A favorite crop for most gardeners, beans are easy to grow with little care and add nitrogen to the soil making them a great plant for an organic garden. The various plant sizes allows room in any sized garden for beans, and with the hundreds of varieties you won’t have a problem finding types for every region of the country.
Beans are a member of the legume family, the fruit or seed produced from a pod. The two main types of beans are shell beans – grown for their seeds, can be eaten fresh or dried, and snap beans – mainly grown for their pods while they are young and tender. The two main types are then divided into three groups according to growth habit. Bush beans are small bush varieties that are self-supporting. Pole beans have long vines that require a support such as stakes, strings, or trellises. Runners are similar to pole beans with their vining habit and grow just fine vining along the ground, though using a trellis or other type of support will produce a healthier plant.
Beans are very frost sensitive and grow best in 70 – 80F temperatures, with soil temperature of 60F. Cold wet soil will cause your bean seeds to rot. Beans should be planted in a sunny area with light, well draining soil with lots of organic matter. Bean have about a 70 percent germination rate and can stay viable for up to 3 years. Never soak or pre-sprout your seeds before planting, this can make the seeds rot.
Plant bush beans 1 – 2 weeks after the last frost date of your area. Sow seeds 1 – 1 1/2 inches deep in light soil 3 – 6 inches apart in rows 2 – 2 1/2 feet apart. Firm the soil over seeds to be sure there is soil contact. If your soil is heavy adding extra compost will help lighten it. Bush beans don’t need supports unless grown in a windy area, then all you have to do is prop them up on a strong twine around stakes put at the ends of the rows.
Harvest green beans by pinching them off with your thumbnail and fingers before the seeds inside form bumps on the pods and they are tender. Picking daily, or at least every other day, will encourage production. The plants stop producing if you allow the pods to fully ripen.