August 2018 – Crop of the Month
Green Bean – Scientific Name: Phaseolus vulgaris
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume family)
Even though it is hot and dry this time of the year, gardeners are gearing up for their fall gardens – this is actually a really exciting time of the year leading up to the fall, which in my opinion provides the best growing conditions for us here in Central Texas.
One of the most resilient, fastest growing, and highest yielding food crops that can be planted directly by seed in late August and early September is the tried and true green bean, also referred to as the snap bean, or the string bean. The green bean is native to Central America, and was in use as a food crop in Mexico and North America by the time that the Spanish arrived in the late 1400’s. The Contender variety of the common green bean does exceptionally well here in Central Texas. The Contender seed variety is available from Willhite Seed, Inc., and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
– Planting Tips –
Direct planting green beans from seed is easy. It is a large seed which makes it easy to handle, and it has a high germination rate. Since beans are legumes, they have a symbiotic relationship with the rhizobia bacteria which can be applied to coat the seeds. The bacteria will help make nitrogen available to the plants growing in your garden beds. To get the bacteria on the seeds, wet the seeds you are about to plant, put them in a paper bag, and sprinkle some of the rhizobia inoculate (a black powder) into the bag. Shake the bag well. Now you are ready to plant. Then, in a 3-foot-wide garden bed of loose soil with hopefully 3 to 5 percent organic matter in it, make a shallow 1-inch furrow with a garden hoe. Drop the bean seeds in the furrow 2 inches apart, no thinning should be required. Cover the furrows with an inch of soil. Two rows 1 foot apart can be planted along a 3-foot-wide garden bed. Repeat this process again after 14 days in order to increase and extend your harvest.
Keep the soil moist to encourage germination and establish your seedlings. When the bean plants are 6 inches tall, add 2 inches of fine mulch. Once it gets cooler and starts raining in mid late September very little if any irrigation should be required. Your green beans ought to be ready to begin harvesting in about 45 days. Harvest them while they are green, plump, and tender.
Keep an eye out for spider mites and damping off (a fungus), which are a couple of the main pests that plague beans. A soap and water spray should be applied to the underside of the bean plants’ leaves if spider mites are present, and well drained beds and drip irrigation, rather that overhead irrigation, will reduce damping off and rust (another fungus).
This is a crop that you will want to involve children with. Beans are often used in biology class projects to show kids how a seed germinates and transforms into a plant that we can eat. Planting bean seeds with children is fun and easy, and so is looking for the bean pods to harvest when they are ready. I remember well removing the strings and snapping green beans with my great grandmother when I was very young, then my grandmother would put them on to cook with some bacon drippings in them before we left for church service.