What do I need to know about beans?

Beans of all kinds are a classic gardening favorite. Green beans, soy beans, snake beans, broad beans, French, string, kidney, garbanzo, pinto, navy, lima…the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder they make their way into gardens all over the globe. They’re a great source of protein and dietary fiber as well as a laundry list of other nutrients including but not limited to: magnesium, manganese, thaimine, folate and iron. What’s not to love!? Moreover, beans fall within the legume family which means that they function symbiotically with bacteria to “fix” free nitrogen. This means that they convert the non metabolizable N2 into ammonia and render it usable by other plants for growth and foliage development. In other words, they’re helping your garden!

Let’s talk about the basics; growing options and getting started.

As far as most bean varieties are concerned there are two growth styles — bush or pole (climbing) beans. The variety you are seeking may only be grown in one form or the other but in many cases both options are available. Pole beans, usually around 6 feet tall, are typically more resistant to disease but they require trellising. This is a great option if you’re into the “grow up” space efficiency gardening method. Bush beans, only 1-2 feet tall, are more compact and although not as pretty they are great for containers (think patio garden) or if you’re trying to get the little ones involved — easy picking!

I have grown both bush and pole varieties but recently I’ve found that vertical gardening allows me to fit more veggies into the same small space. As a result, pole beans and a sturdy “bean tower” have been my go-to. This year I will be growing Burpee’s Purple King pole beans. Yes, they’re actually purple. I’ve included the links for both the bean seeds and the bean tower below. I planted my seeds 4 days before the projected last frost date for my zone. It’s been quite warm and although I do expect a cold snap, because we always have a brief cold spell, I don’t think we’ll experience anything that my beans can’t handle. I took a risk but I’m hoping it pays off and I get a jump start on the season.

The planting process is simple. I assembled and secured my tower in nutrient rich soil. This soil has a few added supplements including: bone meal, earth worm castings, vermiculite and kelp meal. When the weather is suitable for the bean variety you have chosen and your zone, push your finger into the soil to create a 1-2 inch hole. I usually use the second knuckle on my index finger as a point of reference. That’s right, no tools necessary. Drop a seed in each hole and cover it with dirt. Pack gently for good contact and give them a drink at the time of planting. Your seeds will need to be spaced accordingly. If you ordered your seeds the suggested spacing should be listed on the package but if not 4-6 inches is a good place to start. That’s it. Once you have seedlings it’s off to the races. Bush beans will fill out and start producing blossoms quickly. If you find that your squat plants become too heavy with beans during their peak don’t be afraid to give them some support. It won’t hurt them and it will keep your crop from rotting on the ground. If you’ve gone with pole beans they’ll likely exhibit some extensive vine growth before they start to produce flowers but fear not, they’ll be covered in beans before you know it!

Bean Tower
Purple King Pole Bean seeds
Don’t mind the photo bomb – Holmes’ Royal Red Radish (bottom)

Did I mention my beans will be purple!? I’m extremely fond of purple vegetables AND anything pickled. I’ll be making my favorite spicy refrigerator dilly bean recipe as soon as I have enough Purple Kings. I’ve shared this recipe below, so give it a shot and let me know what you think! As always, if you have any questions about getting your bean effort underway please don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m happy to help. Cheers, friends!

Purple King Pole Beans:
Bean Tower:

Spicy Dilly Bean Recipe:
Brine– 4 cups White Vinegar
2 cups Water
6 tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
5 heaping tbsp pickling spice
2 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp black peppercorn
Other– 6 cups whole beans (or cucumber spears/slices)
1 bulb garlic (peel individual cloves)
4 large jalapenos (sliced)
1/2 cup dill (finely chopped)
Directions– Place beans (or cukes), garlic, peppers and dill in a container that can withstand boiling temperatures. I typically use Pyrex. Combine brine ingredients and bring to a rapid boil, then pour the brine over the remaining ingredients. As soon as your container is cool enough to handle, cover and store in the refrigerator. Allow to sit at least 2 weeks before devouring.

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