Sunday, May 16, 2021

All you need know to grow green (or purple or yellow) beans

Marigold on left, squash on right with bean vines on trellis behind
Sunday May 16, 2021

Beans have been cultivated for thousands of years all around the world.  Fava type beans hail from the Old World while the types used for dry and green beans are from the New World.  Pole beans were part of the Three Sisters of Native Americans along with squash and corn.  Not only do they taste great, but they add nitrogen to the soil and are easy to "put away" for winter eating.  

Beans are some of the easiest and most productive vegetable to grow in the garden.  They have little to no pests or diseases, and require little care.  With a trellis or pole, you can get a lot of beans from very little space in the garden with pole beans.

Beans love sun, well drained soil, and a side dressing of fertilizer or compost when planted.  Don't get carried away with fertilizer during the growing season or you will have all greenery and no pods.  Be sure to not water the foliage; stick with watering at the ground to avoid fusarium wilt.

Beans are part of the legumes which include fava beans, shell beans (like the popular red, kidney, Great Northern beans), green beans, lima beans, peanuts, lentils, and soybeans.  Legumes have some of the highest protein in the plant world.  When combined with grains, you get a complete protein like you do from meat or eggs.  Raw bean nutritional info

When you plant beans, be sure to use a rhizobial bacteria inoculant.  You just moisten the seed and coat with the rhizobial powder and plant.  Nitrogen accumulates on the roots of the legume.  Just be sure to not pull the plant when you are done harvesting from it so that the nitrogen stays in the soil!

Beans are summer crops and there are many bush and pole varieties.  Bush varieties come into bear just before pole types and usually have one major flush of beans.  Pole beans produce continuously all summer to frost.  Both require soil temps of at least 60 degrees F.  Start after all danger of frost has passed. Plant 1” deep and as close as 4” apart for pole types and 12” apart for bush types.  Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days.  I planted my seeds this week since we have had such a cool spring.
Trellis on right completely covered in pole beans
The vining types typically grow to 8 foot long and some as long as 15 feet so a trellis is needed.  If you don't have a trellis that tall, just snip the vine when it gets to the top of the trellis or just let them fall over.  They will do just fine that way, just makes it a treasure hunt to find the beans!  I think the most efficient trellis design is one that you can tilt over.  Then the weight of the beans will cause them to hang down, making them a breeze to pick.  If you have the room for this design (you can use one that you can lean against a building), just be sure that it is situated so the vine greenery gets maximum sun.

I grow ours on a 5 foot trellis.  Last year I just let them go and the vines were at least 10 feet long. They grew up and then fell over and were back down to the ground and snaking out to find other stalks to vine onto. 

Beans can be grown in either pots or in the ground.  Since beans are growing during the hotter time of year, watering is important to keep them productive.  Just be sure to not water the foliage.  Beans produce over a long period of time.  To keep them making beans, be sure to harvest frequently.  Pole beans produce over the longest period of time, which is why I always grow them.

Runner bean pods are edible and produce beautiful flowers in red, white or peach.  Some are even perennial in Zone 6 and higher.  If you harvest just when the bean seeds begin to swell, you can eat as snap beans.  If you wait, you can dry and eat the bean seeds like any dried bean.

I prefer to grow the “stringless” types so I don’t have to remove the string when I put them up.  Most varieties grown today are stringless if harvested on time.  It takes much longer and you get less per plant if you let the pods dry on the vine.  I freeze my extra green beans.  By freezing, I can harvest every other day and just add the new ones to the freezer bag.  Freezing the extras for winter   If you decide you want to can beans, you'll need a pressure canner as green beans are low acid veggies.  You can pickle beans with just a big pot.  Easy, low tox canning of summer's bounty  If you are growing storage beans, just be sure they have dried thoroughly before storing in something like a Mason jar so they don't mold.
Purple podded bean
You get the most beans from those that you eat the whole bean versus shelling type beans.  So, if space is limited, "green bean" types are the best.  I tried storage beans in the past and got one quart out of 10 plants.  I got many, many quarts of beans from the vines I picked for freezing as green beans from half the number of vines.

I like the Romano type beans, the ones that are large and flat.  I also grow the runner beans for their flowers and harvest early for snap beans. The varieties I have grown in the past are all vine types-Romano II, Scarlet Runner, Golden Sunshine Runner, Purple Podded and Bean Blauhilde and storage beans-Portal Jade, Good Mother Stollard and King of the Garden lima beans.  This year I am only growing the Purple Podded vines for fresh "green" beans that I will freeze.  With green beans, I don't blanch, I just pick and freeze. 

This year for green beans, I am growing Blauhilde (purple pole bean), Romano (Italian green pole bean), Northeastern (Italian by way of New York heirloom), Greasy Grits cornfield bean (green Kentucky heirloom bean) and Winged Bean.  I found out pole beans used to be called cornfield beans because they were grown next to corn so they could use the corn stalks as a trellis like the Native Americans taught the settlers.  It will be fun to try a Kentucky heirloom and the unusual winged bean.  Both are supposed to be tasty.

I am also growing another Kentucky heirloom, a butter bean called Christmas Speckles.  It is a red and white speckled lima bean.  Back in the day, they were called butter beans.  You don't get a large harvest from dried beans because there is only one fruiting.  With green beans, you keep harvesting and the vine keeps giving you more.

For watering, the rule of thumb I use is that the garden should get a deep watering once a week.  If we haven't gotten a nice drenching rain in more than a week, then I water.  We have a drip hose that runs throughout the garden bed that is covered by mulch.  This keeps the moisture going into the ground instead of evaporating.    Summer garden tips

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