Tasty string beans, aka snap beans, are one of the easiest plants to plant from seed, and to grow! Poke those little seeds into the ground by your cage or trellis, ’bout a 1/2″ to 1″ deep depending on seed size. Water gently, and frequently enough to keep your soil moist, but only just moist so they don’t water log and rot, especially the light colored seeds. Wait a few days and you will see their little stems bowing up, leaves popping up next! So cute!
Plant them far enough apart so they have plenty of air flow when mature – that’s better for preventing mildew, so you don’t damage your plant when you harvest, and can actually get all those beans you grew! Leave room for cucumbers in between! Beans and cukes both need lots of water, so making a little trench and planting them in it is a great idea, just plant the cukes up a little higher to let the soil dry more and prevent the wilts.
Which kind of beans to plant? Your pleasure. All the same kind, different kinds in different patches, or mix ’em all up on one trellis, one each! Trellises are a tad better for bean harvesting because you have easy access to both sides of your plants. Beans come in all colors, lots of shapes, and two plant sizes – bush or pole! Gold, white, green, red, purple, variegated! They are skinny like French filets, wide like broad Italian Romanos, short and fat, or 1 1/2′ long! Long beans take longer to come in and have a taste all their own. Plant at the same time as your other beans and they will come in when the others are finishing. Perfect! And you can plant dry beans for storage, for high protein winter dishes, if you have the patience to process them. Choose bush beans for early returns, lots at once if you are canning. Choose pole/vine beans for all season production, fresh and delish! Plant bush and pole at the same time for an earlier continuous supply. For drought and heat tolerance, plant Rattlesnake bean, aka Preacher Bean. 100-degree heat doesn’t stop them from producing lots of beans!
Once your seedlings are up with 2 to 4 leaves, give them the royal treatment ASAP! One Aspirin, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. While you are at it, add a 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk and Tablespoon of Baking Soda as well. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! Nonfat powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores – that’s MILDEW, the nemesis of beans! Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant. Use a watering can that has a rose (nozzle) that turns upward to get the undersides of leaves as well as their tops. Prevention is better than a remedy, believe me. So feel free to treat your babies once a week or as often as you can if you just can’t do once a week.
Beans are legumes, and legumes grab N, Nitrogen, right out of the air and deposit in little nodules on their roots! But. They are enthusiastic heavy producers, so a little light feeding of liquid fish/kelp mix is good at flowering time, maybe every couple of weeks. A Tablespoon in a full watering can, and later in the season too if you see the leaves yellowing. They are hungry. If you get lots of leaf and no flowers, lay off the N; rebalance your soil by adding some P, Phosphorous. P is for rapid growth, strong roots, more flower, fruit, and seed production.
Keep your beans harvested or your plant will think it has done its job and stop producing. Harvest while they are more young for tender, crunchy juicy beans – snap! Be a little careful when harvesting so you don’t damage your plantie and open it to diseases.
Beans don’t mind sharing but not with onion family plants. Instead, put cucumbers at their feet, and trellis the cukes too. Keeps them clean and insect free. Add some radishes to discourage Cucumber beetles – those cute little green with black dots jobs. Remove them instantly. Squish, stomp, whatever it takes. Bad news, they carry bacterial diseases and viruses from plant to plant, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus.
Speaking of beetles, the Mexican Bean Beetle is a species of lady beetle, looks like one too. It is a notorious agricultural pest, one of the few lady beetles that feed on plants rather than other insects. They are yellowish-brown, 1/4-inch beetles with 16 black spots on their wing covers. See all about them here and organic garden practices to do if you have them.
The other bean pest is white flies. Ugh. Spray those little buggers away with your hose and invite them to not come back! Check daily until they are GONE.
At the end of the season, save seeds from your monster producing plants! They are the most localized to your garden space and you. It’s as simple as waiting for the pods to dry on the vine, collecting the seeds, and completely drying them before storing in jars.
China produces 48% of the world’s beans, the US is 15th. Beans are high in fiber, have diverse antioxidant carotenoids, give a quarter of your day’s requirements of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for healthy bones and blood clotting, and are a good source of absorbable silicon. And they taste good right off the vine! They are yummy lightly steamed, in stews, Southern-style with ham or bacon and butter, roasted, chilled in salads, stir fried or sautéed with sauces and garlic! Hungry?!