Garden Experiment 2009

It’s that time of year; hard frosts herald the end of my gardening year.  As I work to put my garden to bed until next spring, it’s a good time to take stock of the growing season. This year, with summer weather more typical of Ireland than upstate NY, and less time available for gardening chores than I like, my garden was more under Mother Nature’s charge than mine. The results were mixed.

As I review the different veggies that provided bounties or busts, I plan for what seeds I’ll keep and plant again, and what varieties I probably won’t add back in. In part, this decision is always aided by my annual garden experiment.

Every year, I conduct a garden experiment with all the rigors of a research scientist–sort of… (You can look here and here to read about my last couple of experiments.)

For this year’s experiment, I decided to test the difference between pole and bush beans. I’ve been reading forever that pole beans are better-tasting and easier to harvest than bush beans. Having always grown bush beans, and after having paged through my Fedco catalog to read the same review yet again, I finally decided to conduct my own growing and tasting test.

To make the experiment valid, I set about finding a pole and bush bean of the same variety. Growing different varieties would be about as worth-while as comparing cooking pumpkins with carving pumpkins — taste, texture, and size would not be comparable. Kentucky Wonder was available in both, so I went with that.

pole1 Here’s what Fedco catalog has to say about Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans:  Also known as Old Homestead. “Of all the climbing kinds, we do not believe there is a better one than Kentucky Wonder; it is an old variety with solid meaty pods, 7-9” long, that are stringless when young, and when cooked no bean is better. It is enormously productive, the pods hanging in great clusters from top to bottom of the pole.”The nutty flavor makes them outstanding for freezing. Pick regularly to maintain quality and production.

Because of their vining habit, they need some kind of upright support. Some people make tipis out of bamboo or sticks, others set them along a fence, and still others pair them with sunflowers. I used a fence.

bush+kentucky

Kentucky Wonder Bush Beans do not require trellising. Strong bush vines hold pods off the ground. Pods are the same flattened shape as the pole, with 6-7″ long, medium green pods. They’re ready to pick in about 57 days versus the pole bean’s average of 65 days. They yield well and require the least amount of work. Unlike Pole Beans, they are determinate, which means they grow to a certain size, blossom, produce the fruit and then stop growing.  Because Bush Beans’ harvest will only last about 2 weeks, you can enjoy more if you make small individual plantings every 10 days or so.

I have to say, the pole beans were easier to harvest, produced longer, and in my side-by-side taste test, the pole beans won hands down. They were considerably more tender and flavorful. Looks like I’ll be sticking with pole beans from here on in.

What discoveries did you make in your garden this year?

9 thoughts on “Garden Experiment 2009”

  1. Jo, I get greedy with my space too. I’ve learned to make it work (mostly) by using French Intensive gardening. As for your squash, it could be a bee problem, or rather a lack of bee problem — you may need to pollinate by hand next season.

    Holly, thanks for the horse poop tip. I was just saying to Cait that I’m going to ask the farmer down the road for some. I’m familiar with the benefits of cow and chicken manure but not so much with horse, so — good to know.

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  2. I discovered that tho I like fresh veggies I have far far too much on my plate at the moment to participate in gardening. I have learned that to eradicated things like spearmint you use newspaper weighted down with other compost. I have learned that dragging horse poop home from the barn is good for the garden, especially if you only till it in a little but leave most of it on the top as mulch.
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Macro Monday 10/26/09 =-.

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  3. I learned that I should not overcrowd my garden. I got greedy this year and tried to plant more than I should and things just did not turn out well at all this summer. My summer and crookneck squash were also a bust and I’m still trying to figure out why. It might have been type but will have to do some experimenting of my own!
    .-= Jo´s last blog ..One Day at a Time =-.

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  4. Hey Karen…

    No, peacocks are not native to these parts. This fellow was just a random visitor in our town. He made regular appearances at the local post office, stood at the entrance to the grocery store and really liked waking people up at 5am shrieking something wicked only other peacocks would understand. How he found his way to OUR yard was an amusing mystery. Seems though, most living beings find their way to my door, be it dogs, cats, injured birds or….teenagers! They know they’ll all be fed and looked after. What’s an earth mother to do?

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  5. Cindy, Spearmint is one of the few plants in my garden that flourish every year — despite my best effort to eradicate them too!

    A wayward peacock? Do they run free where you live? Cool! I’m actually thinking of getting a couple of chickens for their eggs and poop for fertilizer, and not necessarily in that order. ;)

    Nothing better than cherished memories of our children learning to love what grows in the garden. With Cait, it was snap peas.

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  6. My garden discoveries this year were many:

    1) The wayward peacock that inhabited our backyard thought my garden was his personal food bank, yet his poop did a wonderful job in growing the best tomatoes we’ve ever had!
    2) Bending and hoeing did a better job in getting my hips, quads and hamstrings in shape then the evil elliptical did at the gym.
    3) My spearmint, despite all my attempts to contain it, still exploded in my garden and refuses to go away as I write. Tea anyone?
    4) Sunflowers are my most beloved flower of all. You can’t help but smile when you see them….and I smiled a lot.
    5) And lastly, I have the vivid and now cherished picture, of my five year-old with her little apron full of cherry tomatoes coming through the back door smiling ear-to-ear! I’ll never forget it. Not ever…..

    So, while not big discoveries in and of themselves, these are the simple things my garden brought me this summer….seems my bounty was joy and contentment…..I think I’ll be planting those seeds again and again!

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  7. Oh No! Beth, while this might make for funny Seinfeld episode, it’s definitely not funny for you. Maybe next year you can try plant markers with flower pictures. Or even colored yarn around flower leaves before they’ve bloomed.

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