Cultural Tips for Growing Beans
In This Guide
Plant your garden in a convenient location, where you can check it frequently. Choose an area near an abundant supply of water so you can water as needed easily. Vegetables do best if they receive full sunlight (at least 4 to 6 hours a day). Plant them in a well-exposed area in the garden, where they are not shaded by trees, fences, or walls. Try to plant away from areas that will be watered by lawn sprinklers.
Whenever possible, select a location that is not heavily infested with weeds, especially weeds such as field bindweed, nutsedge, and Bermudagrass that can be hard to control with hand weeding. Also avoid areas that have had previous disease problems.
Try to plant on level ground. Level ground is easier to work on than sloping ground. Vegetables will do well on a wide range of soils; they do best in well-drained soils. If your soil forms a clump when squeezed, then it is too wet; if the soil crumbles easily, it is a good soil to use. Damp soil surfaces encourage snails, slugs, sowbugs, and root diseases; fruit decay and leaf spot diseases may also increase. Soil amendments can make clay and sandy soils easier to work with, and correct soil preparation can improve poor soil.
Adding organic matter (compost, peat moss, manure, sawdust, ground bark) makes clay and sandy soils easier to work with. The soil should be kept at a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Lime or gypsum can be added to soils low in calcium.
Sandy to sandy loam enriched with organic amendments; avoid alkaline, high-salt soils.
Any type of soil can be improved with soil amendments. Heavy clay or sandy soils can be improved by adding organic material such as compost, manure, or leaf mold. Texture is an important consideration when choosing an amendment. An amendment that is granular and fine grained is important for container mixes. For gardens, a more coarse-grained amendment can improve drainage and aeration. Work amendments into soil by rototilling, raking, or double-digging.
The preparation of your soil is just as important as adding fertilizer and soil amendments. Before working the soil, make sure it is moist but not thoroughly wet.
- Use a shovel, rototiller, metal bow rake, or all of them together to loosen the top 1 to 2 inches of soil. Rake the area to remove weeds and old crop debris. Be sure to dig out roots.
- Irrigate the plot deeply to encourage the germination of weed seeds.
- In a week or two, after a substantial number of weeds have germinated, work the area again to kill the weed seedlings. Be sure to break up the clods in the soil, as seeds planted in cloddy soil will germinate poorly and won't live long because the soil dries too quickly.
- Form soil into beds if desired, and plant while soil is still wet.
Time to plant
Green beans, such as snap beans, require moderately warm weather and soil temperatures of 60° F or higher. In cooler soil, seeds rot quickly and growth is retarded. Also, at temperatures below 60° F, plants can be injured or killed by light frosts. Optimum temperatures for germination, growth, and good yields are from 65° to 85° F. Exceptions to this are the lima beans, which prefer even higher temperatures, beginning at 70° F. Fava beans are more tolerant of frosts and can be planted earlier for earlier harvests.
In a suitable climate, snap beans can be planted more than once a year for a continuous harvest.
|Planting Dates for Beans in California*
|North and North Coast
Monterey County north
San Luis Obispo County South
Sacramento, San Joaquin valleys
Imperial and Coachella valleys
|*Areas are large, so planting dates are only approximate, as the climate may vary even in small sections of the state. Contact your local UC Master Gardener program and experiment on your own to find more precise dates.|
Beans are suitable for a small garden if compact varieties are grown. It is best to direct seed beans into the garden. Germination will occur within about 10 to 15 days if soil temperatures are around 60° F. They should be planted on raised beds, made by adding large amounts of sifted compost or other soil amendments so that a bed is established above the previous level of soil. Plant the seed only after the danger of frost has past. Seed should be sown about 1-inch deep in rows spaced about 2 feet apart. Bush beans may be planted closer but should not be crowded. In wide raised beds, plant two rows on either side of the bed with 18 inches between the rows. Thin the seedlings so that, once established, they are 6 inches apart within the row. For pole varieties, plant adjacent to a trellis that is 6 to 10 feet tall. Sow seeds 1-inch deep and 4 inches apart on both sides of the trellis. Thin to 6 inches apart once established. Young seedlings can be protected with cloth until they have about 6 leaves. This helps protect the beans from seedling pests such as flea beetles, vegetable weevils, leafminers, snails, and slugs. It may also protect them from birds.
Most vegetables require fertilizer for growth. Organic materials, such as manures and compost, and inorganic materials, such as chemicals, can be used to fertilize plants. Using both types of materials usually provides the best growth. Manures and compost can be used to increase soil fertility. They are usually applied at 1 pound per 4 or 5 square feet. These materials should be worked into the soil several weeks before planting in order to allow it to decompose. Manure that contains straw, sawdust, or similar materials should be applied with a commercial nitrogen fertilizer. Generally, if the soil has been properly amended with compost or manures or other organic materials, the only nutrient needed is nitrogen, if anything. Some commercial nitrogen fertilizers available are urea, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, and ammonium nitrate. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 100 feet of row.
If manure and other organic material has not been used, apply fertilizer that contains both nitrogen and phosphorus before planting. All commercial fertilizers are labeled by the percentages of N-P-K; nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Some common mixed fertilizers are 5-10-5, 5-10-10, 8-16-16, and 12-12-12. Apply these fertilizers at rates of 1 - 2 pounds per 100 feet of row. After plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, sidedress nitrogen in narrow bands or furrows and water thoroughly after application, or apply through the drip system. Consider light but frequent applications of nitrogen fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks. Avoid letting the fertilizer come into contact with the plant stems to avoid burning.
Inorganic fertilizers can be sidedressed. Manures are more difficult to use as a side dressing and must be tilled into the soil.
Banding: Make a small groove an inch or two deep on both shoulders of the bed, 4 to 6 inches from the plant row and band in the fertilizer. Replace the soil and irrigate.
Broadcasting: Fertilizers can be scattered along the bed shoulders. Work into the soil soon after. This is less efficient than the banding method but will be more practical when the plants are so large that the bed shoulders are inaccessible for banding.
Where sprinklers are used, fertilizer may be scattered on the soil surface between rows before irrigating. Where drip or trickle tubes are used, apply fertilizer on the soil surface near the drip tube.
Consistent and adequate irrigation is required for good fruit set and yield. If temperatures are high and soil moisture low, the flowers fail to set fruit, and yields are greatly reduced. Irrigation practices will vary with planting method, soil type, and season. However, a more frequent, light drip irrigation is preferable to a heavy, deep-furrow irrigation. Beans tend to be shallow-rooted plants that are sensitive to over irrigation and soils with low oxygen.
Harvesting and storing beans
Beans set fruit and ripen in stages over a period of time, depending upon the variety. Pole beans tend to crop longer than bush beans. Bush beans have a flush of beans over a 2-week period and then die out. Successive plantings every two weeks will allow for a continuous harvest. Beans should be harvested on a regular basis. The more you pick, the more crop you will have. With round-pod varieties, pick just as soon as the beans have plumped out. Avoid leaving beans on the plant for too long, as they will become tough.
The beans can be eaten fresh in the pod or shelled and left to dry. Fresh snap beans are excellent for freezing and pickling. Dried beans can be stored for long periods as long as the storage conditions remain dry.
|Harvesting Dates for Beans in California*
|North and North Coast
Monterey County north
San Luis Obispo
Sacramento, San Joaquin and similar valleys
Imperial and Coachella valleys
|*For other areas, contact your local UC Master Gardener program.
Seed bed preparation.
Amending soil to prepare for planting.
Bag of fertilizer.
Irrigation shut off valve.