Gardening when it Counts
An interesting coincidence and a way to grow food in harsh conditions
What you’re looking at is a mystery. See the plant with the tiny white flowers? It’s a weed and like all weeds it just grows wherever it can.
If you look a little closer you’ll see a larger plant growing out of the weeds. It’s a cowpea, a member of the peas and beans family. I didn’t plant it there, we grow them in other parts of my back yard using amended soil. This particular plant made its way into the patch of weeds and sprouted.
But there’s something strange going on.
Both plants are growing entirely in sand. My back yard consists of lifeless sugar sand and weeds. Water flows off of it the way it skates of a duck. But somehow, the patch of weeds provided a soft spot for the bean to grow.
The bean in turn seems to be helping the weed patch. Where they both grow, the patch of weed is greener and more vibrant than anything else growing in the sand.
I suspect the bean plant is providing nitrogen to the soil (because members of the bean family are nitrogen fixing plants). They take nitrogen from the air, concentrate it into their roots and apparently share it with the surrounding plants.
The weed in turn is likely creating a supportive medium in the root zone where beneficial bacteria proliferate to benefit both plants given that both seem to be thriving in what would otherwise be an inhospitable environment.
I’ll keep the experiment going, I’ll provide a climbing trellis for the bean and see what kind of yield it will provide with no amendments or fertilizers. If It gives a decent harvest, I will be gobsmacked.
Experienced gardeners will tell you companion planting is a way plants help each other to grow. I’ve seen people grow beans under their fruit trees for the same reason: to provide a continuous source of nutrition for fruit trees.
But the fact that beans will grow in sand makes me re-evaluate many of the ideas I have about gardening. And that perhaps the right living root may well be transformational to dead soil.