October 23, 2018
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A real-life ‘John and the Beanstalk’ tale grows in Brewer with two-story tall plant

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
John Gonya stands on a second-story landing of his house in Brewer on Sept. 20, by green bean plants that he grew from the ground to the landing.

A mass of vines clinging to the side of his house, the string beans grown by John Gonya in Brewer this summer are a sight to behold, reminiscent of the age-old fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

Starting at the ground, the bean plant has snaked its way up to Gonya’s second-story balcony, where it has wrapped around the railings and started to climb a pole that leads to a TV antenna on the roof.

“It would have kept going if I hadn’t stopped it,” Gonya, 63, said, explaining that he moved the vines so they’d grow sideways and not up, onto the top of his house. “I wouldn’t have been able to pick them up there.”

As it is, he’ll have to use a ladder to pick his beans this fall. On Sept. 20, many of them were already ripe.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
John Gonya stands on a second-story landing of his house in Brewer on Sept. 20, by green bean plants that he grew from the ground to the landing.

“I’ll eat a few,” he said. “I like green beans. But I’m going to have to bring some to the Salvation Army or something.”

Gonya, a registered Maine guide who specializes in fishing, didn’t plan to grow such a massive plant. This past spring, he decided to grow a few vegetables beside the duplex he owns, which is located in a suburban neighborhood in Brewer. He didn’t have a lot of space, so he planted a couple tomato plants, some cucumbers and — as a last minute decision — string beans.

More specifically, he grew Burpee Organic Blue Lake White-Seeded Garden Beans from an old seed packet he found in his kitchen drawer. And he only planted six seeds.

“They had to be around seven or eight years old,” he said. “I stumbled across them, and I couldn’t even imagine they were still good, but I guess they were.”

He planted the beans late, in the second week of June, then watched them grow — and grow.

“After they started growing past my stakes in the ground, I wondered if they could climb up some twine,” Gonya said. “I thought how nice it would be to just step out my second story door and pick beans.”

After all, the door leads right to his kitchen.

The six bean plants did just as he’d hoped, following the twine to create a bridge of lush vines to the landing. And along the way, the plants have produced hundreds of string beans.

Since he only used six of the seeds in the packet, he has plenty left for next year’s growing season.

“Next year I’m going to have them come right in the kitchen, take the window out, and just pick them and put them in the pot,” he said.

Like any proper fairy tale, Maine’s “John and the Beanstalk” contains an important lesson.

“I guess the moral of the story is, you really don’t need a lot of room to have a nice garden,” Gonya said.

Or a giant bean plant.

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