I had every intention of making a second attempt at growing Italian bush beans in my front bed this summer. But mother nature had other plans. If you were around in the 70’s, you know not to mess with her.
Last year, after the root knot nematode fiasco in this bed, I solarized the ground and then added new mulch made in my backyard. Almost immediately, random plants emerged from the seed left in the compost, but it was too late in the season for them to produce any food. I left them there until the first freeze, dug them up, found only healthy roots and thus declared myself victorious over the evil bean-plant-destroying nematodes.
Before I had time to get any bean seeds in the ground this spring, little sprouts began popping up again! This time I decided to leave them and see what happened. Small seedlings quickly morphed into fast-growing, leafy vines sporting yellow flowers.
The first plant to fruit left us puzzled over what it was. My gardening/knitting/baking friend April and I guessed either muskmelon (aka cantaloupe) or some exotic Japanese cucumber.
At first they were pale green spheres, but when the ridges and netting began to develop we knew they were muskmelons. Research showed that they would be ready to pick when the skin was mostly golden and the stem began to separate from the fruit. This stage is called “slip” because they slip right off the vine. No knives or shears needed.
This vine was very prolific but we didn’t save any seeds. The fruit had a robust melon-y flavor but was not very sweet. Probably because the original melon was a hybrid and the seeds of this second generation melon reverted back to one of its parents. Next year I’m going to plant an heirloom melon to avoid this problem. Any suggestions on a good variety?
The other three vines were easily identifiable as watermelon by their leaves. They shot out in every direction like kudzu and began to set fruit. I learned that baby watermelons have hair! The first one reached cucumber size and eventually grew into a behemoth about 2 feet long.
Watermelons are ready to pick when the bottom part that is against the ground turns from white to golden or yellow and the melon sounds hollow when you thump it. We harvested the ginganto melon and invited my mom and aunt over for a tasting. It was exquisite! The sweetest, most flavorful melon any of us had ever eaten. I saved the seeds and made watermelon rind pickles too.
The second vine produced a melon that split before it was ready to eat, but the third one still has a fruit making good progress. Every time I water it or check on it my mouth waters in anticipation.
And yesterday I removed the first two vines and finally planted those bean seeds in their places.