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Success with Beans

If you’ve had trouble with bean production, take note!

1. Decide what kind of beans you’d like to eat:

  • String beans: these are typical “green beans or snap beans” and eaten whole in the pod, before the seeds have fully matured inside. They have at least one string per side of the pod that are easily and preferably removed before eating. One variety is Royalty Purple Pod.
  • Stringless beans: these are typical “green beans or snap beans” that have been bred without the string. These typically have tougher pods than string beans and are better when picked young and tender. One variety is Burpee’s Stringless, bred prior to 1900!
  • Wax beans:  they have a thicker and waxier pod than snap beans, and a milder flavor, and may or may not have a string. Some varieties of wax bean include Dragon’s Tongue and Pencil Pod Golden Wax.
  • Dry beans: while any pod can be left on the stem to dry, some varieties are better suited for drying and then rehydrating into a meal than others. One variety is Charlevoix Dark Red Kidney.
  • Shelly or shell beans: this refers to beans that have matured to the full size inside of the pod, but harvested before drying on the vine. The beans are removed from the pods and cooked without needing to soak prior to cooking, or requiring as long of a cooking time as dry beans. One variety of shelly bean is Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg Bean (similar to a Borlotti bean).

2. Soak the seeds a few hours to overnight. This will help the seed coats soften, take in water and swell- allowing for faster germination.

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Bean seed, soaked overnight and inoculated with bacteria (small black specks)

3. Inoculate with Rhizobium bacteria. This isn’t necessary if you already have microbe-rich soil, which many of us do. However, if you haven’t amended your garden with compost in awhile or are using new potting soil, this step will help increase growth, health and production of your beans. Look for products called “legume inoculant”, such as this from Johnny’s Seeds.

4. Plant directly outdoors. Although we’ve had a lot of cool spring days, the soil is now warm enough for planting beans. Follow directions on your seed packet for spacing and planting depth.

5. Take care not to overfertilize. Since legumes fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, it is not necessary to add much to the soil. Try a balanced blend of 4-4-4 or apply half of the recommended amount of a 10-10-10 fertilizer. This information will be on your bag of fertilizer.

Bumble bee visiting a fava bean flower

Bumble bee visiting a fava bean flower

6. Provide support for those who need it. Bush beans have compact growth and do not require a trellis, while vining pole beans and runner beans do. Since these beans use tendrils to attach to a trellis, use netting, string or wire materials that are less than 1/4″ in diameter. Larger materials such as bamboo are more difficult for the tendrils to attach. Wondering where to get information on plant/trellis height? It will be on your seed packet! Wondering which is the best trellis design? Check out these tips from our friends at Seed Savers Exchange.

7. Unless you are growing shelly or dried beans, harvest frequently to keep your plants productive. This will discourage them from forming mature seeds inside the pod and getting tough. If you forget to pick for a few days, remove the largest pods and eat quickly or, if too tough, add to the compost. New pods will form shortly.

 

Dragon Tongue bush beans

Dragon Tongue bush beans

By Breanne Heath