Beans Garden Guide

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Beans Care At A Glance

  • Beans are mostly warm-season crops planted after soils have warmed to 60°F.
  • Require well-drained, organically rich soils with average pH and low nitrogen levels.
  • Beans are legumes that benefit from additions of fresh inoculant at planting.
  • Bush beans are high yielding, quicker to mature, take up less room, and require no support.
  • Pole beans will produce in 60 days or more, and require more space and support.

Planting Instructions

  • Start seeds indoors as you would other vegetables or direct sow when soils are warm.
  • Use pre-moistened, seed starting mix free from fertilizer in trays, cell packs, or peat pots.
  • Sow seeds 1 inch deep, place trays or pots on consistent bottom heat of 75°-85°F, and cover the tray with a plastic dome or wrap to help retain moisture and supply warm water as needed.
  • After emergence, uncover, remove from bottom heat, and place seedlings in bright direct sun or under grow lights with cooler room temperature, while maintaining adequate moisture.
  • As seedlings develop true leaves, transplant them into slightly larger containers with clean, fresh pre-moistened potting soil and water as needed.
  • If seedling growth stalls out, which is common in cold soils, fertilize with 4-6-8 or 6-6-6 water-soluble food once per week, at 1/2 strength.
  • When plants are large enough, harden off for 5-7 days prior to planting out after the threat of frost has passed.
  • Add fresh inoculant to furrows just prior to sowing seed or sprinkle into planting holes for rooted transplants.
  • Start new seeds by direct sowing in mid-summer for fall crops.
  • Direct sowing bush varieties use 2 to 4 inches spacing with rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Pole bean seed is planted 4 to 6 inches apart with 3 feet between rows or plant 3-5 seeds in hills 30 inches apart.

Growing Guidelines

  • Inoculant added at planting time, as mentioned above, is one of the most important cultural recommendations for yielding healthy bean plants. Inoculants are microbes that develop a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with the roots of legume plants that allow the plants to fix the atmospheric nitrogen they need for proper, healthy growth. Without them, plants are more easily stressed by adverse weather or cultural conditions and become more susceptible to insect and disease pressures.
  • Bean plants benefit from initial light fertilizer feedings, but excess nitrogen can interfere with flower and pod development while encouraging mostly foliage growth which is more susceptible to diseases and pests.
  • Bean plants benefit from mulching. Mulching around plants with 2-3 inches of compost or mulching material helps maintain soil moisture, regulates soil temperature, and aids in weed suppression.
  • Although beans are warm-season plants, hot, dry, windy weather leads to adverse issues like reversion, lack of flowers, flower drops, poor pod production, and poor pod quality. Adhering to the earliest planting times possible, using fresh inoculants, mulching, and supplying consistently adequate water help to reduce adverse issues from weather and temperatures we have little control over.
  • For pole beans, erect wires or supports at the time of planting or just after seedlings emerge. A recommendation is to use bean netting with large holes for easier harvests, strung between two rigidly anchored poles.
  • Harvest of beans boils down to picking for quality, not for size. Bean pods left hanging too long lose quality, so pick pods frequently starting at their smallest harvestable size. Quick guide, if seeds are bulging out of the pod, they are too big, pick quickly. With beans, as pods are picked, plants are encouraged into more production, especially pole beans that should be harvested from the bottom up to keep them producing until frost.
  • Plant new bush bean seeds in mid-summer for a fall crop in most areas.

Growth Habits

Pole - indeterminate (vining/climbing) tall plants (6-12 feet) that require support from trellis, nets, and pole teepees. Plants bear flowers & fruit in the leaf axils and continue to bear pods throughout the season until frost, as long as weather permits. (When temps. get too hot, pollination is halted with little to no fruit set. With lower temps, plants can resume production)

Bush - determinate plants that bear flowers in clusters at the tips of their shoots. Once flowers form, the growth of the plant stops, and plants then put energy into producing clusters of fruit. All bush-type bean cultivars came from pole bean types that can revert to native bean habits when plants become stressed. (See Reversion below)

Reversion - Under environmental and cultural stresses, some bush beans can revert to the vining growth habit of their close genetic pole bean parents. Otherwise, stringless pods can develop strings, become tough, or form flat pods because of existing recessive, temperature-dependent genes. Conditions like high temperatures, drought, nutritional imbalances, along with other stresses are triggers for reversion. Avoid these common problems by following the proper growing conditions listed above in the Growing Guidelines section.

