A Small Bean Harvest

On Friday, I harvested the first three beans from my small garden. A small victory!

The beans were sooo tasty!

These are Blue Lake Pole Beans. I planted a handful of seeds back in July when I set up my fall garden, and only two of them came up. I tried planting some more, soaking the bean seeds first, and none of the seeds came up that time. I don’t know why.

There are still a handful of baby beans on the plant, so I imagine I’ll get a few more beans this season. If I’m lucky and plan ahead, I might even leave one or two on the vines to mature and dry so I can save seed for next year, and try growing them again.

I consider Blue Lake Pole Beans to be a variety “string bean”: Phaseolus vulgaris Some people use the term “snap beans” (not to be confused with snap peas). String beans (or snap beans) used to have a fibrous string along the length of the bean that had to be removed before the beans were cooked or eaten. Breeders have bred that trait out of the beans. Now, I guess it makes sense to refer to these string-less beans as snap beans.

Regardless, Phaseolus vulgaris comes in both pole varieties, like Blue Lake Pole Bean, which need a trellis to grow up, and bush varieties, which stay low to the ground and don’t ned to be trellised. Aside from the growth habit, the main difference between pole and bush varieties is that bush beans set fruit sooner than pole varieties, but have a shorter fruiting season than pole beans. Six of one, half dozen of another for me right now, but something to keep in mind for the future.

An End of September Garden Tour

It’s the end of September, and although some parts of the country are facing their first frost, we are still having 90 degree heatwaves. I’ve been in Palo Alto for a quarter of a year, so I thought it would be a good time to give you a general update of how my “garden” is looking so far:

Kinda pathetic. On the left are the squash. Behind them are a couple of beans on a trellis and a small patch of tiny mustard greens and kale. On the right side is a failed beet and carrot bed. The carrots didn’t come up at all, and a tiny critter ate most of the beet leaves.


The squash have powdery mildew pretty bad (I should try Eliza‘s suggestion of a baking soda and non-detergent soap spray).


Here’s the one squash that the winter squash plant managed to produce.


The kale are being eaten too!


But at least the beans are starting to produce flowers!


The pineapple sage is still alive as well.


As for the containers….

The marigolds are decent, but they’re crowding out the eggplant. My mistake for planting them so close together. Is it too late to move the eggplant?

The cilantro next to the eggplant is doing well, and starting to produce flowers, which I will happily let it because I want coriander seeds.


Lastly, are these four pots:

The left two pots are geraniums (one grown from a cutting at the end of June, the other grown from a cutting at the end of August). The top right pot is the parsley pot. There’s one tiny seedling that you can’t see in this photo, which might be a weed seed that blew into the pot. The bottom left is mint, which always grows well no matter what and is a good confidence booster.

Soaking bean and pea seeds to improve germination

At the start of my fall garden, I planted bean and pea seeds. Thought I would have good germination, since I remember planting them the year prior with good success, but only four beans and one pea cane up! Boo.

Since the growing season is so long here (87 days until the first frost date, Nov 29th), and the days to maturity of these plants is 60-75 days, I still have time to try again.

This time, however, I decided to soak the seeds first. I’ve heard of people doing this – in fact the garden group in Seattle soaked bean seeds prior to direct sowing in the ground – but I didn’t think it was necessary, and as we’ve already established, I won’t do extra work unless I feel it’s necessary. (I’m a lazy gardener.) But with the lackluster performance of the first round of seeds, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

I repeated the same varieties – 2 types of peas and one Blue Lake pole bean. I left these seeds to soak overnight, and put them in the ground on the morning of August 27th.

Unfortunately, this round seems to have done even worse than the last round. When I checked yesterday, none of the new seeds had come up. How disappointing.

The only thing I can figure is that the squash plants next to the peas and beans have grown a lot since the first round was planted and might be blocking most of the sunlight this beans and peas would otherwise get.

The beans and peas are growing where those spiraled poles are behind the squash

Although I won’t get many beans or peas this year, it’s a good learning experience. Next year, I’m planning to reorganize the garden space so the squash plants don’t hog all the good soil and sunlight.

Planting a Fall Garden

A couple of weeks ago, I dug up a 3×3 square of dirt in the backyard to plant zucchini and winter squash. The squash are doing well, which has increased my confidence in planting things in the dirt here.

I have some seeds that I brought down from Seattle, and there was a bit more space around where I planted the squash, so I decided to put it to good use.

Continue reading “Planting a Fall Garden”