Fri 9 Jan 2009
When the weather warms beans can go from seed to table in 60 days. Of the many types of beans, the two most frequently grown by home gardeners are snap beans and lima beans. Each of these can be divided into two types. Low growing and tall growing. The legume family also contains many delicious vegetables that have beanlike seeds but that only remotely resemble the familiar type of beans. These include fava or broad beans and southern beans.
String beans grow as self supporting bushes or as climbing vine. The compact plant size high productivity and easy culture of bush beans make them one of the most popular of the summer vegetables. Runner or pole varieties require more work and attention because of the support needed by the long twining vines, but they out yield bush varieties by a wide margin. Some pole varieties tend to be more flavorful than many bush types, because with bush beans breeders have concentrated on good mechanical harvesting characteristics instead of flavor.
Plant beans from seeds sown in the ground as soon as the soil has warmed up. Beans are frost tender and require a soil temperature of 65 degrees to sprout reliably. Either check the soil temperature with a soil thermometer or wait until late leafing trees (oaks, hickories, and pecans) uncurl new spring foliage. Successive crops can be planted until midsummer. Plant seeds of bush beans 3 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Pole bean plants are much larger, requiring 3 feet between rows and 9 to 12 inches between plants. If you want to run the vines up tepee shaped supports, dig holes in the corners of a 3 foot square and plant three pole bean seeds in each. Cover seeds 1 inch deep in clay soils, 1 ½ inches in sandy soils.
To avoid the spread of diseases from plant to plant, cultivate shallowly and only when the foliage is dry. Water frequently by soaking the soil instead of sprinkling. Moist foliage invites bacterial disease in humid areas. High nitrogen fertilizers and heavy application of compost will encourage more foliage growth than vegetable production. Use a fertilizer with a nitrogen phosphorus potassium ratio of 1:2:2, applying it every three to four weeks in a shallow furrow about 6 inches away from the plants. Cover the fertilizer band with soil. If you furrow irrigate apply the fertilizer in the furrows so water can carry it into the root zone of the bean plants.