I love growing green beans.
This year, our garden looks awesome. I’m really proud of it. In the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing lots of pictures on social media. To be honest, I’ve posted more photos of lettuce than I did of our son at graduation. But then the lettuce haven’t argued as I attempted to document their important milestones. No, they just grow themselves silly, as if they are encouraging me to break out the camera and photograph every bloom. (They don’t have to ask twice!)
After today’s rain, the garden was looking especially pretty. So once again, I took a few photos. This time, I featured the bush green beans. This is the first time I’ve ever planted green beans. Since, I don’t can them, I haven’t found it necessary to grow them. Instead, I rely upon on my sister to provide us green beans each year for Christmas. If she never gives me anything else, as long as there are quarts of her home-grown, home-canned green beans under the tree, I’ll be a happy woman. But I digress….
This year, I decided to plant a package of D. Landruth Seed Company’s bush green beans. On a warm Saturday in March, I eagerly ripped open the seed packet, removing the top 1/2 inch. Sweet Katie (our niece’s friend who we’ve adopted into the family) was spending the afternoon with us. She mapped out how far apart the seeds needed to be and proceeded to plant. A couple weeks later when I was telling my sister that I had decided to plant green beans, she asked what type did we plant? I pulled out the seed packet (with its missing top 1/2 inch) only to discover that the seed genus was missing. Landruth produces beautiful seed packets, utilizing their archives of plant illustrations. On the back, they detail the history of the species. Some of their seeds originated in the 17th century. The detailed growing and care information is available on their website. So I couldn’t answer her question. I could see that I had bush beans, but I couldn’t tell her if they were Blue Lakes or Kentucky Wonders.
Why is that important to know? Because in my family, feuds have been started over varieties of green beans. When my great-aunt started growing Blue Lakes, there was anarchy from her older sister, my grandmother. Snide comments were made at holiday tables about the lack of beans in the green beans. Tsks were uttered over sparkling quart jars fresh from the pressure cooker. Snorts of disgust were echoed across well-tended garden rows. Blue Lakes were not Kentucky Wonders, the much valued pole bean that ruled my grandmother’s vegetable garden. I remember one year when my mother merely suggested planting Blue Lakes because they are stringless. That wasn’t about to be tolerated.
For most, Blue Lakes are considered the benchmark of green beans because they have dark green cylindrical and, most importantly, stringless pods. But that stringless pod contains tiny bean seeds. I happen to think they are boring. I mean, when I eat green beans, I want to eat a well-balanced bite of pod and seed. I don’t want mostly pods. Besides, aren’t green beans best when they have a few loose shellies in them? Have you ever seen Blue Lakes shellies?
I didn’t think so.
Kentucky Wonders first appeared in seed catalogs in 1850. They are the classic pole bean. All across the south, whenever you see massive pole structures shaped like tee pees, that gardener is growing a hearty variety of Kentucky Wonders. Kentucky Wonders are a prolific brown-seeded beans with oval, thick, gently curved pods.
Oh there have been many advances in seed development since my childhood, and I rather doubt my grandmother could tell the difference between the two these days. But she’d never budge on which tasted better or produced a better harvest. GMO seed or not, Ferry Morse Kentucky Wonders would still be her choice.
So all spring, I have pondered about those green beans. Did I have Blue Lakes or Kentucky Wonders or perhaps (yikes!) some other variety? I tried not to fret too much about it because, while I didn’t know what kind they were, they were beautiful! A few days after we planted them, like a well-rehearsed chorus line, all the beans broke thru the ground and began reaching for the sun. I was delighted and thus began photographing them.
Today when I got home from work, I went to check on the garden. Like I said previously, it had rained and the kale were reaching out, waving for me to come brag on them. That’s when I noticed that my “bush beans” had sprouted tendrils like pole beans. Just days earlier, I had questioned my sister about trellising the green beans because they were creating vines, not bushes. She laughed at my question and assured me that bush beans were grown in mounds. All would be well.
Not exactly! A few of the “bushes” had found a trellis to grab onto. The problem was that their chosen trellis was designated for cucumbers which are already going to be over-crowded. I posted a photo of young tendrils wrapping themselves around the cucumber trellis. Then I tagged my sister and said, “Do I break out another trellis? Because I am not sacrificing the cucumbers!”
That’s when she sent me into a tail spin.
“First of all, I don’t see any green beans,” she said. “I see lettuce, radishes, and cucumbers. Need to do something about the bugs on the bottom left. Don’t want other bugs moving in.”
“Bugs? In my garden? Hardly!”
I told her that she was not seeing bugs. Instead she was seeing leaves in the compost. There weren’t any predatory bugs taking over.
Then I begin to worry. I enlarged the photo on my camera so that I could see the fine details. There was something there. But if it were bugs, they looked awfully big. I hadn’t notice them when I was taking pictures. Bugs that big would eat everything overnight. I began to fret about the army of hungry bugs marching into the radishes. But it was already dark and there was 10 minutes left of WWE Smackdown. Randy Orton was schooling Cody Rhodes. If I went out to the garden now, Sam would never forgive me. He looks forward to Friday night wrestling all week. It’s our one time when we, as a family, sit down to watch TV and cheer the superstars of the WWE. I’m still surprised I actually enjoy it. But when we’re watching wrestling, Sam is a different kid. He laughs, cheers, and analyzes the story lines and character motives. He’s engaging and the sour-mouthed teenager has disappeared. It’s my time to spend with my kid and we connect. So I waited and tried not to appear impatient as time after time Orton failed to get the count out.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I put my shoes on and grabbed a flashlight.
“I’ve got to check the garden.”
My Beloved looked at me like I was crazy.
“You know that it’s dark outside, right?”
“We own flashlights. Are you coming? Right now there could be a garrison of bugs chewing their way thru everything!”
“I’ll get my shoes,” he said.
He could tell that I meant business.
I went straight for the plant featured in the photo. There weren’t any bugs, just a tiny slug on a kale leaf. I picked it off and then dug under the lettuce. Again, no bugs. Well not a bug worth complaining about. After all, there are some bugs that are supposed to be in your garden. So what had she seen? Finally, I stood up and refocused the light. Glistening with dew were pebbles scattered around into the compost. Could they be the bugs? When my Beloved arrived on the scene, I asked him.
“Yep. There is your garrison. Next time you empty one of the patio containers in the compost pile, remember to sift out the pebbles you used in the bottom for drainage.”
Then he stomped back to the house, and I wished my precious garden good night. Sleep well my precious babies. I’ll see you again in the morning.