In all my years of gardening, never have I failed to harvest a bumper crops of beans until this year and wouldn’t you know that the National Garden Bureau had declared 2021, the year of the garden bean! Beans are easy to grow. Beans are prolific. Fresh beans, just picked, lightly cooked, and served with a bit of butter and salt are delectable. Not to mention, they are essential items in 4 bean salads, green bean potato salad, and green bean casseroles. Also, they freeze nicely for winter soups and stews.

Usually I grow some bush beans and some pole beans. For bush beans, I am partial to Provider, Nickel and French Fillet although I do try others from time to time. I look for good flavor, big harvests, and disease resistance.

As far as pole beans go, I plant a mixture of green (Kentucky Blue) and wax beans (Monte Gusto) along with one scarlet runner bean (Lady Di) per pole. Three tree saplings are dug into the ground with their tops tied together forming a bean pole teepee. Six to 8 seeds are planted at the base of each pole.  I plant scarlet runner beans not for me but for the hummingbirds as they love those red blossoms.

Bean trellis before planting. Photo by dmp2021

This year the garden started off fantastic. Seeds of warm season crops like beans and zucchini were planted the weekend after Memorial Day (as you might remember that was cold and rainy). June was sunny and dry but with moist soils, so seeds germinated, and plants grew.

Beans looked great by early July. Photo by dmp2021

All was well until we spotted the cutest little rabbit nibbling on clover and plantain by the driveway. How much damage could one rabbit do? Every few years we would spot a rabbit or even two but usually they disappeared after a few weeks perhaps due to hawks, foxes, or other predators. Heavily forested land, in back of our property, was cleared this past year to put up solar panels and I have not heard nor seen the red-tailed hawks that used to patrol our property. Their nesting sites had probably been destroyed.  

Bunny eating clover. Photo by dmp2021.

There are two species of rabbits found in Connecticut and surrounding states. The New England cottontail is native to this area while the eastern cottontail was introduced. Both species look quite similar but apparently about half of the eastern cottontails have a white marking on their foreheads. Native New England cottontails, however, are in precipitous decline and CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been creating and managing sites for early successional growth and young forests to encourage good habitat for this species.  

For a few weeks, the rabbits – now there were two – stayed out of the garden area. My bush beans were thriving and my pole beans were starting to climb. I was hoping they would quickly reach heights beyond a rabbit’s reach. All the rain in July lead to one soggy garden and the plants received too much water and too little sun to develop in a rapid manner.

Checking my garden after work one day, it looked like the bush beans had been discovered and feasted upon and all I was left with was a measly handful as my 2021 green bean harvest.

These were all the beans the rabbits left. Photo by dmp2021

Not really having proper fencing materials on hand, I surrounded my pole bean teepee with some short picket fencing with row cover draped over it thinking that should keep the rabbits out until the beans start climbing up the poles. The next day we could see bunny standing on his/her hind leg legs with the front paws on the makeshift fence and the day after that all the pole beans were gone to.

Rabbit by pole bean makeshift fence. Photo by dmp2021.

Between the rain, heat, and mosquitoes this has been a tough year on many gardeners. It was good for pesto, pickles, and peppers but the tomatoes and summer squash, in my gardens at least, succumbed early to disease. I decided to stop fighting Mother Nature and just start cleaning up the garden beds. Next year will be a more bountiful one – at least as far as beans go – says the ever-optimistic gardener!

Dawn P.