No Two Garden Years Alike


I see that in the comments to my post August Glut, Russ observed a “phenomenon” (how I love that word when I want to sound important) that we noticed too. Our first string beans just never did grow quite like usual and although the foliage looked as healthy as normal, much fewer beans set on. Had to be the weather, as Russ says, very wet and coolish early on, but since the vines were quite robust and there seemed to be only a few leaf hoppers and other infernal creatures of the bean jungle, we were mystified and Carol almost frantic.

You have to understand that in our family being without Kentucky Wonder pole beans is nearly as grave a situation as being without bread. These beans (no other variety will do) are soul food to Carol’s family, and she has managed to pass on that adoration to her husband, who didn’t much like my mother’s string beans, and to our children and grandchildren. I am amazed how greedily they shovel down Kentucky Wonders even up here in Ohio, far from the Bluegrass Country. The secret is the slab of smoked ham in every pot along with bacon grease that flavors the beans, along with pressure-cooking the living bejeebers out of them. In fact, every time the pot of leftover beans is warmed up again, the taste just gets better. My mother’s were bush type beans and she cooked them baconless and what ham might be present wasn’t cured and smoked by my father-in-law’s method. They were only cooked long enough to get the heat through the skinniest ones. I could not believe, when I went to Kentucky in pursuit of fair maiden, the taste of the beans Carol’s mom served. I thought they must have been grown somewhere in heaven.

I kept reassuring Carol this year that we would get plenty of beans later on, and for once I was right. I am presently sick of breaking beans. I break them in real time and I break them in my dreams. We have them by the bushel. All of a sudden the vines just exploded. Unlike Russ’s situation, we have had plenty of rain all along, so the sudden bean deluge is even greater than Beth’s. A couple of the poles are breaking over in fact, and there is no way we will ever use even half the crop.

Another even more interesting “phenomenon” this year is the corn. Have any of you experienced what we are seeing? I do five successive plantings of sweet corn. The last one is late white corn. Because of all the spring rain, planting was late, so I figured the harvest would be late too. But something weird happened. The corn ripened a week to ten days ahead of its normal maturity dates. I guess the extra hot, wet weather did it. Corn planted late always matures a little faster than it is supposed to, but not this much. Our white corn was all gone by the end of August. Usually, we have some until Sept. 10.

This freakish behavior is good news for the field corn. It was mostly planted late in our county. We like to get corn planting over by May 10. This year it was June 10 and everyone worries that frost will get the late planted corn before the kernels are well dented.

Now it looks like there’s no problem. That June planted corn grew faster than I have ever seen corn grow, and like the sweet corn, it is maturing faster than it’s supposed to. Hundred twenty day corn is denting up in a hundred five to a hundred ten days. And my open-pollinated corn, oh my. Although planted in June, there are ears back there that I am going to have to drag to the barn one at a time with the tractor and a log chain.


Gene, do you put up the “teepee” poles every year for your beans? I’ve tried but I always feel I have 5 thumbs by the time I have the poles erected. I’m sure watching me would be similar to watching an old silent movie comedy.
I’ve since given up on the poles and now grow my pole beans on old wire fence that I’ve put up in the garden.
Any suggestions on using the traditional poles?

Didn’t matter if I planted the corn in April, May or June. The only ones to enjoy it were the raskly raccoons. Thankfully, the wife found a nice farmer selling silver queen at the incredibly low cost of $1/doz. As is with all gardeners, next year will be better. Does anyone have any good recipes for raccoon?

Not dry enough hasn’t been the issue out here in the west; would have been nice to have had a little of the rain you folks didn’t want! And it’s been cooler than normal, but at my place that just means it’s 90 instead of 95… But no matter what the weather, there’s always some food that does well if you just plant enough of a diversified garden. In my case, it’s been the sweet peppers from transplants I bought and the cabbage I planted back in January (that got clobbered with fourteen inches of snow about six weeks later). Green onions and parsley are doing good. Deer ate the chard. Tomatoes haven’t done so well, except for the Romas. But we’ve got lots of apples, ten million zillion blackberries and a heavy pear crop. My Rattlesnake beans didn’t germinate very well, so a good chunk of the crop is going to new seed for next year instead of into the food supply. The seeds were about five years old and had not been stored in the “ideal” conditions, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. KJM Clark, I’ve planted seeds that were as much as 7-8 years old and gotten a good crop — except the onion family. they really shouldn’t be more than a year old. Here’s to a good harvest for everyone.

Good to know about planting corn late- I wish I knew that earlier this year, because I was late and didn’t bother….

    Same boat as Paula. By the time it was dry enough to plant we figured it was too late and just moved on. And good to hear Don’s report too – those bags of corn are still sitting, waiting for us to do something with them. They might be useful next year after all.

Our garden is weird too. Powdery mildew hit the cukes and squash, so we’re putting up less than in previous years. So far the tomatoes are slow to ripen. Your beans sound fantastic. The big bean hit here are a heritage variety of purple beans. We eat them raw off the vine. Wasn’t until last night that we got around to cooking a pot full, and they did turn green when heated. Next batch the kids and I will watch closely to see if we can see them transform. Now, if only we had produce so bountiful that it required a tractor to drag back to the house….

Question from a novice. How do you save seed from your OP field corn, when you have 5 succesive plantings of sweet corn. Does the sweet corn cross with the OP corn?
Bob Zeoli

    Bob Zeoli, my op corn is back behind the woods, far enough away from the gardens to avoid cross pollination. Don Miles, interesting about how you got dramatically different results from different soil conditions. I kept my op corn weeded early with the help of a grandson but then the rains took over and the weeds became rampant. Did not make a bit of difference to the corn which was way above the weeds. Maybe the weeds, mostly quack and crabgrass, did some good by stopping erosion between the rows. Gene

My open pollinated dent corn (variety, Leaming Corn) was planted four weeks late also in Southern Ohio. There were two fields. It was cultivated between the rows only once and the weeds were left to grow between the plants except in one spot which also got hoed. No fertilizer of any kind was used and nothing was irrigated.

Plot one had new seed with over 90% germination in the field and was planted where the ground has been used every year about as long as anyone can remember. It got about four feet tall and made almost no ears. Some was planted on that same ground but was also weeded with a hoe between the plants. It got about six feet tall and made only a few medium sized ears but most plants were barren.

Plot two was two year old seed stored in a very hot building which made only about a 50% germination in the field. It was planted on ground which had corn for 2-3 years but prior to that had been rarely used. It made small to medium sized ears. Some was planted on new ground. It grew very fast to about eight feet tall and made HUGE ears in spite of the thick weeds between the plants.

I did also plant some sweet corn about six weeks late with no fertilizer on the old used ground of plot one. it did almost nothing but the interesting thing was that since the weeds had started to grow by then I went back and tilled again before planting to kill them. i also cultivated it once when the corn was about a foot high but the weed pressure between the plants was almost non existent.

I think next year I will till the ground then let the weeds get a good start and till again just before planting. Then I will plant either on new ground or use some sort of fertilizer either manure or 10-10-10, preferably manure. I won’t worry so much about planting planting four weeks late. It seems as long as the ground is fertile and the planting population is not overly dense the corn does very well.

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