Beans are easy to grow and are one of the most prolific warm season vegetables you can grow.
There is no comparison between a fleshly picked organic bean and a shop bought bean.
So be warned, after growing your first crop you may never be able to buy beans again!
There are many different varieties and if you buy open pollinate or heritage varieties then you can easily save your own seed from year to year.
Beans are a Legume and they have a symbiotic relationship with a bacterium that converts atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen available to the bean plant which means they do not require a lot of fertilising and the soil after a legume crop has a higher nitrogen level then before it was growing there.
Annual Bean species.
Green Beans (Phaseolus Vulgaris)
Runner Beans (phaseolus coccineus)
Lima Bean (Phaseolus lunatus)
Snake Bean (vigna unguiculata var sesquipedalis)
All annual beans are suitable for pot culture
Types of Beans
1. Dwarf or Bush
• 60 cm high
• Plant 15 – 20 cm apart
• Rows should be 60 cm apart – ensures good air circulation. Prevents fungal diseases. Enables access to both sides for harvesting
My favourite varieties
• Green bean – Hawkesbury wonder, Gourmets delight etc
• Butter bean – Yellow
• Borlotti – speckled – grown for the dried beans seed rather than the pod.
• Lazy Wife – Heritage
2. Climbing Beans
Need a structure to climb on:
• Tepee of Bamboo
Climbing beans are great use of vertical space increasing production without taking up much room.
My favourite varieties.
• Purple King
• Snake Beans
Scarlet Runner – 7 year beans-This is a perennial and needs to be in a more permanent position with other perennial vegetables.
Three ways of using beans.
1. Pick young bean pods and eat whole either raw, lightly steamed or quickly stir fried.
2. Pod mature slightly with the bean seed increasing in size – shell seeds from pod and eat.
3. Pods left to mature and dry out to produce hard seed – store and used as dried seed beans.
When and where to Grow your beans.
• On the East coast the best growing time is late spring, summer and autumn – with your first seeds going in around the October long weekend. In the Highlands I find I need to wait until the beginning of December to put my first seeds in as it takes this long for the soil to be warm enough for germination.
• In coastal region, if the summer is particularly hot and dry – there can be problems with pod formation and white fly but if it is too wet and humid then there are problems with powdery mildew.
• Beans must have 6 to 8 hours of sunlight.
• Must be well drained mound
• Beans prefer a PH of 6.5 – 7, so add a little lime to adjust if needed.
• Being legumes your soil doesn’t require the amount of fertiliser of many other crops. In particular don’t add large amounts of high nitrogen manures such as poultry, as this will encourage excessive leaf growth at the expense of flowers.
• The addition of lower level nutrient manures such as cow and sheep with a little blood and bone with potash is preferable.
• Cultivate thoroughly and mound up rows to increase drainage
• To prevent weed germination mulch with sugar cane mulch to a depth of 100mm but just very lightly over the area where seeds are planted or leave it until after beans developed at least four true leaves and then you can mulch heavily up to the plant stem as this will provide extra support.
No Dig Option
• Prepare No Dig Garden as per your favourite recipe, but reduce poultry manure.
• Beans are sown into pockets of potting mix at required spacing and depth.
• Being large and easily handled, seeds are ideal for direct sowing (sowing in Situ).
• For a continual harvest (succession planting) plant about 12-16 seeds every two weeks.
• I like the put 2 seeds in each hole to ensure good even germination and if the they both germinate the plants will support each other.
• Sow to a depth of 2-3 times the width of the seed.
• Germination can be from 3 to 7 days depending on the soil temperature.
• After planting give the seeds and surrounding soil a good soaking and then do not water again till the seeds emerge.
• Protect from birds and rodents as both will dig up and eat your seeds.
• Put in snail prevention measures as they love to munch on emerging seedlings.
This is there fertiliser program I use to ensure I get the best crop possible.
• After germination and development of first true leaves – application of ½ strength Seasol twice a week for 2 weeks this encourages good, strong root development which help prevent plants falling over in windy conditions.
• After 2 weeks – application of ½ strength Power Feed twice a week for 4 weeks to increase growth and leaf area to support large crop.
• At 6 weeks – one or two application of full strength Seasol or Comfrey Tea or Banana Tea to promote flower production.
Beans will generally flower around 8 weeks from germination and you can start to harvest your first pods at about 10 – 12 weeks after planting.
Harvest beans when young and tender and harvest every few days – this will encourage continual flowers and a longer harvest time.
If beans are allowed to set mature seeds this sends a signal to the plant to reduce/stop production because as far as the plant is concerned it has fulfilled its purpose –production of the next generation or perpetuation of the species, so whilst it can be time consuming make sure you harvest regularly.
Pests and Diseases
Fungal diseases. In warm humid conditions beans will suffer from fungal diseases of both the leaf, flowers and pod. Solution: Increase spacing, don’t water foliage, water in mornings.
Pests. Most common are Bean fly, spider mite and white fly, they are at their worst during hot dry conditions. Solution: Keep plants healthy, plant decoy plants, plant resistant varieties, adjust planting time to avoid hottest times.
Seed saving – is only viable is they are open pollinated/heritage/heirloom varieties and then for the seeds to come true to type plants must be grown in isolation- that is if you have several varieties of beans growing together they will cross pollinate and a very different plant could be the result. It you want to seed save just plant one variety then choose best plant.
How to choose the best plant- strong grower, crops well, pest and disease resistance, good structure (allows pods to grow to maturity and dry without falling over)
Once you have selected your best plant allow it to set pods and then let it grow until the pods are very full of seed and starting to dry out. Then cut the whole off at ground level and place in a large paper bag in cool dry place for several weeks. This will allow all the plants energy to be transferred into ensuring all seeds are fully mature, then de-seed the pods and store the seeds in a dry air tight container in the dark.
Beans are truly one of those vegetables that everyone should have a go at growing.
Happy Gardening Kathy