This year, in planning our garden, we made a mistake.
We planted a lot of winter squash. We picked two varieties: Delicata, and a giant kind I don’t know the name of but what we call Sasquash. We chose Delicata because it is supposed to taste very good. We chose Sasquash because it is supposed to be absolutely enormous.
Our friend Christl gave us the Sasquash seeds from the ones she grew last year. Christl is not one to be seduced by the novelty of a thirty-pound squash; she thought last year’s were watery and bland, and opted not to replant this year.
We tasted her squash last year, and it was watery and bland. But a thirty-pound squash? You gotta have one. We planted four plants. Or maybe five. I left plenty of room between them, and planned to corral them toward the back of the garden, where there was lots of space, as they grew.
Words like “plenty” and “lots” are tellingly unspecific. What looked like oceans of space when the plants were three inches tall proved woefully insufficient for the real estate needs of the Sasquash. When I marveled at the sheer biomass of the plants, Kevin pointed out to me that, If you’re going to turn sunlight into thirty pounds of bland, watery squash, you need serious solar panels. Each squash plant put out tentacles as long as twenty feet, the length of which are studded with leaves that can measure two feet across. Serious, indeed.
The row of pepper plants at the front of the garden was the first casualty, as the tentacle I ran in front of them swallowed them up. Then came the collard greens next door (although one behemoth is holding its own in the large-leaf department). The eggplants are still holding their heads above water, but it’s touch and go.
A few weeks back, looking at my overgrown squash patch, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea.
Amazing, isn’t it, how every idea seems brilliant when you have it. It occurs to you, and you are blinded by the brightness that the light bulb over your head is putting out. You’re a genius! Only when you follow the idea down the garden path do you find its flaws, which, if your ideas are anything like mine, are many and varied.
Here was my idea: pole beans.
Pole beans! If I planted pole beans in the squash patch, the plants would quickly grow over the level of the squash leaves. The squash, meanwhile, would act as a mulch and prevent weeds from growing up around the beans.
No sooner said than done. Kevin set up two little teepees of eight-food poles, and I planted beans at the base. It was the beginning of August, a little late for beans, but I wanted to give it a try.
It was only a few days later that I had sprouts. Beautiful, sturdy little bean sprouts, growing right in the teepee. Everything was going according to plan.
A few days after that, I had little stumps of sprouts, with all the leaves bitten off.
I had my suspicions, but I broke out the Varmintcam to catch the culprit red-pawed.
Over the course of our procure-your-own project, we have considered raising rabbits for meat. They’re easy to raise, I’ve been told, and they’re one of the most inexpensive and least labor-intensive ways to grow your own protein. I understand all the ideas in favor, but there’s something about the idea of killing cute furry bunnies on a regular basis that doesn’t appeal to me. But it’s looking a lot better since one of those self-same cute furry bunnies got into my garden and ate my pole bean sprouts. That kind of thing has a way of hardening you to the species.
It didn’t help that the same rabbit, or one of his close relations, got into the hoophouse and ate my beet sprouts.
Cute furry bunnies, my ass. Mangy, lop-eared varmints.
It was only after my neighbor Mike mentioned that beans and squash were two of the traditional Three Sisters (corn being the third) did I realize I wasn’t the first to have the idea of pairing them. Planting the vertical with the horizontal is an idea that goes back to the dawn of agriculture. Beans and squash are a time-honored partnership.
And they both go very well with rabbit.