Requires six hours or more
of strong, direct sun per day.
Good food and a great soil builder, beans are one of the most valuable plants grown because they not only produce food for human consumption, but improve the fertility and physical condition of your garden soil.|
Nitrogen, a most valuable plant food, is added to the soil by the beneficial bacteria in the nodules which grow on the roots. These bacteria are capable of absorbing the free nitrogen from the air, which, after the plants are harvested, is left in the soil.
When enough organic matter is present, or if beans follow a legume sod crop, it is possible to have excellent yields with no added fertilizer. A small amount of phosphorus near the seeds, however, will usually enhance early growth.
Beneficial companion plants
Certain plants are beneficial to beans for both growth and insect control. They are; potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage and summer savory. By growing these vegetables in close proximity to your bean plants they will be essentially care-free for the entire growing season. For information on other valuable companion plants see the companion planting chart.
Culture of Beans
Bush beans (also known as snap beans) are an excellent source of vitamins A and B. They also provide calcium and iron. Bush beans should be included in every garden because of the ease in growing and the wealth in harvesting them.
The bush beans, while responding to rich soil and thorough cultivation, will succeed in almost any garden soil, from heavy clay to light sandy soils. The soil should not be too acid and should receive a generous amount of rotted manure or compost.
Although most beans are warm-season plants, they can be grown successfully in all sections of the country. Most varieties grow slowly at temperatures below 60░F (15.56░C) and perform best in the range of 75 to 85 ░F (23.89 to 29.44-C).
Beans are sensitive to soil levels of zinc. Deficiencies are not uncommon on alkaline soils—especially where pH is well above 7—due to their free lime content. Nitrogen is best supplied from organic matter and from the nodule bacteria. Beans require only a little nitrogen at a time.
The seed is sown directly in the garden after the last spring frost. Sow the seeds thinly in rows 18 to 30 inches apart for hand-cultivation. Plant one to two inches apart. When the plants are two or three inches high they may be thinned to four to six inches apart.
A continuous supply of beans throughout the growing season may be assured by successive plantings. Make additional sowings when the other crop is up and growing. Plant until midsummer, or until about 60 days before danger of the first killing frosts in the fall.
The cultivation of the bean crop consists of stirring the soil frequently during the entire season of growth. Scrape the weeds away and don't hoe deeply. The roots are close enough to the surface so that any deep or extensive cultivation will result in undesirable root pruning.
Weeds can be a nuisance in beans, especially at harvest time. Those most frequently seen are lamb's-quarters, redroot pigweed, ragweed, foxtails, and quackgrass. The best control comes from good seedbed preparation —starting early in spring and continuing until planting time. Also, companion planting is a method of weed and pest control that has shown great success.
It is essential that all weeds be kept down and that during times of drought a mulch is used to preserve moisture. Beans should be cultivated only when the leaves are turned up in the driest and lightest part of the day. Air can then flow under the leaves and around the stem.
As evening approaches, the leaves become damp and droop down to where they can become damaged. Never cultivate while dew or rain are on the leaves since this spreads disease from one leaf to another. Make the first cultivation about the time the first two full leaves are out, and the second and third as weeds become obvious, and the last before runners appear and growth becomes too dense. Never cultivate after pods are formed.
Bean diseases and pests
Bacterial and viral diseases of beans
Bean plants are subject to a number of bacterial and viral diseases, especially in years of high temperature, high humidity and high rainfall. Organic Insect Control is recommended for the best defense. Dry beans are more vulnerable than snap beans because they are permitted to grow to maturity. Early stages of these diseases characteristically look like watery spots, then leaves yellow, die and drop prematurely. Beans dry up and appear to mature but remain small in size and show shrunken yellow seedcoat abnormalities.
Treatment of bean diseases
Treatment of bean diseases is not very practical. The best solution is prevention in the form of purchasing good seed, avoiding cultivation when the plants are wet and subscribing to a definite program of rotations in the field or garden. Beans should not be grown more than once, or twice at most, on the same land without other crops being grown in rotation.
Rotate your bean crops
Besides discouraging disease, rotations help reduce insect populations and rejuvenate soil organic matter. Beans may be rotated with almost any type of crop, since, as nitrogen-fixing legumes, they tend to improve soil fertility. To take full advantage of this property, plant heavy feeders such as sweet corn or cole crops in fields where beans grew the previous season. Avoid growing beans or any other legume in the same position for more than two consecutive seasons.
Mexican bean beetle
The Mexican bean beetle, a brown, spotted bug which characteristically appears on young plants, prefers late-season crops, to early ones. If you plan to put up your bean harvest, plant as early in the spring as weather permits. To avoid the ravages of the beetle larvae, pick off the beetle when it is first detected. Any yellowish or brownish eggs on the undersides of leaves should be destroyed.
