Beans are one of the most versatile vegetables known, and make up a large part of the vegetarian diet. All beans fall into one of three categories: snap beans, green shelling beans and dry beans. Snap beans, such as green beans, are aptly named for the sound made when they are broken; green shelling beans, such as limas, are eaten young when the beans are still green inside their pods; and dry beans, such as pintos, are dried in their pods and shelled for storage. Learn how to grow beans of different varieties in your own backyard and enjoy the bounty that ensues!
Beans belong in the legume family along with peas, lentils, peanuts and flowers like sweet pea and lupine. Beans grow in two main ways; either in pole or bush form. Pole beans need about 4-8 inches between each plant and grow about 24-36 inches tall, requiring trellising. Bush beans only need 2-4 inches in between each plant and grow about 18-30 inches tall and often don’t need trellises. Pole beans are fantastic options for smaller gardens with enough vertical growing space, but require slightly more attention and a longer growing season than bush beans.
Beans prefer full sun and well-drained soil that is not too acidic. Seeds should be planted in soil that is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dig your holes and add organic compost to them. Plant your beans 1 – 1 ½ inches deep. Plant double rows 18-24 inches apart for bush beans and plant pole beans according to the type of trellis you are using. Pole beans can also be grown in pots.
Make sure to water the beans immediately after planting. The beans will continue to need at least 1 inch of water weekly, whether from rainwater or irrigation. Keep the foliage dry by watering early in the morning to avoid sunburn and spreading of diseases.
You can fertilize your beans with compost to provide more nutrients during the first few weeks after germination.
Pests & Diseases
Watch out for anthracnose, bean mosaic virus, bean rust, common bacterial blight, Mexican bean beetles and cucumber beetles, all of which can be deterred without pesticides or fungicides.
Types of beans to try:
- Filet Beans are slender and very tender green snap beans of French origin, also known as haricots verts. They are most often grown as bush beans.
- Blue Lake Pole Beans are the most traditional snap bean grown on a trellis. These beans can also be allowed to mature toward the end of their growing season, and then dried for soup beans.
- Scarlet Runner Beans are great for attracting wildlife with their showy, red blossoms. They can be eaten young as green shelling beans or dried in their pods once the beans have matured.
- Lima Beans are green shelling beans that can also be harvested as dry beans once mature. These beans do well in humid heat and stand up well to pests and diseases.
- Calypso Beans are best as dry beans. Their black and white ‘yin yang’ coloring is a fun addition to soups and stews, as they retain their coloring even after being cooked.
- Speckled Bale Pinto Beans are a low maintenance, dry bush bean that produces flesh colored beans with maroon speckles that mature in less than 100 days. The beans are round and very meaty, perfect for refried beans.
-Tepary Beans are a type of dry bean cultivated by the natives of the Southwestern US and Mexico, making them ideal for dry conditions. Available in various colors, tepary beans provide a deep, nutty flavor to soups and stews and a unique choice for spicy hummus.