk goats. Can't believe yours scaled the chicken coop. Oh, my. Our goats are in love with the chickens, but the chickens scatter. Wild times!

    Love your blog!

  3. Tatyana & June, Thanks for coming by and commenting!
    June, I love to see what others are experiencing with goats! We're pretty new at the goat thing.

  4. Frugal Gardener says:

    Love the list. I think that we will always be learning. BTW, I love your cost tracking in the right hand column. Gives me ideas to start tracking myself. It would be interesting to see how much I actually save.

  5. Frugal, thanks for stopping by! I know some people get dismayed to see we're currently running in the negative, but like a lot of us gardeners know, it takes awhile before everything really starts taking off. I'm pretty confident we'll eventually see a plus sign in front of that number.

  6. Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    We only have 2 of 3 sisters this year (we're sans corn). I have read that you're supposed to allow the corn to grow to 4-6 inches in height before sowing the bean seeds. Although, it seems even then some beans could still overwhelm the corn, but at least it gives it a running start. I hate that squash cross-pollinates so easily, but I've resigned myself to procuring seed each season. Not so much for pumpkins, we don't use those much either, but I can't live without butternut squash! :P

  7. CVF, the one good thing is that there are three species of squash that don't cross pollinate with each other. There's C. pepo (zucchini, most summer squash, acorn, pumpkins and gourds), C. maxima (turban, buttercup, giant pumpkins, long island cheese, etc) and C. moschata (butternut, neck pumpkins, etc.). There's another species, C. mixta, but I think it does cross pollinate with other species. Anyways, we are going to be growing Neck Pumpkins (C. moschata), Sea Pumkins aka Marina di Chioggia (C. maxima) and Cocozella de Napoli (C. pepo) next year.

  8. The Idiot Gardener says:

    Blimey, you must be doing something right to have learned 10 things. My "things larned" list is into the hundreds.

    What are "volunteer" plants, and what's with cross-pollination?

    Damn, two more things to learn!

  9. TIG, Volunteer plants are ones that pop up randomly all over the yard, usually from fruit that you missed over the season. A lot of times there's no telling what it will be, because, well, you didn't purposefully plant it.

    Cross pollination is when different two varieties pollinate each other. If you're saving seed, this is something you want to avoid.

  10. I just *bought* beans to can some dilly beans (dill pickled green beans)to take camping with us. I will be posting the recipe next week, if you don't already have one of your own. I'm jealous of your bean plants – ours are so anemic and sad!


  1. [...] my lessons as well. So here’s more of what I’ve learned (you can find my first list here) now with [...]

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