Other bean pests and diseases
Other occasional bean pests include the tarnished plant bug, black bean aphid, alfalfa caterpillar, alfalfa looper, corn borer, and potato leafhopper. And once the beans are placed in storage, the bean weevil must be avoided at all cost.
Mosaic and anthracnose can be prevented by purchasing disease-resistant seeds. Anthracnose is spread by dissemination of spores. To avoid spreading the spores, do not touch or walk among the plants after a rain.
Varieties of Beans
There are two types of bush beans, the green podded and the yellow podded or wax beans. The variety or the color makes little difference except in individual preference. The quality is practically the same in all, provided they are pulled from the vine and eaten at the proper stage of maturity.
Bean cultivars are almost endless, some having no name and being perpetuated only within a family or circle of friends. Beans are self-pollinating and thus two cultivars can be grown side by side with no danger of cross-pollination.
Green bush varieties
Of the green bush varieties, Bountiful and Blue Lake are both flat podded and develop beans from six to seven inches long. Stringless Green Pod, Wade, Black Valentine, and Improved Tendergreen grow round pods from five to six inches long. Bountiful and Leka Lake are especially good for canning. Tendercrop and Topcrop are mosaic resistant.
Yellow bush varieties
Of the yellow bush varieties, Pencil Pod Wax, Golden Wax, Eastern Butterwax, and Surecrop Stringless Wax are good varieties. Pencil Pod Wax and Butter Wax are yellow varieties well suited to canning. Kentucky Wonder is an early climber, as is the heavy-yielding Romano Italian.
Dark-colored bush bean seeds germinate better in cool weather than white seeds. Planting your beans in succession ensures a steady supply for the entire growing season.
The pole beans, including lima, snap and kidney varieties, require staking. A popular method of staking is to stick three or four eight foot-tall saplings or bamboo poles into the ground six inches deep, tepee fashion, and to tie them securely at the top. When the first tendrils appear on the young plants, train them around the pole and the plant will then climb by itself.
Pole beans also may be trained along wire or strong cord, on trellises or any other support that permits the tendrils to twine. Sow two or three seeds at the base of each pole of tepee-type stakes, one inch deep.
Snap beans should be picked while the pods are immature. The seeds should still be small, the tips soft and the bean should snap readily. The plants should be watched carefully as the proper time of harvesting lasts only a few days. If the pods are allowed to ripen fully, the plants stop producing and will die. Bush beans usually have several pickings, a few days apart or every day if the weather is warm.
Beans should not be harvested until they are thoroughly matured (normally 90 to 100 days) and they become hard. Once the beans have matured and the leaves are well yellowed, a light frost won't hurt but a hard freeze will damage beans that still have too high a water content. Bite one to determine hardness. You will barely be able to dent a bean of proper dryness.
Harvesting when soft invites molding. To help avoid this, pull dry beans by hand and place the bunches upside down with the roots in the air for two to three days. Old-timers stacked them around a pole—roots to the pole—until the stack was five to seven feet high. Threshing may be done with a flail or bean thresher anytime after the pods are crisp and the beans are firm.
Beans are among those vegetables that are best when harvested young and eaten just after they are picked—an important reason for growing your own.
If, at harvest time, you find you have too many beans to use in the near future, think about drying them for future use. Drying beans is not difficult, and will reward the family during the winter.
There are several ways of going about drying the beans. One woman, who has "dried 'em all my life," does it the easiest way there is. She simply leaves the bean plants alone until they're partially dried. She then pulls them up, shakes the earth off the roots, ties them up in bunches of three or four, and hangs them up in a dry place. She forgets all about them until wintertime when she wants beans.
Another woman picks the beans when they are so ripe that the pods show signs of drying up. The pods are then spread on papers or cookie tins and placed in the sun to dry. This is a slow process but not a time-consuming one.
The important thing to remember is that the drying beans must be placed indoors before sundown and not put out until the sun is up and shining brightly. Besides turning them each day so they dry evenly, there is nothing else to do until they have thoroughly dried. By this time, the pods are so brittle that they crumble when you handle them.
If the weather is against your drying program (not enough sunny days), then the beans may be hulled and canned before they are thoroughly dry. If, however, they have thoroughly dried, then storing them in a dry place is imperative, for if the beans become damp, they may be wormy. Many people have had success by storing them in jars in a dry place.
In addition to the snap beans, string beans and limas, all of which may be dried if desired, there are the many varieties like pinto, pea, horticultural, and navy beans that are grown specifically for stewing and baking.
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