Saturday, December 15, 2012

End of the Year Wrap Up 2012

Last year's garden wrap up was on my other website.  In February, I decided to separate the two blogs so that this one only contains gardening information.

1. Liz from Suburban Tomato taught me how to do a space value rating for the plants I grow in my garden. Eventually, I will post what I learned from doing my own space value rating. For now, I will just say that learning to evaluate my plantings this way was very beneficial, since I have such a small garden to work with.

2. Last year, I mixed heirlooms and hybrids all together in my garden. This year, I decided to only use heirlooms. I was very happy with my heirloom plants. 

3. I learned last year that I need to plant pole beans if I expect to have enough for my family. This year I evaluated several types of pole beans (and here). I was looking for productivity. I found the one I will use for productivity: Ruth Bible beans. I also found one that had a wonderful history in my husband's family: Mississippi Cream peas. I found one that was stunningly beautiful to grow, and therefore good for my front yard garden: Louisiana Purple Podded Pole beans.  

Louisiana Purple Podded Pole Bean available from Seed Savers

4. This year, I started gardening in my front yard. I have enjoyed the experience and the challenge of growing edible things that are also beautiful. It took me all year, but I have found the bean that I feel comfortable growing in the front yard. It is the above pictured Louisiana Purple Podded Pole bean. 

5. I planted only 4 tomato plants this year. I got almost enough for daily eating, but decided that if I can grow 8 of them, I will do better. I have picked out the tomatoes I plan to grow next year, but it depends on whether or not I have the time and ability to plant from seed whether I will grow one kind or whether I will just buy transplants from Seed Savers Exchange. 

6. I didn't enjoy squash or zucchini in my garden this year at all. I don't plan to plant either next year. (Except for one or two Tromboncino Zucchini, which I was intrigued by in another blogger's site.) 

7. Since my garden is so small, it would be better use of my time and energy to plant enough of a few things that we can substantially reduce our purchases of just those things rather than trying to plant one plant of many different types of things. 

8. I saved seed from several different beans this year and plan to grow them next year. I am going to work on separating them enough to keep the seed pure.

9. I want a sunflower room for my kids next year. I looked into green bean tee pees, but felt that with the number of children that play at our home it would be better to make a 6 by 6 foot "room" out of sunflowers. Once the sunflowers get established well, I will interplant beans so that the kids will be perfectly hidden in this little "room." (Yet there will be space for all their friends, too.) 

10. It is very important to me to share my gardening experience with my children. Anything I can do to include them, or interest them in the garden is worth trying. (see above) (See also this post.)

11. Even though I am working on vegetable gardening, I realized this year how very much I missed my traditional flower garden, so I began a butterfly garden. My kids and I have all learned a great deal, and it satisfies my desire for flowers in the front yard. It works pretty well with the edibles mixed in. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Comparison of the Heirloom Beans I Grew 2012 Part 2

As I said in my previous post, this year I decided to grow several different types of heirloom beans. What I wanted was to find at least one bean that I loved enough to plant every year and save my own seeds.

I grew Scarlet Runner beans, Mississippi Cream peas, Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, Lazy Wife beans, Good Mother Stallard beans, Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Pod Pole beans and Trail of Tears beans.  I reviewed the Scarlet Runner beans, the Mississippi Cream peas, the Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, the Lazy Wife beans and the Ruth Bible beans in the previous post. 

Good Mother Stallard Beans for seed
Good Mother Stallard beans: These are common beans. They will cross with other common beans, but not with cowpeas or scarlet runner beans. By the time I got around to planting these beans I had grown weary of counting beans, so I only counted the number of seeds I saved. The harvest was not very large for the amount of beans I planted, but I did get enough beans for seed. for spring. I saved 187 beans for seed in spring.

With these beans I like the flavor so much that I threw out the productivity component. I plan to plant them in spring even though production was very low compared to the other varieties I tried. The leaf rollers and the bugs that eat the seeds did attack this planting much more heavily than any of the other beans I planted all year long. That may play into the low number.

According to a post on the Seed Savers Exchange forum, one should expect 120 beans per bean planted. I got substantially less than that. I planted 40 beans, and about 28 of them grew. If the expected harvest worked, I should have gotten something on the line of 3360 beans. I got 187.

I am going to plant them again in the spring in another location. I really like these beans and want to use them for dried beans. They have a rich, meaty flavor that is so good that I served my family beans and cornbread and that is all for supper when I was taste testing the beans. (I ordered several varieties from Rancho Gordo, because I wanted to taste beans to see if there was anything outstanding enough that I should plant it.)

I hope for a better return if I plant them in another location. I have to have about 800 seeds to make a pound of Good Mother Stallard beans. I don't know if I will be able to get what I need to have meals of these beans or not. I guess if worst comes to worst, I can order them from Rancho Gordo.  I hope to work it out so that I can grow my own.

Lousiana Purple Podded Pole beans
Louisiana Purple Podded Pole bean flowers-- a stunning two-
tone purple 
Louisiana Purple Podded Pole Beans: These are common beans. They won't cross with cowpeas, or  runner beans, but they will cross with any other common bean. These were the last beans I planted this year. I planted them on a whim, because I had just purchased the seed and was excited to see how they grow. I planted them so late that I am sure I didn't get a good reading on productivity.

I didn't bother to count the beans of this variety, either. I did get to taste them. They are wonderful. They are also exceptionally beautiful. The stems are a deep, stunning purple. The leaves are bright green. The flowers are a gorgeous two-tone purple. Surprisingly, the flowers have a scent, a wonderful flowery aroma. They would be a great addition to a front yard garden, where they would work great as edible landscaping. They are vining plants, so you would need a trellis, but that can be done tastefully.

