Hard yakka

First cob of corn for dinner

It was a perfect afternoon to get into the garden, sunny enough with a nice breeze. I was working in the front garden, planting out some daisy cuttings and pulling out a dead shrub.

The biggest issue was whether the bull ants (inch ants) were still nesting next to the dead shrub. And yes they are. However I did manage to dig out pretty much all the dead stuff before the ants came charging out. Having been bitten earlier in the week I was being quite careful.

I rounded out the afternoon by harvesting all the good sized Blue Lake climbing beans and picking our first cob of corn. We are now getting a steady feed from our tomatoes and fruit from our fig tree is making dessert choices easy.

Fig tart for dessert

Although we are not the only ones lining up for a feed. Our resident Grey Currawong loves our figs as much as we do.

Not bad for a bird with only one eye! We gave him/her this one.

Bean and Gone

It’s taken a while for me to get back into the swing of summer planting, but getting some beans into the ground has been a priority. I like to plant both climbing beans and bush beans.

The bush beans are generally very heavy croppers and I want to have some for freezing. The choice of bush bean was easy because I already have several packets of Cherokee Wax bush beans in my seed stash.

Young Cherokee Wax seedlings springing from the ground. These have protective collars as they are closest to the path and easiest trodden on.

I didn’t have any climbing bean seeds so I bought some Blue Lake seeds, as they were the only climbing beans available at the shop. Thankfully they are a widely recommended variety to grow. I had previously planted out seedlings of an unknown variety of climbing bean, that had been decimated almost immediately by snails.

This time I was taking no chances. I direct sowed a number of Blue Lake beans into the area previously demolished by the snails. These sprang of of the ground really quickly and almost as quickly were chewed to the ground yet again. Some people never learn.

I also sowed a further 15 Blue lake beans into toilet rolls to try and give them some protection. Once I saw the roots popping out of the bottom of the toilet rolls I planted the whole lot into a new bed that I had started in the front garden where, I hoped, that they would survive long enough to develop tough unpalatable stems.

My Blue Lake climbing beans growing happily in the front garden

These Blue Lake beans were doing really well as were the Cherokee Wax beans I planted next to them. For more than a week they shot upwards, until two days ago I went out to water them and found this.

Chewed to the stump!

Of the 15 beans I’d planted there were only six and a half left. I nearly wept. I then did something pretty unusual for me – I put out some snail bait. We normally run an organic garden, but this is a major lapse. Since laying the bait I have literally gone out every morning and collected dead and dying snails and slugs (nearly 50 so far) so that our local birds don’t eat them. So far there have been no more depredations on the beans.

Surprisingly the Cherokee Wax bush beans, corn and tomato seedlings planted in the same area were almost untouched by the snails. Clearly Blue Lake is a gourmet variety for more than just humans.

This morning I have re-planted more seeds directly into this bed. I will continue to hope that they new beans will develop quickly enough to avoid death by snail. We will see.


This evening it was raining so we went outside to see if there were any snails in the bean crop. We collected just shy of half a kilo of snails (420 grams) in under 10 minutes. I would not have had any beans left by the morning. We will check again before we head to bed.

Feeling your beans

I have done some weird stuff since I started growing my own veggies, but fondling bean pods never came into the picture before now.

I wrote earlier this year about the beans I was growing, commenting on the edibility, or not of the pods. I was not very charitable about the Lazy Housewife bean, but she now has definitely come into her own.

Lazy Housewife Beans on the drying racks. Top, dried and bottom, freshly picked.
Lazy Housewife Beans on the drying racks. Top, dried and bottom, freshly picked.

Once I decided to use the beans for drying it all started to make sense. The Lazy Housewife bean rapidly goes to pod, but looks can be deceiving. I started picking quite a few apparently full pods only to find that the beans inside were very small. So now, before I pick anything I sidle up to the pods and give them a good feel. That way I at least know that there is a decent sized bean inside.


The long and the short of it

One of the best results we are currently having in the garden is with our bean crop – well at least some of it. Two of the five varieties I planted in November have really taken off, those are the Gourmet Delight bush beans

Gourmet Delight bush beans, don't even reach to my knees, but are producing quite a lot of pods.
Gourmet Delight bush beans, don’t even reach to my knees, but are producing quite a lot of pods.

and the Lazy Housewife climbing beans.

Lazy Housewif climbing beans, needed an extension to their trellis and are still heading skyward.
Lazy Housewife climbing beans, needed an extension to their trellis and are still heading skyward.

The Scarlet Emperor climbing beans are definitely a case of the ’emperors new clothes’ – lots of lovely flowers, but no pod set due to the hot weather. A few of our Edamame (soy beans) that grew are producing a meagre handful of pods, but the bulk have been choked by weeds, no ones’s fault but our own! The Adzuki beans, at least those that have survived random raids by our chooks, are sitting pretty much as they were when they were planted out. There are no signs of them even growing, let alone producing flowers or pods.

But I’m going to dwell on the positive. The Gourmet Delight bush beans are a new variety to Chez Fork. The plants don’t even reach up to my knees, yet under the deep green leaves are clusters of succulent pods. The plants are so compact that I didn’t even register that they had pods on them. The pods are of moderate size and are juicy all the way through. I presume these are the characteristics that have earned this variety its name.

A handful of Gourmet Delight pods.
A handful of Gourmet Delight pods.

They also seemed to cope quite well with our recent week of 40 degree C temperatures. Clearly this variety would be a great choice for a small garden given their high yield. We will certainly be growing them again.

By comparison our Lazy Housewife climbing beans seem to have been crossed with Jack’s beanstalk. They are already well over head height and new tendrils continue to sprout upwards. The pods are much larger and coarser than the Gourmet Delights, but are still a good eating bean. My strategy for these is not to be too lazy myself and pick them at a slightly smaller size than their full pod growth. This way I’ll have a much juicier pod for cooking.

Lazy Housewife climbing beans. Pick the pods before they reach full size for a tastier bean.
Lazy Housewife climbing beans. Pick the pods before they reach full size for a tastier bean.

While it might seem contradictory the Lazy Housewife bean would also be good in a small garden. They do not make much sideways growth. Where you have a narrow bed, say against a wall or fence, which got good sun they could do well. Ours are planted in a bed no more than 30 cm (12 inches) wide.

All five types of beans were raised from seed, each planted individually in a toilet roll. They were planted out, still in their rolls, directly into the garden beds when they were between 10-15 cms tall. The benefit of this approach is that the plants are fairly well established and seem to better withstand the onslaught of snails and slaters, which have previously demolished all our direct sown beans as my notes from 6 January 2008 glumly report, “Back from Newcastle – all beans destroyed by slaters.”

I’m not sure why we are having problems with the adzuki beans, because this is the first year we have tried them. As for the Edamame it may be that I planted them too late in the season. Looking back over notes from previous years I got the Edamame into the ground in late October, compared to this year when I planted the seeds out nearly a month later in mid-November.

The Red Emperor and all the other varieties of scarlet runner bean we have tried over the years tell the same story. They need Canberra’s cold winter to germinate well, but our hot summers delay pod production until late summer or early autumn. We only ever seem to get a handful of pods. I wonder why I persist in growing them? On the plus side their flowers do make an attractive show in the garden and they are fixing nitrogen into the garden beds but I suspect I just like seeing those amazing beans!

The crazy coloured scarlet runner beans.
The crazy coloured scarlet runner beans.