Growing beans in your garden

  Several varieties of beans in common use today were developed from beans grown by the American Indians. Beans originated in Central America but were well distributed in many parts of the western hemisphere before Columbus arrived.

   Snap beans, also known as garden beans and string beans, are grown for their immature pod. (The wax bean, however, has a yellow waxy pod.) Shell beans, including lima beans, are grown for their immature green seeds. Dry beans are allowed to fully mature, then are collected and stored. Many beans may be used in one or more of these forms.

   Beans may be termed bush or pole, depending upon growth habit. Bush beans grow 1 to 2 feet high and are usually planted in rows. Pole beans require the support of a trellis or stake. They grow more slowly than bush types but produce more beans per plant over a longer period of time.

   Many types of beans will vary in their heat requirements and the length of time needed to produce a crop. All except the fava bean group require warm soil to germinate and should be planted after the last frost in spring. Planting season length varies with climate. Knowing how long your growing season is and the number of days the crop needs to mature will enable you to determine how many crops are possible and the planting date of the season.

   Beans require nitrogen-fixing bacteria to be present in the soil. If your soil is lacking in the bacteria, a bean inoculant will help. If you have grown beans without any problems, you probably do not need it, but if you've never grown them and want to be sure, an inoculant is advised. Some bean seeds are treated with a fungicide that helps to prevent rot when sown during a cool, damp spring.

   Beginner's Mistakes: Here are some common mistakes that are sometimes made when growing beans.

1)...Planting too early. Bean seeds (except favas) will not germinate in cold soil. If you need to advance the season, sow seeds indoors in peat pots and set out plants when the garden soil warms.
2)...Leaving overmature pods. To get a full crop of snap beans, pick them before large seeds develop. A few old pods left on a plant will greatly reduce the set of new ones. Keep them picked in the young succulent stage.
3)...Allowing the soil to dry. Lack of moisture in the soil will cause the plants to produce "pollywogs"; this is where only a few seeds develop and the rest of the pod shrivels to a tail.
4)...Using insufficient fertilizer. Beans must make strong growth to be good sized before flowering. Mix a 5-10-10 fertilizer into the soil at the rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet before planting.
5)...Spreading disease. To avoid the spread of disease from plant to plant, cultivate shallowly and only when leaves are free of dew or other moisture. Harvest only when plants are dry. Remove and discard all plants at the end of the growing season.
6)...Not rotating crops. Beans are subject to diseases that survive in the soil; therefore, growing sites should be alternated each season.

   Dry beans sometimes called shell beans, are left to mature on the plant and are shelled before using. They are the product of a number of different plants, fava, garbanzos, lima beans, soybeans and yard-long beans can all be grown for dry beans. Dry beans in the snap bean group are grown the same way as snap beans. They are harvested when the pods start to split open.

   Favas aren't true beans at all, these are related to another legume, vetch. They grow in cool weather unsuitable for snap beans and will not produce in summer heat. They need 70 days of cool but frost free weather. In mild-winter areas they are planted in the fall for a spring crop. The plants grow 3 to 5 feet high and need a trellis or some kind of support. Pods should be harvested when the seeds are half grown to be used like snap beans.

Fava Beans

Fava Beans


  Garbanzos, Chick-peas, or Grams are neither beans or peas. This 1 to 2 foot high bush-type plant is similar to snap beans in culture but requires a longer growing season, about 100 days.Garbanzos grow best in hot, dry climates. They produce one or two beige seeds in each puffy pod. Pick in green shell stage or let them mature for dry beans. Sow seeds when the soil is warm, and thin plants to 6 inches apart. Successive planting will ensure a continuous supply. Harvest when the pods begin to split.

Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo Beans in Bloom

   Lima Beans, limas need warmer soil then snap beans to germinate, higher temperatures and a longer season to produce a crop. If days are too hot, however, pods may fail to set. If the soil temperature is below 65 degrees, pre-treating seed with both an insecticide and a fungicide before sowing is a good idea. Lima beans may be small or large seeded; the small seeded are also called baby limas or butter beans. Lima beans are available in bush and pole types, all  baby lima beans are bush beans. Pole beans need a longer growing season but can be harvested over a longer time. Grown the same way as snap beans except that they need a longer and hotter growing season and should be spaced 8 inches apart. Harvest limas as soon as the pods are well filled but while they are still bright and fresh looking.

Lima Beans

Lima Beans

   Scarlet Runner Beans are closely related to common snap beans but are more vigorous and have larger seeds, pods and flowers. The plant will grow rapidly to 10 and sometimes even 20 feet with a dense yet delicate appearing vine with pods 6 to 12 inches long. It has large clusters of bright red flowers and is often grown as an ornamental. Culture the same as snap beans, but give them more space.

   Snap Beans are said to be the foolproof vegetable for the garden. They need only 60 days of moderate temperatures to produce a crop of green pods. With such a short growth period, they can be grown in most areas and harvested over many months from small plantings made about every 2 weeks. In long season areas, snap beans may be grown just about all year, but should be planted so podding does not occur when the weather is too hot or too cold. Snap beans are available in bush and pole varieties. The bush type are slightly more cold hardy than pole, and can be generally planted as much as 2 weeks earlier. They produce beans for about 3 weeks, so they must be planted in succession for a continuous supply. Pole beans can be harvested for about 2 months. Bush snap beans ae also somewhat less susceptible to heat and drought than are pole beans. Most snap beans are green, the yellow ones are known as wax beans. There are also several types with purple or purple striped pods. Snap beans should be planted in the garden after the danger of frost has passed and soil is warm. Sow seeds 1 inch deep in heavy soil and 1-1/2 inch deep in sandy soil. Space bush beans 3 to 4 inches apart, except for the ones with flat pods, which need more room. Pole beans should be spaced 6 to 10 inches apart on a trellis,or several plants to a pole.

Green Snap Beans

Green or Snap Beans

  Soybeans were cultivated in China in 3000 B.C. and since earliest times have been an all important food in many areas, like Manchuria, Korea and Japan. They were first brought to the United States in 1804, they were used mainly as a forage crop until 1920. In 1942 the wartime demand for edible oils and fats created a boom for seed in commercial quantities. A rich source of protein and a staple of diets throughout the world, soybeans are a great plant in the home vegetable garden. Soybeans are grown similar to snap beans. Thin seedlings to 4 inches apart. Water well, especially during dry periods. Soybeans are tolerant of high heat. Avoid harvesting when the plants are wet, they are easily bruised and broken. Wet leaves also speed up the spread of disease. Harvest for green beans as soon as the pods are plump and the seeds nearly full sized but still green. All beans will ripen at the same time, so you might as well pull the plant, then find a shady spot and pick off the pods.



   Sprouts can be grown from many different plants. The seeds of soybeans, mung beans, snap beans, lentils, peas, garbanzos, radishes, alfalfa, cress, and cabbage can be all sprouted, each having its own favor. Look for untreated seed to use for sprouts. spouts mature quickly and are usually ready for harvest within a week of sowing. They can be grown in bowls, jars, or by spreading seeds over wet paper towels laid in a baking sheet or shallow dish. Place the seed tray in a warm area with good light and air circulation. Cut off green sprouts with scissors when ready to use.

   Yard-long Beans or Asparagus Beans resemble very large snap beans, but this bean is actually a vining variety of a cowpea. Train this vigorous climber on wire or some type of trellis. Grow yard-long beans like you would cowpea. (Sow seed 1/2 to 1 inch deep, 5 to 8 seeds per foot of row, 2 to 3 feet between rows, after all danger of frost is passed. Needs warm days and warm nights, and are damaged by the slightest frosts). Harvest pods when young and before they change color, unless they are being grown for use as dried beans.

Yard Long Beans

Yard Long or Asparagus Beans