East Sac Edible

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Foraging for Bamboo

Bamboo is one thing I do not have in my garden… and I don’t really want it either since it can be highly invasive if you don’t put it in correctly.

However, if it is taking over someone else’s garden… I’m all for that!

DSC_1584My friend’s garden has a bamboo problem and I offered to take some of it off her hands to use as stake poles in my garden. Total score! I’m going to cut down several to use as garden trellises this year but I think I read that you should really let them dry out for awhile before using them so I am going to cut down additional ones to store and dry for upcoming gardening years. I think my friend’s grove really needs some thinning and you can cut up to 1/3 of the grove every year without hurting the plant.

Here is what her bamboo grove looks like:

DSC_1602 DSC_1603 DSC_1604 DSC_1605I was able to cut down about 10 poles the other day which were about 18 feet tall and the larger bases were about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I cut each pole into two pieces so I could fit them in my car. Finding poles of this size is pretty impossible at any store so I feel really lucky to have a source. Plus cutting down the bamboo was really a lot easier than I thought it was going to be!

DSC_1582 DSC_1583Did you know you can eat the young shoots of bamboo? For several summers I went bamboo hunting with my aunt in Japan. You look for the very very young shoots and with a little push they should break off pretty easily. Delicious!

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Planting Beans

Last year my most prolific bean was the Blue Lake Runner Bean. My niece and I built two bamboo trellises in between our pineapple guava plants. The beans took over and wrapped themselves around the guava plants as well. Here is a picture of when we first planted in April, then a picture of the beans sprouted in late April and then finally a picture in September of 2013. You can’t even see the pineapple guavas!

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I also made an 8 foot trellis to plant Scarlet Runner beans, saved year after year from my dad’s garden. These flowers of the Scarlet Runners are so beautiful and attracted many pollinators but I ate a whole lot more Blue Lake beans than Scarlet Runners. Here is a picture of the trellis which I made partially to screen the compost from view, the second picture you can see the Scarlet Runners in mid-season and then a picture of them in September on the left.

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I also planted several varieties of bush beans and staked them up using short Mulberry branches. I planted Purple Queen Bush Beans and Yellow Wax Bush Beans. I like planting bush beans because they give you a harvest earlier than the runner beans. I also tend to plant these in my raised beds so they give back to the soil. They also are a faster crop than runner beans. Bush beans tend to put out lots of beans at once and then the plant is done whereas you can harvest from runner beans all season. It is nice to have a mix in your garden. I harvested 4.21 pounds of bush beans and 15.25 pounds of runner beans in 2013.

After the 2013 bean season was over, I let the plants die on their trellises. I collected some seeds from the best specimens. Then I cut the bean plant at the base leaving the roots intact in the ground. I chopped the plants into smaller pieces and lightly dug them into the ground. Beans are soil builders. Their roots fix nitrogen into the soil which benefits following crops of heavy feeders. This is why I use the chop and drop method of cleaning up my beans. Plus it is hard to keep up with all the biomass at the end of the summer so dropping them in their place helps free up space in my compost.


This year I decided to move my Blue Lake Beans to the main 8 foot trellis since that was what we enjoyed eating the most. I planted some Scarlet Runners in the front yard because I thought they would be a beautiful addition to my front yard landscape adding color from the flowers and height. However, the beans never germinated so I wont be enjoying any Scarlet Runners this year. I also planted two more varieties of runner beans: Trionfo Violetto and Orient Wonder. I also wanted to experiment with a few beans for storage so I planted the Calypso Bush bean in the back of the yard and California Blackeye Cowpea in my raised bed. Since I am just going to wait for these to dry on the plant to collect and store the beans I tried to put them in places that were out of the way. I think some of the beans I am just getting into the ground way to late so I am hoping I will get some sort of harvest from them before it is too late! Here are a few pictures of what my beans looked like in the garden yesterday:

DSC_2116Blue Lake Runner BeansDSC_2114 Calypso Bush Beans

DSC_2121Cowpeas waiting to go in the ground


Orient Wonder Pole Yard Long Beans in the herb garden.DSC_2124 Trionfo Violetto Pole Bean climbing up a corn. The corn blew over in strong wind the other day so I am not sure how successful the bean or the corn will be.DSC_2127Trionfo Violetto climbing up Mulberry canes attached to the support cables from the power lines.

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A Weekend Project: Butternut Squash Trellis

My butternut squash was running all over the place so this weekend I finally got around to making a quick trellis. I just pounded in a few wooden stakes into the ground and tied them together with twine. To make cross beams, I added some dried out Mulberry tree sticks I had collected from my neighbor who trims the trees every year. These sticks have been great around the garden. I have made pea trellises with them and also use them to prop up plants. This project took me about 20 minutes. Hopefully my butternut squash will grow happily without taking over my driveway!DSC_1835 DSC_1836 DSC_1837