Growing Bean Plants:
Vegetable Gardening With Legumes
- What is a Legume?
- Types of Beans
- Planting Beans
- Harvesting Beans
- Common Bean Pests & Diseases
What is a Legume?
Legumes are defined as the long seedpod, or edible portion, of a leguminous plant. Included in the legume family are nuts, peas, lentils, and beans. Beans are the most common variety of legumes and include black beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and lima beans. They are high in protein and carbohydrates, but low in fat, and foodies appreciate them for their healthy but filling servings.
Types of Beans
Beans are available in two main types: shell beans and snap beans. Shell beans offer protein-rich seeds while snap beans are grown for their pods. Furthermore you can segregate beans into four growth patterns: bush, pole, runner, and half-runner. Bush bean plants are bush-like in form and are self-supporting. Pole beans have vines that grow up structures and appreciate stakes or trellises. Runner beans are cool weather condition pole beans and half-runners have a growing habit that falls between pole beans and bush beans.
There are tons of beans available to grow in your garden this year, but let’s explore the most popular. Black beans, black-eyed peas, fava beans, garbanzo, lima beans and string beans are all easy to grow and have nutritional benefits. Check out the highlights of each:
- Black Beans – popular for stews and soups, these beans need three months of warm temperatures to mature. Be certain the danger of frost has passed when planting black beans.
- Black-eyed Peas – available in bush and runner varieties, black-eyed peas are easy to grow given the proper climate and conditions. Black-eyed peas are typically white with one black spot on them.
- Fava Beans – thriving in cold, damp weather, fava beans are more popular in Europe than the US. They take about 75 days to mature and are a great source of vegetable protein, only second to soybeans.
- Garbanzo Beans – a bushy bean plant that needs about 65-100 days until maturity, garbanzo beans are also known as chickpeas.
- Lima Beans – consisting of pole and bush varieties, limas take 60-75 days for bush variety growth where pole types need 90-130 days for growth. Plant lima bean plants when you’re sure that frost threats have passed.
- String Beans – grown in soil temperatures at 65 degrees or higher, these plants need about 45-75 days until harvest. Stakes or a trellis will help support these climbing vines.
There are many different beans you can plant, so make sure you check their specific directions when getting ready to put seeds in the ground. Even so, a couple rules of thumb do exist for planting beans. Follow these guidelines:
- Starting bean seeds indoors may be detrimental, as surviving transplanting doesn’t always happen
- Pole beans should be planted in a staked area. Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® Sturdy Stakes® should be placed in the ground prior to seeds being sown in order to avoid injury to the plants.
- Plant pole beans 3 inches apart, and plant bush beans 2 feet apart
- Beans can be planted to offer a full summer harvest. If this is your goal you should sow them about every 2 weeks.
- Plant bean seeds in well-drained, well mulched soil
- Water bean plants regularly throughout their life cycle. Similar to most plants, water during sunny days to avoid excess water on leaves and resulting mold.
- Keep plant beds weeded.
Beans are ready to be harvested when sizeable and firm pods are present. Snap or cut them off, but be careful to not tear the plant. If you wait to pick the pods the seeds inside will begin to develop and become plants of their own.
Once removed from a plant, bean pods are fresh for about 4-7 days. You can freeze beans, pickle them, or can them for preservation.
Common Bean Pests & Diseases
Bean plants are prone to a handful of pests and disease that could wipe out your entire crop. Arm yourself with the proper solutions before the season begins so you can attack an issue at first sight, before it becomes a problem.
Aphids, sometimes with or without wings, are also known as plant lice or green flies. They are a soft-bodied insect and range in color from green to orange to gray/black or white. Aphids produce a sweet, sticky excretion known as honeydew and will make your plants feel sticky. If there is a large infestation the leaves of your plant may curl and turn brown. Outfit your garden arsenal with Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap to manage aphids. Simply spray visible bugs to eliminate them.
Bean Beetles, unlike most beetles that feed on insects, feeds on plants. In colors ranging from red to rusty brown to golden yellow, you will find this beetle doesn’t have a particular bean preference and will feed on most types. If your bean plants’ leaves have a lacey appearance they could be victim, as bean beetles feed on leaves from the underside. A hard-bodied insect killer like Safer® Brand EndALL will kill the beetles on contact. Check undersides of leaves for pupal stage larvae and hand pick them and destroy.
Japanese Beetles, about a half-inch in length, pack a powerful punch. Shiny bluish-green bodies combined with coppery wings, the Japanese Beetle has small worm-like larvae known as grubs. The adult Japanese Beetle is the predator to the bean plant and will create holes in plant leaves or fully remove the leaves from your bean plant. A preventative measure like the Safer® Brand Japanese Beetle Trap will lure beetles away from your plants and trap and kill them. If you find you have a problem with beetles at the larvae stage you’ll want to employ a grub remedy like Safer® Brand Grub Killer.
White Mold is identified as a white cottony growth on the stem, branches, and pods of bean plants. White mold’s inception begins when the soil surface is cool and moist. Well drained soil helps prevent white mold, while also using Safer® Brand Garden Fungicide to treat issues as they become visible.
Stocking up on the right seeds, the proper tools, and the appropriate insect and disease management vehicles will get you in gear for a summer full of beans and healthy, fresh harvests.
Learn more about Legumes, specifically Vertical vs. Horizontal Bean Plant Growing and for tips on Succession Planting check out our infographic here.