How to Grow Beans

  Nickel bean
Green beans, string beans, snap beans, these are all names for one of the gardener's favorite home grown vegetables: beans. Easy to grow and harvest and a cook's delight with many diverse ways of preparation, every garden should have a space set aside for beans.

As a rule of thumb you need to plant approximately 15 plants per person. Choose a sunny location with well-drained soil. Beans will grow in virtually any soil, but if you improve it with compost so it is loose, friable and slightly acidic, these provide the best conditions for top yields.

Beans require warm soil to germinate. You must wait at least two weeks following your last frost date to plant. More important, do not plant in soil that is less than 55 degrees F. The optimum temperature is 80 degrees F. Tests have shown that beans planted later in the season in warm soil will catch up with and out-yield beans planted earlier. In the northern half of the United States, this means you may need to wait until late May or early June to plant.

Beans can be grown closely together. Sowing seeds 1" apart in rows 12" apart is typical for commercial growers. Home gardeners may not want their plants this tightly spaced, but this provides a baseline when you decide. Closely spaced plants keep the soil moist below, support each other, and suppress weeds, all beneficial.

Under ideal conditions, beans grow in soil that is moderately moist all the time, but not excessively wet or dry. If you live in an area with summer rain this may mean sporadic watering is all that is necessary. If you live in an arid climate you may need to use drip irrigation or a soaker hose for best results. Weeds will compete with your beans, especially the immature plants. It is important not to let the weeds get the upper hand, especially early in the season.

For the highest yields and longest harvest, frequent picking is a must. Picking encourages new flowers to form which means more beans. The beans are ready to harvest when the seeds inside are barely visible and the pods snap nicely when you fold or break them. Pick with care so you do not tear the vine.

When deciding which to plant, pole beans or bush beans, be aware that bush beans can be planted earlier and may manage heat better than pole varieties. On the plus side, pole beans are easy to pick and high yielding. The extra effort required by staking has its rewards.

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