How to Grow and Harvest Beans
Legumes are of the easiest growers on the planet, a good source of protein and great at improving soil.
There are various types and sub types of legumes for the South African home gardener the following options are available
- Green beans that is cooked, pods and all and they do come in various colours
- Dry beans harvested and stored for later use
- Fava beans that are grown during the winter
Previous all comes in different classifications and in turn there is a myriad of types to suit every one’s need and taste.
Soil Preparation and feeding
Legumes do not require good soil and normally does fine where other plants will wither. Having said that, like all plants they will rather grow in good soil than poor soil! When you have a particular area in your garden where the soil is not of the best, improve the soil by growing beans for the nitrogen it will add to the soil and organic matter you can leave behind.
Do not add nitrogen to the soil. Legumes take nitrogen in through their leaves and deposit a fair amount around their roots. When the plants’ finished production chop off only the above the soil part of the plant, leave the roots that is rich with nitrogen in the soil for usage by follow up crops.
If you want to add something to the soil for beans add compost, beans like all other vegetables, love compost. Even if your compost is very high in nitrogen your beans will benefit greatly from compost.
When planting pole beans, which we highly recommend you, do because of the substantially higher yields you will get, you need to prepare a trellis. This doesn’t have to be difficult. Constructing an A frame style trellis from reeds is easy and quick to do. Have your trellis in place when you plant the seeds, don’t delay. Many a gardener has been caught off guard when their beans already need a trellis.
Planting times for beans in South Africa
Bush Beans: Aug to Jan
Pole Beans: Aug to Dec
Fava Beans: Feb to Jun
Please note: Planting times supplied is in a general South African sense and is based on typical South African Highveld conditions. Your particular area of South Africa might vary, for instance if you live in Tzaneen you have summer all year long and can grow summer crops January to December!
Seed Planting and Germination
Sow seeds direct. Beans don’t like being transplanted, however provided you give very special care you can start beans indoors in seed trays and transplant after last frost.
Bean seeds germinate at 22 to 28 degrees Celsius. At lower temperatures germination will be poor and delayed.
Bean seed germination takes approximately 8 to 10 days.
Bean Plant Spacing
Standard Bush beans 30 to 40 centimeters apart
Lima Bush beans 50 to 60 centimeters apart
Cowpeas 1 meter apart
Pole Beans 20 to 30 centimeters apart
Days to harvest
Standard Bush beans 60 to 85 days
Lima beans 85 to 110 days
Cowpeas 110 days
Pole Beans 70 to 85 days
- Days to harvest is based on typical good growing conditions and can sometimes vary dependent on climate, state of soil, in some instances day length as well as the climate for the area in South Africa where you reside.
- The specific plant might have characteristic that falls out of the typical type norm.
- Days to harvest are counted from germination or seedling transplant date whichever is the latest.
Green beans should be harvested young, even “stringless” beans become hard and stringy or spongy when left on the plants to long. When picking your bean pods young and regularly the plants will produce for an extended period.
Dry beans should be left to mature and dry out on the plants. Certain types might split open in rain and you are better off to harvest these as they turned dry and dry them off further indoors.
When your plants are finished, do not pull them from the soil. Rather chop them and leave the roots in the soil to improve soil nitrogen as well as adding some organic matter.
Saving of Crop
Green beans can be chopped and frozen for later use.
Dry beans can be stored when properly dry with moisture content less than 13%. Since you won’t know the moisture content without a tester, the best way to test is hitting a sample with a hammer. If the bean shatters it is dry enough for storage.
NB! Freeze dry beans in an airtight container or zip seal bag for approximately three days to kill off potential weevils or eggs that might hide under the seed coat. They will destroy your stash if any are present. When taken out of freezer keep in sealed container until it reach room temperature, take out and place in your long storage container keep airtight and in a cool space. It will last for years and years.
Click here to view which Bean Seeds are available to you now.