Growing Bush Beans in a Home Garden
Bush beans are a staple in every home vegetable garden. There are many varieties that grow in every climate imaginable, so it’s easy to find one that will grow where you live. Also, bush beans aren’t very picky about soil; they’ll grow nearly anywhere as long as they have sunlight, water and adequate area. So, don’t be afraid to try a few bush beans.
First, there are a variety of bush beans to choose from. Green beans are the more popular, and mature between 60 and 75 days. Yellow beans mature at the same rate, and most people agree that they are better tasting and more tender than green. Lima beans, or butter beans, and blackeye peas are quite popular and are grown for the seed inside the pod. Several varieties of other shell beans are available, so make sure the type you choose grow well in your climate.
To prepare the soil for planting after risk of frost has passed, till it until smooth and make rows 18″ to 24″ apart. Tilling in organic fertilizer or compost and some sand or peat moss during tilling is adequate for the entire growing season, and aerates the soil. Some varieties will need fertilizer every few weeks, so make sure to read the seed packet directions. Bush beans like well-drained soil with pH of about 6.5-7.5 and full sun, and grow easily alongside other vegetables except the onion family and kohlrabi.
Using garden inoculant on the seeds is a good practice, as it helps to grow healthy, productive plants. Inoculant is a type of bateria (Rhizobia bacteria) which grows on legume roots, helping to produce nitrogen. Mixing inoculant in the seed bag until seeds are well coated is sufficient to increase yield.
To sow seeds make a small ditch, 1″ to 2″ deep, along the top of each row. Drop seeds in the ditch, 2 or 3 at a time and a few inches apart, cover with soil and tamp slightly, then water well. When seedlings sprout, thin plants to about 3 to 4 inches apart to enhance air movement around the plants. This will help late-shelling or dry-type beans from getting fungal diseases they are susceptible to at the end of the growing season. Days to maturity depend on type of bean, but are generally between 60 and 90.
Beans grow best when well weeded. Keep the garden area free of weeds and grasses and your plants will reward you for your hard work. Another small problem? Rabbits. Rabbits love bush bean leaves, and you’ll need to have a rabbit fence if they are in your area. Deer also love bean leaves. In fact, your entire garden will thank you for protecting it from bunnies and bambi’s. Birds love the tender blossoms, but may not want to be around humans, so daily weeding will help keep them away.
Bush beans have the best flavor when picked before the inner bean has had time to develop, while still long and slender. For fresh beans all season long, sow seeds every two weeks and pick when beans are still firm. If a bush green bean is too old, a sure sign of over-maturity, and bitter taste, is a developed seed bean in the pod. Keep them constantly picked for fresh, clean taste during producing season.
For dry or seed beans, wait to harvest until the pods are completely dry and brittle. Pull or cut pods from the plants and shell the beans, storing in a cool, dry place for longest shelf life. To eat shell beans fresh, harvest when beans form in the pods, carefully cutting the pod from the plant to ensure a second, and sometimes third, crop.
At the end of the growing season, pull plants out by roots and till. Leaving plants in the soil and tilling under will not hurt if left for two years, but it may not turn to compost as quickly as you need it and can cause fungal problems for next year. Water tilled ground and let rest through the winter. Your bed will be ready to plant beans again in the spring.
Bush beans are a healthy, easy to grow vegetable. To store bush beans, process them by canning or drying and store in a cool, dry place. You’ll have garden fresh beans all winter.