I’m now entering into dangerous territory as I continue to read The Little Kitchen Garden by Dorothy Giles, written in 1926.
Danger, as in nine bean rows. And no, I don’t know how long those rows should be, but I do know the reference comes from a poem by W. B. Yeats. More on that in a bit.
Here’s Dorothy’s recommendation for beans.
Two rows of stringless “string” beans. In an earlier table of recommended vegetable varieties, she recommends ‘Bountiful’, and though I am particularly fond of ‘Provider’, you know, dear reader, that I ordered ‘Bountiful’ too. Well, she actually listed ‘Early Bountiful’ but close enough.
One row of wax pods. Her recommendation is for ‘Rust Proof Golden Wax.’ I didn’t look for it, but I have ‘Top Notch Golden Wax,’ I purchased earlier and that will just have to do.
One row of navy beans, which she writes is “a gesture in the face of winter.” Hmmm… I have no seeds for navy beans.
One row of bush lima beans. She lists ‘Burpee’s Improved’ for the bush variety. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of lima beans so I won’t grow a row of them. Besides, Dorothy says they are “tricky, and liable to mildew, hardly to be depended on, Mr. Yeats, in such a moist climate as your Lake Isle is sure to have, but, for all their temperamental qualities, a vegetable to be considered, even placated.”
Okay, I wavered there for a minute, but stopped myself from searching for lima bean seeds.
Next is one row of pole limas. She recommends ‘Leviathan.’ Good luck finding those seeds. Honestly, the name sounds like one of those spell words that someone might say in Harry Potter while waving their wand in the air.
One row of ‘Lazy Wives.’ I have purchased seeds for this bean variety in the past, which is a pole bean. How did it get that name? The story I heard is because the beans can be picked green for fresh eating or if one is lazy, left to dry and picked later to store as dried beans.
One of scarlet runners. She wrote earlier in the book, “There are scarlet runner beans, for example, so decorative with their brilliant flower sprays, that it is not always easy to remember that bean flowers are intended to make bean pods and a feast for the palate rather than for the soul. Indeed, in our garden we have given up considering scarlet runners as a vegetable at all…” I’m wavering, and just might…
And she ends with the “crowning touch of all,” one row of the ‘magnificent, sweet-flowering broad beans whose scent is the heady fragrance of an English June.” Hmmm… I might have to grow those just to smell them.
Is that nine bean rows, as mentioned in the poem?
I will arise and go now, and come to Innisfree,
And a cabin I will build there, of clay and wattles made.
Nine bean rows will I have there, and a hive for the honey bee,
And life alone in a bee-loud glad.– W. B. Yeats
I believe it is.
Will I be following this advice?
Well, not exactly. First, I tend to plant my beans in short rows across the width of my beds, making them about three feet long. Second, I don’t really like lima beans! Third, I already have all my bean seeds.
Carol’s Garden Bean List for 2024 ‘Burpee Stringless Green Pod’ because they had them at the store when I was buying seeds. ‘Tendergreen’ because they had them at the store when I was buying seeds. ‘Provider’ because that’s the one I have the best luck with, plus they had them at the store. ‘Topnotch Golden Wax’ because they had them at the store. ‘Bountiful’ because Dorothy Giles recommended this variety.
All those varieties are bush beans because I don’t usually grow pole beans. But then again, with the right kind of support, pole beans can be quite pretty and decorative. Dorothy recommends ‘Old Homestead’ which as it turns out when you look it up is ‘Kentucky Wonder.’ Hmmmm… and those scarlet runner beans are calling my name. Maybe just a few decorative supports for pole-type beans?
And then those broad beans. Those are fava beans, surely. Maybe I should try them too?
The best I’m going to do in following Dorothy’s advice is just think of “nine bean rows” as I plant my short rows in May. I suppose I could also interpret “nine bean rows” as nine varieties of beans… which means if I add scarlet runner beans to my list, I’m three bean varieties short…
Anyone have any recommendations for favorite beans to grow that aren’t on my list?