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beans (Phaseolus) have an American heritage. The origin of
the plant lies somewhere near Guatemala but migration throughout
North and South America had occurred before Europeans
arrived. In fact, beans were almost as universally cultivated as
maize by the native people.
prefer rich soil in a sunny location. Make sure that you keep them
watered deeply in the heat of the summer. Soaking is
preferred to using overhead sprinklers.
Don’t bother trying to get an early start with beans – you’ll waste a lot
of seed! Beans are fairly fragile and you should not sow them until
all frost danger has passed and the soil remains above 65ºF.
the words of the botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey, "No vegetable seed
decays quicker than beans, and the delay caused by waiting for the
ground to become warm and free from excessive moisture will be
more than made up by the rapidity of growth when finally they are
Plant seeds 1½ inches deep, every two to three inches in rows twenty four inches apart.
Cultivate frequently and shallow until flowers appear. After they begin to
flower, be careful not to disturb the roots as it can cause the blossoms
Bush-type beans will require little or no support while climbing varieties
will require some structure. See below for trellising ideas.
green, snap beans when the have reached a desirable pod size. At
this young stage they are tender and tasty. Do not wait too long as
they become fibrous and stringy. A ten-foot row of pole beans should
provide the average family of three or four with fresh beans about twice a
week through the season.
It should be
noted that heat and water stress can be detrimental to beans.
Temperatures over 95F can cause blossoms to drop (abort) which reduces
production. Both heat and water stress will increase fiber
production and cause the pods to become stringy and woody. Keep your
plants well watered.
If you are raising dry beans, it is always best to allow them to
remain on the plant until the pods are brittle and snap open
easily. However, if you live in an area with a shorter growing
season, harvest as close to dry as you can and finish drying
indoors. Freezing temperatures and rain will damage the
methods of supporting pole or runner beans is limited only by your
imagination. The ideas and images presented here are of methods that
we use, or have used, here on the
farm. Some are best suited for larger scale
production, others are wonderfully suited for a smaller garden plot.
method is the one that we employed here for many, many decades. It
was basically the way that all of the commercial bean farmers raised beans
here in the Willamette Valley until bush-type varieties and mechanical
harvesters took over.
June 20, 2002
the northern portion of the Willamette Valley where we are
located, snap bean production was a major part of the agricultural
economy of the past.
my father's childhood in the 1940s and 1950s, spending summers picking
berries and beans was the major source of income for many school
August 11, 2002
beans produced were almost exclusively pole-type varieties grown
of trellising systems similar to the one illustrated in these
system is simple but time consuming to erect and remove every
spring and fall. One note, these poles are 8eight
footers. Using ten foot poles would be beneficial.
June 20, 2002
commercial bean production is now comprised of bush-type
and mechanical harvesting equipment. This shifts the expense
of the trellising and dependence on an army of pickers to the
picking machine and a smaller crew.
August 11, 2002
Since our work is with the preservation of heirloom and old
varieties and not snap bean production, we still are very
interested in pole beans. They are still very valid home
garden types as they produce over a longer period and typically
take less space.
We therefore use the string trellising method for
larger scale growing. This
is accomplished by using eight or ten foot steel t-posts on the ends of
the rows with wire stretched between them at the top and
bottom. Additional t-posts are used in between the end poles
to help support the wires as necessary. Heavy string or
twine is laced between the top and bottom wires. The beans
then wrap themselves around the string as they grow upwards.
use biodegradable, natural fiber twine. This is removed with
the expended vines in the late fall after we harvest the
seeds. Wires and pole are removed and stored, a cover crop
planted, and the system is installed in a different location the
this methods has its roots in the commercial bean fields of the
past, it is quite easily adapted to the home garden. The
poles, wire and twine are available at farm, garden and home
supply stores and the poles and wire will last for years.
Update July, 2011 - Based on the same premise of the above
model, we began using horticultural or crop netting in place of
the sisal twine. This saves us both money and many hours of
time effectively allowing up to expand the amount of beans that we
can grow. Below is an informational video on how we install
is part of a responsible lifestyle. Our garden, as part of our
lives, is the perfect place in which to practice recycling.
Additionally, it provides a structure for the kids to hide in as well as
making harvest time easy.
following photographs are of a common site in our garden. Instead of
recycling the metal frame of our old swing set, we reused it as a very
sturdy trellising structure for our 'Scarlet
Runner' bean crop.
wire was strung around the bottom of the structure and twine laced as in
the row trellising system above. It is the equivalent of twenty row
- Similar to our 7/30/99 shot but a bit more mature. You can
really see how pretty the
'Giant Grey Stripe' sunflowers are
in blossom. You can also compare the 'Scarlet
Runner' blossoms in the pictures.
is what it looks like the second week of November after a good hard frost. Time to put the garden to bed for
I can't wait until spring!
The following images are of our
"Bean House". It is shown first with the facade attached to
the core structure of PVC
pipe. The additional photos are of the beans as they
progressed through the growing season.
7/14/99 - Here you
see the facade and trellis structure before stringing. Beans
are just coming up.
7/30/99 - We ended
up helping the bean house by adding a brace board and anchoring it
to the "swing set".
9/6/99 - Notice the
added support on the face of the house. The structure ends
up bearing a lot of weight. Don't skimp on the schedule of
PVC pipe you use. It will collapse.
Mike loves this
"Chile Dilly Beans" (pickled green beans)
Click picture for the recipe.
The main part of the facade
is made from a piece of 1/2" exterior plywood. The
"beams" were created by screwing 1/2" x 3" scrap fir
and cedar. The "wattle and daub" effect by using FixAll
brand plaster. The plaster and the beams were left to weather
naturally. The other portions were stained dark brown. There
is a hinged door cut out of the plywood that allows kids to play inside
and access to pick when the time comes.
This type of "structure" helps to create spaces that invites people into
the garden. The idea is to have fun and create positive memories.
This is one of the best ways to ensure that gardening is passed on to the
use this during the summer gardening season and store it in a barn over winter.