The last of the Scarlet Runner Beans. We had a good run.
The size difference between a newly harvested bean from a green pod and a dried bean from a brown pod is pretty staggering. It’s a good reminder that most of what we eat, and are, is water!
There was a colossal amount of plant matter to deal with after the final harvest, because each bean plant was over 3 metres tall, with 3-4 vines per plant.
About 1/4 of the plant matter from the beans has been shredded, and re-mulched into the same area: nitrogen-fixing legumes like beans do add nitrogen to the soil while they are alive, but they also hold a large amount of the nitrogen they create in their foliage: therefore it’s important to compost legumes, or use them as green manure, in order to maximise the efficiency of your garden system. In their place, I have planted a small fall crop of snow peas.
The other 3/4 of the plant matter is going on top of one of my hugelkultur mounds, just before I cover them with soil, newspaper, and bark chips, and stabilise them by planting shrubs. The decomposing leaf matter generates heat in the mounds, and this creates a small, warmer microclimate for the plants in the vicinity, while encouraging faster root growth and penetration in the colder months.
Using garden waste to build enclosed mounds is a part of the water-management strategy for this space as well. We are not very high above sea level, have a high water table, a lot of rain, and a collapsed gabion that fails to provide enough drainage. As such, the yard is prone to flooding.
Building organic mounds in your yard with garden waste will over time draw water up, with capillary action, or wicking (especially given they have an abundance of hyper-absorbent organic matter inside of them), and also increase the surface area for evaporation.
Disposing of your yard waste in this way is also a form of carbon /greenhouse gas sequestration. The gasses that are emitted as plant matter breaks down are somewhat contained, or at least released into the atmosphere as a slower rate when concentrated in reservoirs such as these, that are surrounded by air-filtering plant matter.