Kwintus Bean: The ‘Kwintussential’ Bean

I should be so lucky that my worst problem this week was fearing that my burgeoning Kwintus beans in the Three Sisters garden were flat. Ye gads! Not flat beans!

Kwintus Beans

The Internets said flat pole beans could be a sign of a bum batch of seeds, or poor soil, or the apocalypse. Whoa.

Thankfully, I kept my head about me and went back to the seed package. Turns out, Kwintus beans are supposed to be flat. It’s very common for many heirloom bean varieties, such as Kwintus beans, to start out flat and stay flat.

Kwintus beans


The Kwintus beans are on the bottom left, and regular, ole bush snap beans on the left. You can see the Kwintus beans are much flatter and “bumpier” than the regular beans. That’s A-OK.

Kwintus Beans


I like the taste of the Kwintus beans much better than the bush beans, which have an ever-so-slightly woody texture. I mean, it’s not like chewing on a stick, but comparing beans to beans, the Kwintus beans are much more tender and flavorful.  Still, they have definitely been much slower to get going, so I think there’s always going to be a place for bush beans and pole beans in my yarden.

Good News/Bad News on Growing Corn

Operation Growing Corn 2015 is kind of a mixed bag at the moment.  On the one hand, the corn is starting to tassel at the top and drop its pollen.

growing corn

growing corn

I even have one stalk that has a little ear and corn silks forming.

growing corn

But, a raccoon or something else sinister seems to be systematically annihilating a single stalk of corn each day. It’s happening around the perimeter of the area where I’m growing corn, so while I do think the Three Sisters planting is helping deter the nasty creature/s, it’s certainly not been 100% effective. Bummer, I know, Hilda.

And other, far tinier tormentors, are harshing on my  mellow. Hundreds of greenish/blueish/icky-ish corn aphids have descended. Of course, I used my trusty aphid soap solution found here (it’s good for blight, aphids, rickets, scurvy, dandruff or just about anything else that ails ya).

Aphids may be disgusting and make me feel itchy when I see them, but most sources said that corn aphids in particular don’t usually pose any real threat to growing corn. Still, it felt good to put a dent in the dastardly population with my spray.

growing corn

See the big ant on the left? Just when you thought the whole thing couldn’t get any grosser, ants actually “milk” sticky sap from aphids, similar to the way humans milk cows. So, if you suddenly see a bunch of beefy ants hanging around your plants, there’s a good chance aphids are nearby.

growing corn

While I admit the picture above is super yuck, thanks to the the trail of crispy, black aphid bodies letting me know the soap spray is working, it’s not quite as grody as you might think. The white stuff is just flakes of dried soap, and the things on the leaves that look like grains of rice are just from the corn tassle.

So, anyway, that’s what’s happening here: growing corn, cursing the racoons, and killing aphids. How about you?


Giving the Neighbors a Reason to Talk Since 2011 (Adventures in Garden Design)

Several years ago, we had some extensive sewer work done that tore up the front yard. In one part of a front bed, it left us with kind of an eight-inch cliff where the grass stopped and the front bed started. Not an ideal element for garden design. Here’s an old picture that kinda shows it:

garden design

It’s hard to see. But, anyway, because our house and yard sit up off the street, you can imagine a wee little cliff as the first thing people see when they walk by. Not pretty.

I could have just brought in a bunch of top soil, but the bed is edged by a retaining wall, and I’d have to grade carefully so the soil didn’t just wash away over the wall. I’m not sure I would make the grade (pun!) because maybe you’ve learned by now that “careful” isn’t one of my best qualities in terms of garden design. While I’m very thoughtful and careful at work (hi, Boss Lady!), I’m more of a “big picture” person when it comes to the yard.

So, when I saw an idea on Pinterest for a border made of wine bottles, I think I literally shouted, “Bingo!” and probably scared/scarred the dog a little bit.

It was a perfect solution to hide our cliff and add some pizazz to the garden design.

Initially I thought I’d just collect wine bottles as we … emptied them. A hitch to that plan, though, is we tend to drink boxed wine mostly. Yep, you read right. We actually really like a few boxed wines, with Black Box Merlot topping our list. We’ve tried some of the other Black Box varieties and are not as woo-hoo about them, but we also like the Bota Box Merlot and the Big House Red in a pinch. So there you have it: Proof from a real-live fancy pants chef that boxed wine is A-OK. Life is too short, man. Drink what you like.

Moving on. I reached out to friends and fam and while they were happy, as always, to help with my crazy plans, I calculated I needed approximately 80 bottles. Whoa! It soon became clear I’d need another bottle source if I wanted this done before 2018. Enter EDWINS Restaurant and the good folks there who saved bottles for me! (Thank you, Tashika!!!!)

I thought about just “planting” the bottles as-is with the labels, but I suspected they would get pretty groady before long, so I opted to remove the labels. The first step was soaking the bottles. I just put them in the kitchen sink, but any big container filled with water would work. I also filled the bottles up with water to weigh them down and keep them submerged. You’ll need to soak the bottles at least an hour, though longer is better – even overnight if you can.

garden design

Yep, that’s a snowman soap dispenser. Yep, it’s August. Keepin’ Christmas alive.

After soaking, some of the labels just unpeeled themselves, earning them a spot as my favorite wines. Shout out to the awesome vinters of Chateau Gonin Bordeaux 2010, Weinkelter Riesling Kabinett 2012, Joseph Drouhin Meursault Perrieres Premier Cru, and Sean Minor Caneros Pinot Noir 2012. I am sure your wine is outstanding, and your easy-peel labels are THE BEST.

Removing the labels from the rest of the bottles involved a little manual labor, but some of the bottles came with a handy tool that made it pretty easy: a screw cap! Yes! After wasting time with a metal scrubbie (technical term), I channeled my ancestral ape and used the screw cap as a scraper. It worked beautifully!

Some of the bottles still had glue residue; that’s when I found the metal scrubbie and some dish soap did the trick to take off that glue lickety split. You could certainly use something like Goof Off, but these are going near edible plants, so I wanted to keep it clean.

So, bottles in hand, I just stuck them in the ground and gave the neighbors a green light to speculate how we procured that many bottles.


That’s it, really. I did have to do a little digging to get some bottles in, as the soil is pretty clay-y, but it was pretty easy to zen out with this garden design project. I have one side/one bed done and am slowly working on the second side (the bed where the green beans live). I’ve already gotten tons of compliments on it from passersby, and I refer them (and you!) to Pinterest to check out the original posts I used for inspiration.

This blog offers up a thoughtful review and some points to consider before using wine bottles in your garden design, and I should note this is not a long-term solution for me, either. Next year, I plan to dig up, divide and likely rehome the perennial lilies and irises that live in these beds. I’ll probably decrease the size of the beds and keep things more manageable by by planting grass. Or maybe not.

I keep toying with the idea of tilling up all the grass in the front yard and going full-on, gratuitous, unapologetic cottage garden up in this mug. We’ll see how it shakes out, but for now I really like the look of the wine bottle border.