Types of Beans

  • Green Beans - a.k.a. Snap Bean, String Bean - All names refer to the same type of bean. These can have either bush or pole-type growth habits. 'Derby', 'Contender', 'Provider', 'Kentucky Wonder' (pole).
  • Wax Beans - are green beans without the green color. Wax beans are usually yellow or gold in color, but purple selections can also be referred to as wax beans. Most typically have a more mild, less bitter flavor. 'Monte Gusto', 'Cherokee', 'Purple Queen'.
  • French or Filet Beans - (a.k.a. Haricot verts) are skinny green beans. Must be harvested frequently (every other day) at an immature size, usually 4 to 5 inches length. If left to grow larger they will produce a pesky string which makes them less desirable for cooking and eating. 'Borsalino', 'Fortex', 'Nickle'.
  • Broad Bean or Fava Bean - flat pod beans are a cool season crop. Temps over 70°F will prevent pods from setting. Romano refers to an Italian type of broad bean. Can be eaten raw when harvested at the appropriate time, when pods are 5 to 6 inches long. They can get longer, but pods get tough, and beans should be removed and prepared like lima beans. Odd but true: Persons of Mediterranean descent can be allergic to Fava beans.
  • Lima Bean - a.k.a. Butterbean, Butter Pea - also a wide bean but pods are not eaten, beans removed to prepare. Lima beans are warm-weather plants. They must have warm soil to germinate and do well in warmer temps. They can be bush like 'Burpee's Improved', 'Fordhook 242' or Pole type that needs support or trellis like 'Christmas' or 'King of the Garden'.
  • Cowpea - a.k.a. Black-eyed Peas, Stock peas, Southern peas, Crowder peas - versatile legumes originally from Africa, now grown in Latin America, the Southern and Western U.S. as well as Southeast Asia. Immature pods can be picked and used just like green beans or fresh seeds can be boiled or eaten fresh, canned, or frozen. When dried, seeds are suitable for boiling and canning.
  • Runner Beans - common as ornamental for their attractive blooms. Perennial in warmer climates, these strong vining legumes hail from South & Central America. Heirlooms dating back to pre-Columbian times. 'Scarlet Runner' bean is first mentioned in cultivation in the U.S. by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in 1812. Beans are totally edible but should be harvested when small and tender as other pole-type beans. Mostly warm season plants 'Painted Lady' and 'Sunset Runner'. Runner beans tolerate shade better than other bean types do but may not bloom as profusely.
  • Shelling or Dry Beans - Shell beans are those whose pods are removed with just the seeds inside is used. Fresh, soft beans can be cooked - often steamed or stir-fried, or beans can be left to dry to be cooked later or made into soups. Bush forms are popular short-day types 'Hidalgo', 'Vermont Cranberry'. For true Dry beans, many varieties need a longer number of days. Dry beans can be quite colorful and flavorful. Dozens of selections exist and may seem almost endless in their differences and histories. Most dry bean varieties are considered heirlooms dating back centuries. Dry beans were some of the offerings buried with the Egyptian Pharos. 'Amish Knuttle', 'Calypso', and 'Jacob's Cattle' are some favorite varieties along with more popular or common types 'Pinto' & 'Red Kidney'.
  • Soybean - Edamame is technically a preparation of immature (tender) soybeans in their pods from East Asia, not a variety. Young pods are boiled or steamed in water with sea salt. The Japanese version is to blanch pods in salt water, then serve hot. Home garden soybeans are usually shelled then prepared or dried, cooked for a snack or tasty condiment. Edible vegetable soybean 'BeSweet 292'.
  • NOTE: Most commercially grown soybeans are used for oil and ground meal for animal feeds. Some increase in human consumption via soy milk and plant-based products has fueled their demand.