The saying goes, “when in doubt, plant a bean.” One reason? Beans grow easily from seed. You just stick them about 1.5 inches in the ground, cover em up and watch them grow. The seeds are big enough for kids to handle easily too. Just remember: all plants like well-drained soil dressed with organic material, and beans are no different. Add compost when you plant and some weeks later (after they get their 2nd set of leaves) as a mulch in warm weather.
Another reason folks love beans is that they “fix” their own nitrogen, a necessary plant nutrient. They help the soil by adding nitrogen back to it so you can stick with fertilizers high in phosphorous and potassium (the last 2 numbers on that bag of fertilizer). See note below if your garden is brand new.
Another great thing about beans is their variety! There are lots of beans to choose from: some produce fresh beans, like your basic green bean; there are also shelling beans, like lima beans; and finally just-for show-beans, like scarlet runner beans.
If you want the kind of beans that climb (and why wouldn’t you? vertical gardening is a great space saver) choose POLE beans over BUSH beans. The name will be on the packet. The most popular pole beans are Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake. Both are great.
I also love the Pencil Pod Black Wax bean, though it is a bush bean. I plant my bush bean seeds alongside my pole bean seeds so some grow up and some “bush” around the bottom.
Another plus? There are many beautiful varieties of heirloom bean seeds as well! Here’s my favorite source from my home town of Lancaster, PA.
Another bean tip: Beans like their water…like all summer veggies. Don’t let them dry out. However, they are also susceptible to powdery mildew so a drip system works best if you have the option. If not, watering in the morning and avoiding soaking their leaves works too.
I love architectural supports in the garden and beans provide an awesome opportunity for installing some. I use inexpensive bamboo teepees a lot too. Beans do not like having their roots disturbed which is why we plant them by seed. Do not plant any root vegetables near them for the same reason.
Another great reason for growing beans?
You don’t need to rotate the crop. Unlike many garden vegetables, you can plant beans and peas in the same spot year after year after year after year. And I hope you do!
Beans grow well in containers too.
Harvest fresh beans as early as you can…that is as soon as you can see any beans pressing against the pod. Beans can become tough if left on the vine. And picking them, signals to the plant to grow some more! Shelling beans will grow plump on the vine. Pick before they turn brown.
When bean season is over and your plants start to die, dig the plants down into the soil or if your bed is to shallow, add the plants to your compost bin. When bean plants decay, they release their nitrogen into the soil.
If your garden is new, you may want to coat your bean seeds in inoculant. This helps them fix nitrogen by introducing a necessary bacteria to the soil. I use Royal Peat which I get at my local nursery.
Best reason for growing beans…everyone loves how beans TASTE! This simple recipe involves boiling trimmed beans and sliced red potatoes together until all are tender and tossing with butter or Earth Balance. Salt & pepper and you’re done!
Enjoy! And Happy Planting.
- Borlotti Beans (thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com)