Beans, which come in many varieties, are very easy vegetables to grow.
Basic Bean facts
Name – Phaseolus vulgaris
Family – Fabaceae
Type – annual
Height – 1 ⅓ to 13 feet (40 to 400 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – light, not too moist
Harvest – 2 to 4 months after sowing depending on the variety
Caring for beans requires attention to details that will help you grow a bountiful harvest and avoid diseases.
Beans are sown directly in the ground in spring and summer.
- April to August for string beans
- April to June for dry beans
Wait for mid-May in northern areas, but if you live in milder climates you can start planting in April.
- The last frost must have passed already before sowing and the soil must have a temperature of around 50 to 55°F (10 to 12°C).
- If you think a late frost spell might hit again, protect your seedlings.
- Sow them in subsequent batches to extend the harvest season.
How to sow beans
It is best to sow when soil temperature is above 60°F (15°C), ideally around 65°F (18°C).
- Sow in rows and thin to 16 inches (40 cm) or sow in seed holes with 4 to 5 seeds per seed hole.
- Beans don’t grow well in heavy clay-laden soil.
Dwarf bean varieties are easiest to grow because they don’t require staking.
- Space your seeds at least 1 ½ to 2 inches apart within a row.
- Dig a 1 inch (3 cm) groove and place a seed every 1 ½ inches.
- Place rows at least 16 inches (40 cm) apart.
Pole bean, snap bean and shelling bean varieties
- Sow in seed holes with one seed hole every 16 inches (40 cm).
- Place rows at least 28 inches (70 cm) apart.
Ridge the base all the way up to the first pair of leaves about 2 weeks after sprouting.
- Hoe the surface at that point, and again every time the soil surface hardens.
- Place stakes for pole beans so that they may grow along them.
How to attach your beans along their poles
Best is to stake poles along rows, encasing 2 rows of beans between the stakes. Stakes should then be brought to meet at the top, where a long horizontal rod connects them all.
Stakes should also be 10 feet (3 meters) tall, and are best made out of bamboo or hazel branches to bear the weight and the moisture.
Place stake pairs every 16 inches (40 cm), so that beans can cover the entire area.
How can you tell when to harvest the beans, so that they aren’t either too ripe or too young?
- String beans are harvested when they reach half their final length, when they are around 4½ to 6 inches (12 to 15 cm) long.
- Don’t wait until the skin gets hard to harvest the beans.
- If they are harvested too late, they will turn fibrous and not so palatable…
For other types of beans like snap beans, wait for grains to appear.
How often should beans be harvested
Ideally, harvest beans every 2 or 3 days to induce continued flowering and let the plant produce correctly.
Snap beans should be harvested slightly less often (every 3 days).
String beans don’t keep for very long, unless they are frozen.
- 2 or 3 days in a cool and ventilated space.
- Several months at least in a freezer.
Diseases and parasites that attack beans
Most often, the diseases that attack beans are black spot disease, rust and halo blight.
- Black spot disease is when brown spots appear on leaves.
- Rust is when yellow-orange spots (like rust) appear on leaves.
- Halo blight is a type of fungus that leads to yellow spots appearing on leaves.
- More on the different types of bean blight
The best treatment against these diseases is to spray Bordeaux mixture preventively and routinely when the weather is warm and moist (for example, after it rains in summer).
As for parasites, you’ll possibly discover aphids, slugs, spider mites or the famous bean weevil.
Smart tip about beans
- Beans are vulnerable to cool temperatures, so full sun is recommended.
- Avoid over-watering because this plant doesn’t like too much moisture.
Water in reduced amounts when the soil is dry.
- Vitamin-rich beans are great side dishes since these vegetables have high nutrition value.
Pixabay: Mark Dixon