Simply Grateful Gardener

Gardening To Fill The Pantry!


To Bean Or Not To Bean

Last year I planted an entire 4 x 6 foot section of the garden with bush and pole beans. The results were better than I had hoped. For weeks we harvested tons of beans and the flowers just kept coming.

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No matter how many I picked, there were still more out there. I gave them to neighbors, family, and friends until finally no one wanted anymore. Then I started canning and freezing. I canned more dill beans than we’ll possibly eat in two years and froze enough for at least a year.

Finally at the end of the season, sometime in late October, when all the beans were finally done flowering, I left all the pods on the plants until they dried. This took until mid-November.

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Once dry I picked all the dry beans. This is only a portion of them:


Not having the time or inclination to do anything with them then, I put the beans in a plastic bag and stored them in the garage, with the intention of shelling them during the winter and then canning the dry beans for bean soup and other bean dishes. I mean what could be better than home-grown dry beans. There was no way I wanted these beans to go to waste.

All winter those beans sat in the garage waiting to be shelled, but knowing they were there inspired me to plan on planting beans again this year for the sole purpose of letting them dry and using them that way. So when the weather broke and the ground was warm enough I planted an entire section of garden with bean plants, excited to be so clever in growing my own dry beans.

Well rather than plant the beans as I had last year, even though I had great success, I had a better idea and decided to try something new. It flopped. I’m not sure why, but I’ll get to that in another post. Regardless, there will be no beans from our garden this year.

Thoroughly disappointed and disgusted with myself because I hadn’t stuck with what had worked, I sat down a few days ago on the patio and decided to finally shell all the beans from 2015. For two days I worked on shelling a garbage bag full of beans, separating them from their hard shells and placing the wonderful little gems in a bowl.



This was the bounty:


All my effort and we ended up with 2 pounds 14 ounces of dry beans. Well that was rather humbling. Sure it’s great to be all self-sufficient and all, but I don’t know that I’ll be planting beans just so I can dry them. That is unless there is some sort of shortage on dried beans or they suddenly become GMO infested. No, this is one crop I don’t think is worth the time and effort.

I will definitely be planting beans again, probably next year. If I end up with a great bumper crop and have a ton of beans left on the plants, I won’t let them go to waste, but I am absolutely not going to plant beans just so I can dry them for the pantry.

This experience has proven once again, “Everything happens for a reason.” My bean plants flopping this year and not even sprouting was Mother Nature’s way of looking out for me, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.



Tomato Leaf Curl Quandary

Growing up my father could grow tomato plants without so much as a thought. He’d put the plants he’d bought at the local greenhouse in the ground and several months later he’d have tons of beautiful red tomatoes. Occasionally he’d weed, once in a while he’d water, and on the rarest of occasion he’d prune, but for the most part it was ‘Plant It and Forget It.’

Is that the trick? Is that what it takes to grow beautiful, hearty tomato plants? Please, somebody tell me because from Day 1 I have been struggling to keep my tomato plants alive. I’ve failed miserably, picked up the pieces, started over, and stumbled my way to nearly making it and finally when I thought the hard part was behind me, I wake up one morning and find my plants looking like this:


Research has told me that this is tomato leaf curl. Of the three culprits (disease, herbicides, or environmental) the only one that fit my location and situation is environmental. Of course, this particular diagnosis doesn’t really help because the leaves are curling either because they are getting too much water or too little. This might sound easy enough to determine which one it is, but not really.

The weather here in Michigan has been utterly terrible for a would-be hands-off gardener. Although we have had tons of sun and warmth, there has been little to no rain for over a month. This means watering is my job. Now I watered my tomato plants last year and didn’t really have any issues. At least once or twice a week it would rain, and I’d just fill in by watering every once in a while. Now all the watering is up to me.

What makes this situation even more confusing is that not every plant is affected. In the main garden one or two plants have just mild curl.

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On the side of the house there are 8 plants and 3 of them are so curled that it is hard to tell that they are even tomato plants at all.

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Other plants that are planted in pots are hit or miss. Some of these are curling, some are fine.

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To determine if I was over or under watering I read up on what is the best way to water tomato plants. According to my research if tomatoes are in pots, it is best to completely soak the soil. Watering until the water comes out the bottom of the pot and then waiting until the soil is dry about an inch down before watering again is suggested.

As for ground planted tomatoes, heavy, thorough soaking is best. If moderate or light watering is done daily or every other day, the roots will not grow deeply. Watering heavy 1 -3 times a week is better than watering light 5 -6 days.

So what had I been doing? I was watering everything light to moderately about 4 – 6 times a week. The rest of the plants in the gardens are doing well, just the tomatoes seem to be struggling.

To test the theory that heavy watering would be best I watered the ground tomatoes super heavy three days ago and have left them alone in the 90 degree, sunny weather since. Upon checking them this morning they seem to be doing okay. They aren’t any worse, which to me is success. The three plants that were severely affected by the leaf curl seem to be improving just a little, but I’m not sure if it’s just wishful thinking.

The potted plants I watered heavily and left them until the pots dried up enough so when I put my finger into the soil an inch down it was no longer wet. They have not gotten worse, but I don’t see much improvement either.

So will my plants survive? Who really knows.

Many of the plants have tiny tomatoes and most of them have flowers (less the three with severe leaf curl that are beyond recognition). Without any help from Mother Nature to feed the garden as only she can I’m struggling. Last year and the three years prior to that I never gave much thought to how I should water the garden. It rained, I watered when it didn’t, and the garden grew. Now, with no rain and all the watering left solely up to an amateur gardener, the garden might just fail miserably.

Gardening is not easy, I know that. Last year I dealt with slugs, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, early blight, and cabbage moths. All of these however were fairly easy fixes. Sure it took time and a little science and/or luck, but the 2015 garden was pretty much a success. I’m going to keep plugging away, watering, not watering, feeding, not feeding, until the last. I figure the worst that can happen is the tomato plants don’t survive and I have to get our tomatoes from the local farmers. Worse things have happened, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Pickin’ Peas and Rounding Up Radishes

The garden is really coming along, after a touch and go start this year. Already we have picked the entire first crop of radishes and replanted.

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The second crop is already up and about halfway to harvest.


The peas are beginning to come in and I’ve been picking for a few days now.


This could go on all summer, if it’s anything like last year.

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I think I might have to make my pea fences a bit higher, as they are already at the top.

If they do stall and start to die off, I’ll be more than happy to plant a second crop to harvest this fall. Next year I think I’ll plant even more rows, as we’ve been eating them as quick as we pick them and I don’t have any left to put up for the winter.

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Perhaps a trip to the local fruit stand is in order, not a bad thing — I just love those places, and for this I am Simply Grateful.