Sunday, August 21, 2011

Year of the Bean? and Garden Tour.

Remember back in the early, optimistic days of Spring, when I declared 2011 to be the year of the shelling bean? Remember how I ordered four different types of beans from the Seed Savers Exchange and planted them in our front yard, where they were going to climb a bamboo tee-pee? And how I bragged that it would be epic?

Well, about those beans. They're sad, small, scrawny, stripped practically bare by snails, and haven't even made it halfway up the bamboo tee-pee.

They are decidedly not epic.

Garden August 2011
Small, sad, bean plant.

This Spring was wetter than usual for Northern California, and this Summer has been cooler than usual. In an area that suffers from cool, overcast, foggy summers in the best of years, we don't have much margin for error here. So this year we've had a bumper crop of snails, and not much else.

Nonetheless, I have harvested a few beans. Here is my haul from the other day.

Shelling Beans
Bean pods.

Which yielded this tiny bowl of beans.

Shelling Beans

And this larger pile of compost.

Shelling Beans

With shelling beans, it's a little hard to know when to pick them. I want the beans to be big and swollen, but still green and fresh. I haven't quite figured out what this looks like on the outside of the pod. But even when they are small and underripe, they are still tasty. These went into an orzo salad, which was quite yummy! (I only had to supplement them with half a bag of frozen baby limas. Sigh.)

While not "epic," the front yard is looking much lusher now than it did this Spring.

Garden August 2011
Note cloudy sky.

This roma tomato plant is threatening to take over the whole yard. I planted several different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, which are doing so-so with this cool summer; Steve got this plant for 99 cents at CVS and it is kicking the heirlooms' butts. We don't know what variety it is, so I've been referring to it as our "mystery cool-weather tolerant roma."

Garden August 2011
I think it's safe to say it's an "indeterminate" variety.

It's mid-August, and we still haven't had a single ripe tomato. Sigh. That tomato on the top left of this plant seems to be turning yellow-green now, so that one might be our first. If we could just get a few warm days ...

Our little pepper plant is hardly thriving but it has put out a few peppers!

Garden August 2011
Small, but cropping on our "hot" front steps!

I dreamed of having a front yard just full of sunflowers. I don't know about that, but as with the other plants, the sunflowers are hanging in there, and putting out some lovely flowers.

Garden August 2011

It's not the epic garden I dreamed of in April, but I haven't lost all hope yet. The Bay Area is famous for its glorious Septembers and Octobers, so we may have a "summer" yet. With no hard frost, we have historically harvested tomatoes in November in this area. That's if the sun comes out, anyway.

So please think good (warm) thoughts for our garden! And for me! It would sure be nice to be able to shed this cardigan, at least for a few hours ...


  1. Cardigans are sexy. Why would you want to stop wearing a cardigan? Bay area weather is God's way of making us wear sexy cardigans.

  2. I think I would take a lacklustre veggie harvest over our searing hot summers in South Australia any day. Pity you can't eat that bumper crop of snails. Or maybe you can?

  3. We folk near Austin TX finally gave up on the gardens this summer. Combine the record shattering drought with the record heat and.... and then the record water bills. The collards and basil wasn't justifying it enough anymore. My tomatoes did produce some, but not enough for the 5 plants that I had - probably too hot and too much shade. We're thinking of planting a fall garden, maybe in September, and this time just keeping to collards and mustard greens, maybe some beets, basil... and maybe some more shell peas. Hubbie's black eyed peas did pretty well - I'll see if he has any to share!

  4. Anne: You know what's sexier than cardigans? Bare arms.

    Jane: Did you know that our snails were imported by Europeans who planned to raise them for escargot? Unfortunately, they lost control of their "crop" and now escargot snails are one of our biggest garden pests in California. (The slugs, on the other hand, are native.) Break out the garlic butter sauce!

    Clothespin: We don't generally get rain between March and October here, so we know all to well the pains of the summer water bill! A few years ago, there was a serious drought (well, there's always a serious drought, but a few years ago, it made headlines) and it was declared an infraction to water your tomatoes! Pretty ridiculous, considering we have no lawn and use half the water that an average family of our size uses in our area. I did water my tomatoes that summer, but I felt like a crook doing it!


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