I planted 40 of them and about 20 grew. I was able to save a little bit of seed from my own garden and have some seed left over from that I purchased from Seed Savers Exchange. I definitely plan to have these in my garden next year. I love the color. I love the taste. I love the flowers, and the form of the plants. I love that the flowers have a scent. They are rather rare, so it will be a pleasure to help maintain a variety that is threatened. I hope to have a bigger planting next year.

Summary: I learned what type of beans my family likes and what types produce the best for us. The best producer was by far the Ruth Bible beans. The best tasting green bean for our family was the Louisiana Purple Podded Pole beans. The whole family agreed that their flavor was superior to the others. The best story definitely came from the Mississippi Cream peas. The most unique flavor was the taste of the Good Mother Stallard beans. 

So, next spring's bean choices are made. I will plant Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Podded Pole beans, Mississippi Cream peas and Good Mother Stallard beans. Now to organize my garden so that each bean is isolated enough to give me pure seed. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Comparison of the Heirloom Beans I Grew 2012 Part 1

This year I decided to grow several different types of heirloom beans. What I wanted was to find at least one bean that I loved enough to plant every year and save my own seeds.

I grew Scarlet Runner beans, Mississippi Cream peas, Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, Lazy Wife beans, Good Mother Stallard beans, Ruth Bible beans, Louisiana Purple Pod Pole beans and Trail of Tears beans.

I am going to leave the Trail of Tears beans out of my evaluations, because I had to pull them and didn't get a good read of how they grow.

This will be divided into two posts so that the posts are not so long.

Scarlet Runner bean flower in my front yard
Scarlet Runner beans: These grow better in cooler soil than any of the other beans I planted. Biologically, they are not the same (and therefore won't cross) with common beans. I planted them early, because it warms so fast in the spring around here.

They grew really well in my yard, and made beautiful flowers. They attracted hummingbirds. They weren't bothered by any pests. My family and I just didn't like the taste. If I were growing these for their beauty only, I would grow them every year. But I am not. I am trying for beans we can eat. We were completely turned off by the taste.

Okra on the left, with Mississippi Cream peas and one
little Pink Eye Purple Hull pea (the one purple one). 

Mississippi Cream peas:  These peas like it HOT. The hotter the weather the better they like it. These plants are not going to do well until the soil is properly warmed, so wait until after all threat of frost is past to plant them.  They are not in the same family (and therefore, won't cross) with common beans. They grow in long, trailing vines. In my garden, they were very aggressive, running over other plants in their eager pursuit of sunshine.

They grew very well in my garden. I loved the way they took over everything in their path. My whole family enjoyed the taste. I found out after planting them that they are an heirloom of my husband's family.  We never tried them this way, because I only found out that you can eat the pods after the season was over, but they supposedly make great green beans, too.

I cannot praise these peas enough. We will definitely grow them again and I plan to devote much more space in the garden to these beauties.

From 40 plants, I harvested 413 pods.

Pink Eye Purple Hull peas (see the picture above):  These are in the same family as the Mississippi Cream peas. They will cross with Mississippi Cream peas, but not with common beans. They grow as little bushy plants, sometimes throwing off a runner or two. These are a staple in the Southern US. I have eaten them all my life. They are available everywhere in the summer time.

I didn't enjoy growing these very much. The plants didn't do very well for me. They were covered in aphids. The fact that they grew in bushes rather than vines means that I would have to have more space to be able to get a proper harvest. The purple pods are really striking, but none of the purple pods got as long in my garden as the Mississippi Cream peas.

We will not be planting these next year. I am going to devote all that space to the Mississippi Cream peas.

Out of 100 plants we harvested 100 pods.

Left to right: Lazy Wife Beans, Ruth Bible Beans and Trail of Tears
Lazy Wife beans (also called Lazy Housewife beans): These are common beans. They will cross with any other common bean variety, but not with runner beans or cowpeas. I planted these because I liked the name and the story behind them. They were described as heavily producing beans and completely stringless. These beans are supposed to be the wide and flat variety, not the ones like haricot verts.

The bean seed I bought must have been contaminated somehow, because the beans had strings. I don't have a scale, but I carefully counted each bean pod we brought into the house in order to try to get a good idea how much production we were getting from different types of beans.

Of the beans I planted, I ended up with 35 plants. I harvested 596 pods. They were in the garden the same amount of time as the Ruth Bible beans and yet they didn't produce as many pods as the Ruth Bible beans.

Ruth Bible beans: (see the picture above, center bean)  These are common beans. They will cross with any other common beans, but not with runner beans or cowpeas. I planted these because I like the name. They are becoming very scarce.

These beans produced like "a house afire"! Oh my. They outproduced everything in my garden this year. I stared out eating them as green beans, and they have the old fashioned green bean flavor when cooked that way. I didn't like stringing the beans, and they produced so much that I had a hard time keeping up with the green bean picking, so I started eating them as "shelly" beans. Our family enjoyed the flavor much better that way.

As for numbers, they were in the ground the same amount of time as the Lazy Wife beans. I had 20 plants that grew. I harvested 901 pods. Yes. That is right. If you look at the number of plants I had in the ground, I harvested more pods off of less plants with the Ruth Bible beans. This is important for my family, because we have only a small plot of ground to work. If I can get 901 pods off of 20 plants, and only 596 pods off of 35 plants, I am going to choose the one that I can harvest more for less plants.