Late Summer at the YARDLAB

The beds exceeded expectations this summer, but I wasn’t expecting much anyway. Last summer I made four new beds from some stump grindings that my neighbor was actually going to pay someone to haul away. Graciously, he allowed me to take as much as I wanted before that happened. From that windfall, I was able to make 4 new beds on the front lawn, edged with more scavenged tree limbs and mulched heavily with grass clippings, leaf litter, straw, pine needles and whatever other organic matter I was able to haul home. the grand total expense, a whopping $0.

this was my best year yet growing scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) ornamental and edible, the blossoms attract bees and hummingbirds. mature pods are tough and hairy, so pick em young for best eating.

I later learned that garden beds made mostly of wood chips may take a full year to be productive, meaning that at the start of Spring 2020, my new beds were still half-baked, but I proceeded with planting anyway. The corn and sunflowers never got very tall (my guess is nitrogen deficiency) but they all managed to produce, which pleases The Possum. Squash did wonderfully until the powdery mildew attacked, but I managed to get a successful harvest off three varieties: Acorn, Spaghetti and Butternut. Powdery mildew also attacked my cucumbers and cut their season short, but the watermelon was unaffected. I harvested 4 smallish, but very sweet melons off my two vines; not bad for my first attempt at growing it. The Beans and Nightshades continue to thrive, and my attentions are turned to propagating more flowers for my pollinator friends next year.

I added spiderwort and more coneflowers from the nursery, while also dividing and transplanting yuccas, blazing stars, black-eyed susans, sedums, and of course Milkweeds.

This year in experimental crops, I was FINALLY able to get a ginger and turmeric rhizomes to sprout. Buying organic rhizomes seemed to help, but I also buried them in a dish with coffee grounds and damp paper towels until new growth appeared, then stuck them in pots of dirt outside. Both were slow to start, but once the ginger got its legs under it it took off! Turmeric remains a slowpoke. Being tropical plants, they are only hardy to about zone 9 or so, which means I will need to make alternate living arrangements for these plants come winter.

ginger, like potatoes are usually treated with sprout inhibitors that prevent unwanted growth in transit or on store shelves. it appears organic rhizomes are not treated in this way and you may get better results should you try it.

coffee grounds seem to make a good medium for starting plants. I noticed this after finding chili pepper germinating in a lump of spent coffee out in the compost bin. later I discovered an avocado pit doing the same yesterday.

another thing I learned this year is that even if the packet says you can plant your beans in April, very few of them will successfully germinate. beans sprout fast when the soil is warm, but a slowly germinating bean is like candy for soil critters; even beans with long maturity periods like Scarlet Runner will catch up (70-100 days according to packet) but I planted some in July which managed to bloom and set pods by late august and are still producing now.

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