Among the most enthusiastic vegetables you can have in your garden is the humble bean. Though they can not be planted until the earth has been well warmed and the danger of frost is past, beans are quick to peep up through the seedbed, pulling their folded leaves from underground into the sunlight. You can assist in this process by turning the soil over several times to loosen it before planting and by mulching it lightly right after planting.
If your beans are a pole variety, make sure the pole is firmly in the ground before planting. Given the opportunity, pole beans may reach a height of 10 to 15 feet. Unless you have an unusual garden (or you play for an NBA team), such a height is not practical, but you can take advantage of the potential by making an arch with two poles. Several arches in a row make a cozy tunnel, and beans can be harvested from the walls and the ceiling. Beans growing on poles enjoy better ventilation than bush beans, making them less susceptible to disease. Many gardeners grow both bush and pole varieties.
Beans must be grown in full sunlight, lest the plants grow spindly in the search for more light. Too much heat, however, will reduce their productivity; 70° to 80℉ is ideal. In hot weather, mulch helps to cool the soil and retain moisture. Most beans will tolerate a wide range of soil types, but they won’t do well in soil that is poorly drained.
Soil inoculants (available from most seed suppliers), which help to fix nitrogen in the soil, promote healthy growth and a better root system. Toss the seeds in the bean-inoculant powder before planting. Once the beans emerge, they can be fertilized with a low nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10. Pole beans tend to be heavier feeders than bush beans.
There are so many varieties of beans that you can easily experiment with new ones every year and also grow your old standbys. Purple beans add color to a salad, but they turn green when cooked. The ‘Kentucky Wonder’ is famous for its good, reliable flavor, but you’ll find excellent flavor from ‘Romano’ and ‘Roma’ types as well. While you may develop preferences, a good fresh bean of any kind is bound to please your palate.