Having snacks growing at the garden is a good motivation to get down there. Fresh green beans, tomatoes, peaches, plums and blueberries await the gardeners at various times of the year.
In order to maximize energy and space in the garden, many gardeners choose to co-plant multiple crops together in the same field. In the Beach flats garden, corn beans and squash are planted together in various formations according to each gardener’s experience and traditions. Corn beans and squash co-planting is known as a three sister garden and is common in many indigenous planting traditions. There are two ways in which corn and beans are commonly co-planted in the Beach Flats Garden. The more common method involves planting the corn 1 to 2 months ahead of the beans, so the corn has time to grow. This method produces a larger yield from the corn in exchange for a smaller quantity of beans. The other method involves planting them at the same time and allowing the beans to climb over the corn as it grows. The bean yield is greater while the corn is reduced. As the beans grow they feed the soil to the benefit of the corn beans and squash in the parcel. The third sister, squash, can be seen growing in the rows. The squash plants reduce evaporation and weed growth by making shade in the parcel. Vine squash can be trained to grow down the rows to maximize the effect. However a gardener chooses to plant, if the garden has corn beans and squash, its a happy garden.
Sugar cane or caña is a fun garden treat. A large bush of this tropical plant grows by the north fence of the garden by the banks of the San Lorenzo River. They are harvested periodically and used as a tasty snack on a hot summer day. Short pieces of the cane are peeled and cut to be enjoyed by the gardeners and their friends. I took some on a recent trip to the lake.
My sister Angela grew an impressive squash this year in San Lenadro, California. The variety is trombetta di albenga, and it is a long curved light green summer squash. While not grown at the Beach flats garden, I thought it was an impressive display of gardening.
Beans are generally a prolifically growing vine that will climb anything they can get their tendrils on. The more they have to climb, the more they will grow, and there are many ways to provide support for them. Planting beans with corn is an ancient and sacred way to co-pant these staple crops. The corn supports the beans and the beans nourish the soil as they grow; both plants benefit from the others presence. Also, a gardener can plant them next to a fence and they will climb it. A trellis or other structure can be custom built for the season if no fences are available. Some poles stuck in the ground with or without wires running between the is a good way to row crop beans. A tipi is an easy and sturdy way to make a very tall structure to maximize space. Finally, a gardener may choose to plant bush beans instead, these beans are self supporting and need no structures.