gabriola garden

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Scarlet Runner Beans, Bumblebees, and Super Dogs

Our Squash crop is coming along nicely. I also planted some Swiss Chard, and it’s not doing badly. We’re harvesting the Lettuce for our nightly salads, and our Tomatoes are going from green to red as we speak. Some of Sara’s Flowers are still gracing our garden with their lovely blooms.

I wonder if other gardeners in our part of the world have noticed a dearth of honeybees this summer? There seems to be an insidious mite going around that is keeping the bee population down. Where Sara and I notice it most is on our Scarlet Runner Beans.

Even though the Beans (Phaseoulus coccineus) are more abundant in growth and flowers than ever before, the number of beans seems to have gone down from last year. The scarlet blooms, which are so characteristic of this climber, are wanting for pollination from our buzzing friends.

During my early morning waterings, I have noticed much fewer bees this summer than in previous years. Usually they swarm around the lavender, and they also like the beans, as do hummingbirds. But with the exception of a few single bees, I haven’t seen them in groups for quite a while.

If you would like to grow these prolific beans (and hopefully bumblebees are more numerous where you are) all you have to do is to build a bamboo structure (we chose to build a cube, but you can do a circular structure with the poles sloping inwards and tying the tops, to create a teepee) and start them from seed each year, since they are an annual.

I like to have a spoonful of raspberry jam on my cereal each morning, so I save my glass jam jars all winter, wash them out and use them to germinate the bean seeds in the spring. It helps to put the seeds into wet paper towels. Using a glass jar means that you can see them as they sprout their first shoots.

Sara makes sure that the soil underneath the bamboo structure is fertile, by adding a bunch of organic matter (composted kitchen parings and rotting horse manure to be precise). As soon as the weather is consistently warm, we plant the seeds.

My wise partner likes to plant marigolds around the “bean house,” as we call it. These flowers ward off unwanted pests. Each year by the beginning of August the structure is overrun with the bean plants, which used to provide a convenient shaded spot for Sara and Hedgehog to cuddle underneath in the heat of summer, to read our daughter’s favorite storybooks. Nowadays Hedgehog is too big and busy with her electronic world to spend any time in the bean house, I’m afraid.

Be sure to use a 100% organic plant nutrient in order to make sure that the beans get enough nourishment. We prefer Advanced Nutrients products, Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, as well as Mother Earth Super Tea, Grow and Bloom. We also use Scorpion Juice to inoculate our plants against a whole array of pathogens.

Sara is taking the kids to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver tomorrow. Although we prefer our local, small-scale fair, there is something to be said for this huge exhibition with its hundreds of exciting attractions. Hedgehog and Jim like the Super Dogs Show the best. It is truly astounding how smart some of these canines are and how well trained they can become. Hedgehog then usually comes home and tries to get Max to perform some of the tricks, but to no avail.

Alas, dad has to stay home and work. Then it’s the last long weekend of the summer, and back to the grindstone for everybody.

posted by Tim at 7:09 AM


  • hello Tim and Sara
    Thank you so much for your comment on my blog.
    I have just loved reading about your gardening adventures and your lives there.
    There was a decade or two where I cultivated and propagated on a large scale, especially herbs, but for various reasons, I must now mostly be content to enjoy the old faithfuls that make their appearance in the garden and woodland each year.
    My email is
    Would love to contact you more directly.
    What part of New Zealand did Sara's mother come fromYou must certainly plan on visiting this part of the world some time!

    By Blogger Mary on Norfolk Island, at 11:13 PM  

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