Western Washington appears to be drying out; at least this week! With the break from rain, I am prepping garden beds-turning soil, adding compost, devising guards against marauding gangs of chickens. I’m deciding what will be planted where AND I’m starting the warmer weather seeds.
While I only have a 1/4-acre lot, and that with only a few areas unshaded enough for growing food, I can grow a lot in raised beds dotted around the property. I even take advantage of the easement along our unsidewalked roadway. I have permanent plantings of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb and nettle; as well as thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley and sorrel. Around these I grow lettuces, radish, cucumbers, pumpkins (Jr. insists!), green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, tomatillos, carrots and beets. Sometimes I have Sugar Snap or English peas.
I always start my squashes, both summer & winter, and my green & dried beans indoors to get a head start on harvest yum. Often I’ll start the first round of the beautiful Fortex, a French filet bean, indoors then do a stagger planting when the soil warms outside. The most indulgent crop I grow are the dried beans. I found a few pole varieties and with any limited horizontal space, going vertical is always best. Last year I grew 2 kinds: Borlotto Gaston, a speckled egg PNW version of Borlotto Lamon from Italy, and Annie Jackson, a lovely white & burgundy bean of Russian origin.
What makes this feel indulgent is that for a raised bed of plants, I get about 1 quart of dried beans at harvest. That’s maybe 2 meals. Time, effort, seed cost, water cost for 2 meals. Not much of an actual accounting ROI, but the emotional return: keeping alive heirloom varieties, growing such basic food, a plant-based protein myself, supporting a fantastic seed company, preparing a special meal using my limited crop, these add up to immeasurable returns for my psyche and my soul.
I always encourage students to at least have herb plants on hand. Stepping outside to snip some rosemary or thyme, bringing those cuttings back into the kitchen can make a world of difference in taste, but can also lift your mood. Any time we can connect physically to where our food comes from instantly makes our food real, even if that just includes a tiny sprig of something delicious.