Story by Pam Wallace and Bev Servadio, UCCE Master Gardeners
ush beans are one of the best crops for the beginning gardener to grow. Both bush and pole bean cultivars are members of the same species, Phaseolus vulgaris, also called “common beans.” As the name implies, these beans grow into bushes and don’t require poles for support. This versatile crop includes a variety of snap beans, green shelling beans and dry shell beans that are favorites on the dinner table. Bush beans are warm-season vegetables, so they can be planted in our area from early spring through July and harvested from mid-July through October.
Types of beans:
- Snap — Also known as green beans, these varieties are for fresh eating.
- Shelling — Pods are tough, so only the seeds are eaten.
- Dry — Pods are allowed to fully ripen and dry on the plant before harvest and can be stored as a winter food source.
- Dual purpose — Some cultivars can either be eaten young,
as green pods, or allowed to mature and used for either shelling or drying.
Pods are usually ready to pick 45-65 days after planting or 1-2 weeks after blossoms appear.
Beans like warm soil temperatures, with the best germination occurring in the 70-degree to 85-degree range. Direct seed into your well-worked garden bed and sprouting should occur in eight to 16 days. These plants require full sun — that means between six and eight hours a day of direct sunlight. Like most garden vegetables, they can tolerate some shade, but they will be more productive and vigorous if grown in full sun.
Beans are light feeders — if you’ve added in a good compost blend to your garden bed, skip the fertilizer. Too much fertilizer and you’ll have lots of foliage but very few bean pods. The plants need consistent water in our hot summer weather. Using mulch around the plants will help hold the moisture.
Look for the seeds at your local nurseries, big-box stores and on the internet.
Bush beans do very well in square-foot gardens. Here are four bush beans varieties you might like to try:
Roma II: These are stringless snap beans with a mouthwatering, rich flavor. The firm texture holds up to cooking and processing, making it a great addition to soups and stews. The pods are also flavorful when grilled and sautéed. Roma II bush bean produces heavy yields of straight, stingless, bright green, 5-inch pods. Can be grown as a snap bean or dry bean. 55 days to harvest.
Cannellini Lingot: Cannellini beans, also known as white kidney beans, are preferred by chefs for their mild, nutty flavor and creamy texture. Enjoy in soups (homemade minestrone), salads and pasta dishes. This variety has pods that are 6 to 8 inches long. Days to maturity for fresh shelling: 85.
Flambo: Like its name, this bean is a flamboyant plant. It has fuchsia and cream mottled 4-inch-long pods. When beans are picked fresh, they are a creamy white speckled with pink and red. Add this one to your soups or puréed for hummus. For dry bean storage, leave pods on the bush until the bush has completely dried, then harvest the pods and shell by hand. Store in a cool place. If left to dry and mature, the color darkens to a light brown with maroon mottling. The flavor is excellent either way. Days to maturity for fresh shelling: 75.
Black Coco: A triple-treat bean that is a joy to grow because it is so easy. It’s larger than other black beans. They are perfect in our longer growing season with plenty of heat. They cook into a delicious creamy, chocolaty flavor. Can be harvested as a snap bean, but it really comes into its own as a refried or soup bean. Cooks quickly with a delicious aroma that promises a hearty, robust soup. Days to maturity for fresh shelling: 95.
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