The nine plants of Sambucus canadensis exceeded my wildest expectations. After two years, they outgrew their space in the garden this summer. My sense is that they can be as vigorous and prolific as bamboo, but more gentle and forgiving. They, along with the passion vine, turned the garden into a jungle.

These were harvested on July 28, 2018. I lacked the organization to make a syrup for winter enjoyment.

The jungle, before culling begins.

08242018 elder JUNGLE 1
This and the following three photos taken on August 24, 2018. The majority of berries have been harvested at this point, though a few branches were still flowering.

08242018 elder jungle 00

08242018 elder JUNGLE 3

08242018 elder JUNGLE 4

Once the shrubs have been sufficiently topped, they must be dug up and transplanted to a more amenable situation.

09232018 elders WHEELBARROW
Resting in the shade awaiting their new home.
09122018 elder in pit
Being situated in their new location.
09172018 elders TRANSPLANTED
Hopefully they’ll be just as happy at the forest’s edge. The birds certainly will be.

Three sisters

This was the second time we’ve experimented with a traditional three sisters companion plant garden. It was more substantial (60′ x 100′) than the first, and suffered less predation from deer and raccoons and skunks. Its productivity has kept me fed up to the present and beyond. The varieties planted: Ohio blue clarage dent corn, Seminole pumpkin, and Cherokee cornfield pole snap bean. I didn’t realize the blue clarage corn was blue and white instead of pure blue. I may switch to a bluer version, but I was highly impressed with the productivity of this variety.

07242018 3 sisters APPROACH
July 24, 2018. Approaching the cornfield.
07242018 3 sisters CORN BEANS
The beans growing up the corn.
07242018 3 sisters CORN SQUASH
The squash creeping beyond the corn patch.
07242018 3 sisters INITIAL HARVEST
One of the first harvests – July 24, 2018. There are other squash besides the Seminole. The Seminole was by far the most prolific.


07242018 3 sisters chickens husks
The chickens don’t necessarily eat the corn husks, but it gives novelty to their routine.
09302018 3 sisters FINAL HARVEST
This was THE final harvest. September 30. All green squashes (with the exception of the flat bluish one in the center) are Seminole pumpkins. I could have easily harvested three times the amount of beans in that container.
10072018 3 sisters final
October 7, 2018. Cornfield no more.


10282018 goji
October 28, 2018

As in summer of 2017, this was a good year for gojis. I’ve noticed that the plants can be trained into a hedge. They spread by roots just below the surface – baby plants seem to emerge a few feet from the mother plant. The plants had red berries until the December snow.

These fresh berries do not have the same taste as the ones at the store (not as sweet). I air dried them to extend their useful life, and they had a drier (as opposed to chewy, raisin-like) texture. I’ll need to do research and/or continue experimenting next year.

08192018 insect goji 2
August 19, 2018
08192018 insect goji 3
August 19, 2018
08192018 insect goji
August 19, 2018



May flats

That is to say, flats that I started a while back, and how they look now, in May.



05212018 may flats
Tomatoes. I’m trying a couple of different varieties: Abraham Lincoln, Eva Purple Ball, and Green Zebra Stripe. I’ve also started some German Johnsons, but I may not ever plant them. Sadly, I did not start any Cherokee Purples.


05212018 may flats 2
Some I’m experimenting with. Clockwise from top left: natives not yet germinated; nasturtium + partridge pea; thermopsis/baptisia + amorpha + partridge pea; partridge pea; natives not yet germinated; baptisia/thermopsis; marigold + Jewels of Opar; Matchbox pepper (from seed I saved + Eritrean basil + Jewels of Opar. 

Garden roll call

Redbud, Cercis canadensis, in flower. Photo taken April 3. Previous post – redbud in bud, around March 22.

04032018 redbud

April 14. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Gou qi zi 枸杞). I’m experimenting to see how much fruit all of this new growth will produce. Also, I’ve heard anecdotally that the dried goji berries at the store are treated with a colorant to give them a redder hue. I will investigate this further.

04152018 goji

April 14. Jewels of opar (Talinum paniculatum). They survived the winter!!

04222018 jewels of opar

April 22. Heuchera spp. Enjoys the shade of the elderberry.

04222018 heuchera

April 22. A bit washed out due to the overcast sky, I suppose. A nice perennial polyculture, front, from left: figwort (Scrophularia marilandica), comfrey in flower (Symphytum spp.), back: Carolina lupine/Blue Ridge buck bean (Thermopsis villosa).

04222018 polyculture

Rooster Dance

Jack the yard rooster (Gallus gallus domesticus) and his successor who remains without name.

Jack, formerly the alpha, lost his eye in a fight with the black rooster, and so was demoted to beta male, and banished to the garden. Once, he got in a physical confrontation with the now-dominant black rooster, but, with only one eye and no longer at the peak of fitness, he literally ran away screaming like a scared child. It was humorous and bitter-sweet.

Now, all confrontations (rare as they may be) occur with a fence in between.

04012018 rooster dance 1
They mirror each other’s movements, in an age-old dance of dominance that probably dates back to their dinosaur ancestors.
04012018 rooster dance 2
First down, then up. Then the neck feathers flare out.

04012018 rooster dance 3

04012018 rooster dance 4
The black rooster has outgrown Jack. I suspect Jack has some banty genes.
04012018 rooster dance 5
Chickens really are tiny dinosaurs.

Scarlet Runner Bean

This bean has considerable potential for the market garden.

According to Suzanne Ashworth, author of “Seed to Seed,” Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) has numerous attributes that set it apart:

  • it originated in Central America. The dry bean, characterized as mealy, is part of the local cuisine in some places there;
  • widely used in England as a snap bean, and green shelly bean;
  • in colder climes, the tuberous roots can be dug up, stored in damp sand, and replanted in spring – this way, it will produce much more quickly than those planted by seed;
  • fairly easy to shell by hand;
  • they attract numerous pollinators.

11122017 purple hyacinth 2

Saving the seed

Ashworth notes that bean seed is fairly easy to save. Frozen storage is essential, as bean weevils tend to lay their eggs in the pods. The eggs die off after three days at 0°. If they hatch, one could lose all of the seeds. Before freezing, ensure that the beans are entirely dry: take several beans, place on a hard surface. Hit each with a hammer. If they shatter (instead of being squashed), they are ready to freeze. When removing from frozen storage, do not open the airtight container in which they are stored, because they’ll take in too much moisture at once. Wait 12 hours.

My experience

These beans were taken in after several days of rain. They were swollen with water. I let them dry inside out of direct sunlight for a week. Most of them seem dry enough to store, but I’ll do the hammer test and sacrifice a few.


I’m looking forward to growing these next year. I’d like to see if I could train them up an elderberry (though I may have to prune them back considerably as the elder give off considerable shade). I could also experiment with the indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa); but this would be a true experiment, as I’ve never intercropped with two legumes.

For a while, I dreamed to developing a cold hardy perennial bean, by crossing P. coccineus with P. polystachios, thicket bean, which is a native perennial. This could still be an opportunity.

11122017 purple hyacinth

Edit: this post was originally titled “Purple Hyacinth Bean” – I continue to get those two names mixed up, though they are completely different genus and species, and the purple hyacinth bean is toxic. My apologies.