What’s Happening in the Veggie Beds

“When planting seeds plant four in a row: one for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow.”  (unknown).

Baby Baby Corn

I know what you’re thinking; you’re thinking, “Oh, no!  Not more about peas again!” Well, yes, a little more about peas.  It was time for them to go.  I grew most of them from old seed just to use it up and to set nitrogen in the soil, since they are legumes.  Some plants even had powdery mildew on them, which surprised me.

Powdery mildew

I had to cut the plants off at the roots instead of doing it the easy way and pulling up the whole plants.

Cutting peas at their roots

Since I’d hurt my right wrist a few weeks ago and I still haven’t allowed it to heal enough, the cutting wasn’t a fun job.  It was worth it, though.  I left the roots with their nitrogen-fixing nodules in the ground where they would do the most good.

Peas set nitrogen in their roots

Then I took all the pea vines up to the driveway, set up a chair, put on shorts and stuck my pale legs in the sun, plugged in an audiobook, and spent about an hour and a half tearing pea pods off of all the vines.

Harvesting time

That night after dinner I began sorting through the pods and shelling them.  I’m still not done.

Pea harvest

I managed about half a big bowl of peas, which I sleepily shoved into the refrigerator before stumbling up to bed.  My son was very calm in the morning when he told me about his surprise when he went for a midnight snack and spent about half an hour gathering up peas from the floor and adjacent rooms.  I worked on more peas tonight.  I’ve already frozen a couple of bags for our use; the rest will be frozen and used to feed the tortoises and chickens.  All those pods and vines will combine with trash cans full of weeds I’ve been pulling along with kitchen trash to reconstruct my compost pile.

But there is life beyond peas.  There are beans!  I’ve planted several types of beans this year.  Fresh green beans as well as soup beans and pinto beans.  I’ve created two new raised beds and set them off from the rest of the garden.  In them I’ve planted sugar baby watermelon, green melon, sugar baby pumpkin, and butternut squash.

There's a pinto bean on the rise

These vines will grow out rather than over other garden beds.   In the middle of the beds I’ve planted pickling cucumbers, baby corn and pinto beans.   They will all grow tall above the vines writhing and twining below.  ( Hmm. Note to self: stay away from vine beds at night.)

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: most gardeners have heard about ‘the three sisters’, which are the Native American pairing of corn, beans and squash.  Actually, it should be four sisters, at least for Southwest Indians.  The concept of the ‘sisters’ is that they form a complete plant ‘guild’.  In other words, these three planted in combination produce more food than any one planted alone.  The corn provides a trellis for the beans, the beans are a legume that fix nitrogen in the soil with nodules on their roots that feed off of sugars secreted by the corn roots (all this going on beneath your feet!  Yikes!), and the squash forming a cooling, weed-suppressing ground cover that also deters raccoons (notorious corn-eaters who don’t like to walk through the vines).  What is missing is a plant to attract and feed the pollinators.  In the Southwest Anasazi settlements it was Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata), which has edible parts to it and fixes iron (the Anasazi used it as a dye plant as well as food). With an edible plant guild, we feed the soil  and the pollinators as well as ourselves. You can read more about this in the fantastic book on permaculture by Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden. An excerpt is right here: http://patternliteracy.com/the_three_sisters_or_is_it_fou I’m trying my fourth sister as dill weed, which is an excellent bee plant because of it’s small umbellate flowers.  Dill also goes well as a flavoring for corn, cucumber and squash, and usually plants that complement each other taste-wise do well planted together, such as basil and tomatoes.

Cucumber, baby corn, watermelon and squash

Speaking of which, my garlic/shallot/tomato and basil bed has taken off with the warmer weather.  These are slicing tomatoes; I have planted Roma and a yellow variety in other beds.

Where the peas have come out, the broccoli, carrots, parsnips, lettuces, endive and cilantro are doing well. I’ve planted some small eggplant sprouts and more carrot seed so there is a continuous supply.

Life without pea plants

Organic sweet corn will go into this bed, which will provide shade for the lettuces.  Corn of different varieties must not come into silk simultaneously or they will cross-pollinate.  The baby corn in the other bed will mature earlier by nature and by planting times.  Those little corn ears can be eaten fresh or left to harden to be used for popcorn.  The whole ear can be put into a microwave, for those of you who have such a newfangled contraption (I haven’t owned a microwave, um… ever!).

We’ve had new visitors to the garden.  Besides my gopher snake friend (see my post Unsticking the Snake of May 14th), who has been seen again, and a longer gopher snake, my son and I saw a king snake whipping down a gopher hole in the lower Bee Garden, and then today this fellow came through the Chicken Tractor then through the Swiss chard and onion bed, and across the property.

"So good to rest my weary head for a minute!"

I’ve only seen one king snake in the yard who shows up in the height of summer to look for mice under the bird feeders.  The standing water in the pond and the disturbance of the soil has attracted more of these friends, especially since my dogs are elderly and aren’t ‘making the rounds’ like they used to.

Banded kingsnake

Kingsnakes are a little more tetchy than gopher snakes, and will eat other snakes including rattlesnakes.  They can be striped or banded, even in the same clutch of eggs.  Just like siblings with different hair colors.

Speaking of ponds, the standing water in the lower pond hasn’t receded very much, but has had an algae bloom.

Pea Soup Pond

I’m going to have to have a well drilled on site, and have spoken with two well drillers and have received one bid, and am waiting for the third day for a call back.  Honestly, is there so much work for some people in this economy that they can’t return phone calls or show up to appointments?  During this gardening adventure of the last few months there have been several people of different occupations who just haven’t kept appointments or returned calls although they are still in business and initially shown interest.  What’s up?  Grrr.

The quinoa (pro: keen– wah) is  doing well, and the potatoes are ready to harvest.

Quinoa rows

 

Although I planted a whole packet of sunflower seeds throughout the property, only this blue jay-planted one in my strawberry bed came to anything.  It looks like a puckered face!

"Too much lemon!"

 

 

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