Monday, March 8, 2010

Gardeners Share

When the Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry gardeners went to Ladd's Farm Supply store, it was suggested that we try State half-runner beans instead of the Mountaineer half runners that we usually grow. However, we were also told that if we ever came across a variety called Alabama Black, we should grow those. The store hasn't been able to locate a supply, but those, apparently, are The Best Ever.

Amazingly, today I came home with some Alabama Black half runner beans. I was delivering 25 pounds of seed potatoes to the couple (Jack and Becky) who wanted to split a 50 pound sack with the PAR garden, and the conversation came around to the trip to Ladd's and what else we had bought. I mentioned the Alabama Blacks, and the next thing I knew I had a little bag of black beans in my hands.

About 50 years ago, someone gave a small handful of these beans to Becky's father, and the first year he grew those all out to seed. The next year, he grew enough both to eat and to save for replanting. The family has been growing them ever since.

It turns out that Jack has been hoping for a good crowder pea, so I am going to give him some of my Pigott Family Heirloom crowder peas. Even though they are not at all beautiful, I think they are the Most Delicious Crowder Peas Ever. The afternoon worked out amazingly well.

I also learned a little more about growing sweet potatoes in this area. Becky's father, who grew sweet potatoes to sell commercially, would dig out the planting bed to about 15 inches and lay freshly cut pine boughs (with lots of fresh needles) at the bottom, then pull the dirt back in before planting the sweets. This helped heat the soil. In later years, he just laid black plastic over the beds to heat the soil, but I am trying to avoid using any more plastic than I have to, so I think I may try the trick with the pine boughs this year (if, in May, I remember).


  1. Wow, that's interesting about the Sweet Potatoes, I can see how a bit of air insulation would heat the soil, but since he used pine boughs it would appear they like the acidity, too?!

  2. Sweet potatoes do take a slightly more acid soil than some other veggies; according to Purdue University's Extension office, 5.6-6.5. I think the decomposition is also partly what heats the soil, but I am not sure why pine boughs were chosen, other than that they are very easy to find around here. I will probably try this, though.


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