Tag Archives: beans

Maximizing Space

Growing Vertically

We devote only a small part of our backyard for vegetable gardening and I’m always looking for a way to add more plants and increase productivity in the existing space.  Though we have put a deer fence up around our backyard, we still have to put a low fence around the vegetable garden.  If we don’t, there would be nothing left.  Deer cannot get in our back yard but rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels and chipmunks are still able to sneak in and enjoy what we grow.  So we are limited to growing vegetables within this little fenced in area, therefore I try to make every inch work to its maximum productivity.

Looking back at the last season, I note what worked and integrate it into the coming season along with whatever adaptation increases efficiency.  The method described below can be used for any plants that grow vertically, not just vegetables.

Aside from incorporating different plants in any one plot, I also grow vertically.  While most gardeners grow beans on a cone shaped ‘teepee’ I believe, I put up a trellis for beans that’s over the path, high enough to walk under, and grow beans on each side.  Last season, I put one up by the vegetable garden entrance.  It worked well and when the beans were fully grown and had developed pods, it looked beautiful and provided easy access for picking the beans too.  The trellis can be moved to any part of the garden easily when needed or I can grow different vegetables on it.

The bean trellis early last July. You can see the netted frame structure behind it.
Toward the end of July, beans have grown to cover the trellis with plenty of pods. It’s easy to walk under when picking beans.
I’m not sure what type of beans these are but their ancestry is Italian. My neighbor brought the seeds back years ago and we have been growing them ever since. They are delicious as young pods as well as dried beans later.

Once the weather was warm enough to remove the plastic from the cold frame, I put up a net in its place, see the first photo, to filter and soften the sunlight.  It reduces the light by about 50%.  Leafy vegetables like lettuce, Mitzuna, and Pac Choi prefer a little shade.   In the middle of summer, when the temperature is high and the sunlight is strong, these leafy vegetable will bolt easily and the lettuce will turn bitter.  With shade over them, they can take their time to grow, their leaves are crisp and sweet and the soil will dry more slowly.  I grow Bitter melon on the side of the frame structure and let them entwine themselves up the frame.  I gradually roll back the filtering net as the melon plant grows allowing it to take over shading the vegetables below.

Bittermelon growing up the frame (see first photo) and completely covering the top of the structure, providing shade for the leafy vegetables below.
The melon fruit hangs down making them easy to pick
Early in the season when the structure still cover with a filtering net. Vegetable that do well in semi-shade here are-Left front to back- Wasabi Arugula, Chinese broccoli, two types of lettuce. Right front to back- Mizuna, three types of Mustard greens
Later on when the melon plants cover the structure, I put in more lettuce like ‘Spotted Trout’ and ‘Truchas’

One down side of having the vegetables grow up the frame is that I have to cut them all down when the temperature threatens to drop close to freezing.  I need to put the plastic back on and turn it back into a cold frame again.  Most gardeners leave the plastic on but open the ends of the structure to let the air flow through in summer.  I could have done the same but I would lose growing space on the top of the structure.  I would also have to put a smaller frame over one of the 3’X18′ plots and cover it with a sunlight filtering net to grow these vegetable in the heat of summer.  I prefer to kill two birds with one stone: shade the vegetables and have extra growing space.

Mix and Match

For a Better Effect and Benefit

It doesn’t matter how much space we have for our vegetable garden, it’s never enough.  We just expanded our fenced in vegetable garden from 16′ x 16′ to 16′ x 22′ this year but I’m still looking for space to put many more seedlings that have sprouted up.  I’ve already hand-crafted 3 trellises for the beans to climb on.  They extend over the garden walkway to save space.  The Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) is allowed to climb on the fence since neither deer nor rabbits will eat them.  Strong scented herbs like Mint, Oregano, Thyme and Sage surround the fence outside to fend off the deer and rodents and draw in beneficial insects at the same time.  Since we don’t use pesticides we have to enlist nature and our winged friends to help out.

Still, the extra space just disappears so quickly.  The culprit?  Tomatoes…plenty of sprouted tomato seeds from our compost pile.  I have a soft heart when it comes to pulling healthy plants out of the ground only to throw them back in the compost pile.  I’ve put a few of them up for adoption.

I also added Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Nasturtium, Alyssum and Borage (Borago officinalis) inside the fence this year.  These flowers help draw in good insects and create a much livelier look for the vegetable garden.  If the vegetable yield is the same as last year but has more bad bugs than good ones, the flowers will stay outside the fence next year.  We already have birds patrolling and they have been working out pretty well.  This year, we are experimenting with having good insects patrol.  We’ll see how that works out.

Trellis for Italian beans along the walkway
Calendula mixed in with basil and tomatoes
Nasturtium, Squash, Scarlet Emperor bean, Borage and Strawberry squeeze in together.
Bitter melon entwines itself along the fence
Self-sown Cherry tomato, Swiss chard and Scallion
Trellis for Asian Long bean with Alyssum at the base