Dry beans are an ecologically sound foodstuff in today’s world. Being a bean, they produce at least part of their own nitrogen supply with the help of symbiotic bacteria, which live in the soil. Dry beans are one of the easiest crops to produce organically. Dry beans are an excellent source of protein when combined with whole grains, nuts or small amounts of poultry or fish. Dried beans also contain fibre and minerals (remember to discard the soaking and cooking water to reduce flatulence). Continue reading below for to learn how to grow dry beans from seed.
Season & Zone
Season: Warm season.
Sow as early as possible for dry beans, in late spring, once the soil warms up a bit so plants can mature before wet weather sets in. Optimal soil temperature: 21-32°C (70-90°F).
Sow seeds 2-5cm (1-2″) deep, 5-8cm (2-3″) apart, in rows 45-60cm (18-24″) apart. Thin to at least 15cm (6″) apart in each row. If the weather is too wet, beans can also be started in pots indoors and set out carefully a few weeks later. Seeds will sprout in 8-16 days, depending on conditions.
Ideal pH: 6.0-6.5. Well drained, warm soil in full sun is best. Raised beds help with both drainage and warmth. Use 1 cup of complete organic fertilizer for every 3m (10′) of row. Too much nitrogen in fertilizer or manure may cause poor pod set and delayed maturity. If beans flower but do not set pods, the cause can be zinc deficiency. Try spraying the plants with kelp based fertilizer. Wet leaves on crowded plants are subject to diseases. Thin plants to increase air circulation and avoid touching the leaves while they are wet.
Stop all watering when the first pods start drying out. Harvest when the seedpods are straw coloured. Pull the plants up by the roots and hang to dry. To shell the beans bash them back and forth inside a bag or pillowcase. Or shell them individually by hand. Do not pick until pods are dry. The beans themselves can then be set somewhere out of direct sunlight, where air movement is good, for a further week to insure even dryness.
Diseases & Pests
Cutworms and root maggots can attack seeds and seedlings. Allowing for good air circulation between plants, and taking care not to over fertilize can slow foliar disease, both fungal and bacterial. When thinning your seedlings try to keep enough space in between for air circulation to reduce disease incidence.
Beans fix nitrogen in the soil. Plant with Brassicas, carrots, celery, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, peas, potatoes, radish, and strawberries. Avoid planting near chives, garlic, leeks, and onions. Pole beans and beets stunt each other’s growth.
More on Companion Planting.