Gardening Tips and Tricks : Growing, Cultivating and Propagating Green Beans
Can’t do without them
Also called Snap, French, or String Beans, Green Beans are both attractive and useful. Even if you think of them as being garden plants, you can easily grow them on a balcony or terrace. These beans love the heat and cannot take the frost. They have the advantage of growing quickly–as long as both the air and the soil are warm enough. They are quite easy to grow.
Green beans were probably first grown in South America, where they were cultivated by the Indians long before Europeans appeared on the scene. Several types of garden beans have been found in the Inca ruins of Peru.
The beans grown by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks belong to other members of the Phaseolus family, first spoken of in Europe in the seventeenth century. The English name of “French Bean” doubtless comes from the fact that it was the French who first appreciated the value of this delicious vegetable.
Takes nitrogen from the air
The Green Bean is an annual which reaches a height of about 16 to 20 inches. The roots are rather weak and grow close to the surface of the earth. These roots are rather special in that they have small nodes of bacteria which can absorb and use the nitrogen in the air, In this way the beans take advantage of the nitrogen one year while other plants can have the advantage of nitrogen in the soil the following year.
Green Beans bush out with side shoots from the leaf axils. The three-lobed leaves have a rough surface. Growth stops at a cluster of whitish or purplish flowers. The kidney-shaped seeds, or beans, can be anything from white through pale brown to black, and are very nourishing with a high content of starch and protein.
Almost all modern varieties are stringless and should be harvested before they get too ripe. There are various types of dwarf beans, with different shapes, sizes and colors. There are broader, flat beans; rounded, “meaty” beans which are usually snapped and not cut; narrow, thin beans and, finally, yellow, shorter, chubby beans.
You may know many of these by their common names such as Kidney Beans, Wax Beans, Kentucky Wonder Beans, and Romano or Italian Green Beans, to name a few. There are many named varieties of both vining and shrubby types available.
The modern Green Bean hybrids have been cultivated with the canning and freezing industries in mind, which means that most of the beans ripen at the same time. Private growers who would prefer a longer season can get around this problem by planting seeds at 2 to 3-week intervals.
Growing Green Beans
Sowing Green Beans
Plant seeds beginning in April or May, or whenever you think the soil is warm enough with minimal chance for night frost. From sowing to harvesting will take about 70 to 90 days, and you can sow until mid-summer.
Sow the seeds in twos, 2 inches below the soil and 2 inches apart. After germination, thin the plants out to one every 2 inches. The soil should be fertile and well-drained, and not too wet. These plants love both sun and shelter but need almost no looking after except for watering in dry periods.
Mist when in blossom
Misting when the beans are in flower will encourage pollination. Pick the beans when you think they have reached a good size. Remember, newly harvested beans taste best. Make sure you don’t loosen the roots as you pick the beans.
Many of the newer varieties of the Green Bean are free of mosaic disease and bacterial infection–both of which have been a difficult problem in previous cultivation.
–Cotyledons, the first leaves, may occasionally be attacked by small caterpillars. Use treated seed.
The leaves turn yellow and growth comes to a halt if temperatures are too low. Plant your beans in a warm and sheltered spot.
Check vegetable seed catalogues for the newest and best varieties of beans for the home garden. You’ll find a large and diverse selection from which to choose.
Lifespan: An annual.
Season: Green Beans are summer vegetables sown every spring.
Difficulty quotient: An easy vegetable which is both decorative and useful.
Size and growth rate
Green Beans are annuals, 1 1/2 to 6 feet tall, with several side shoots growing from the leaf axils. The three-lobed leaves have a rough surface. Flowering stops growth.
Flowering and fragrance
The flowers grow two by two or in clusters at the tips of the stems. White seeds give white flowers while brown or black seeds produce light purple flowers. They have no fragrance.
Light and temperature
Green Beans cannot take the cold and will die when the air reaches the freezing point. In cold summers both growth and development will be stunted. These beans thrive in warm, sunny conditions in warm earth.
Watering and feeding
As long as you have sown your beans in a good, nourishing soil, you will not have to feed them. They can obtain their own nitrogen from the air with the help of the bacterial nodes on the roots. You may need to water in hot, dry periods.
Soil and transplanting
The bean plants have a rather weak root system near the surface and suffer in hard, compacted soil. The ground should be fertile and well-drained. As these are annuals, transplanting is never necessary.
With seeds (beans). Plant them at a depth of 2 inches in May-June. They will germinate with thick cotyledons above the surface. These fall off when the true leaves come.
You can grow these beans in a balcony box or tub in any warm and sunny spot. The colorful beans are the most decorative and can also be eaten. Try adding a bit of Savory (Satureja hortensis) to the water to increase the flavor when you cook them.