Enjoy the flavorful taste of fresh shell beans when you grow them in your garden. Shell beans (Phaseolus vulgaris spp.) are grown for the bean rather than the pod, and are shelled at maturity. Organic Gardening suggests you sow 10 to 15 bush bean seeds or three to five hills of pole beans seeds for each person in your household. A 10-foot row will yield about 4 to 6 pounds of shell beans.
1. The Right Growing Conditions
To give your beans a healthy start, plant them in a well-drained, sunny location. Bean seeds need a soil temperature above 50 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Sow seeds after the last spring frost, preferably when temperatures are in the 70s. Pole beans need less space than bush beans, but they also need a trellis for support. Plant pole bean seeds linearly, an inch deep with 2 to 3 inches between plantings or in hills with four to six seeds per hill at the base of a pole. The size of your trellis determines the space needed between rows and which planting method to use. Sow bush beans an inch deep and 3 inches apart per row, with 18 to 24 inches between rows.
2. Supply Sufficient Water
Proper watering during the germination and flowering period of growth is crucial to the success of your bean crop. When no rainfall is expected, deeply water your bean plants weekly, providing at least 1 inch of water. Apply several inches of mulch around the plants to prevent the soil from drying out, because high heat can cause blossom drop-off and limit productivity.
3. Don't Crowd the Beans
It takes about seven days for bush beans and 14 days for pole beans to germinate. After two or three weeks, your beans will develop their true leaves. This is the time to thin the plants out. Lack of thinning will produce spindly plants that compete for nutrients and sunlight, reducing your yield. To thin out plants, pull out seedlings until your bush bean plants are 6 inches apart and pole bean plants are 4 inches apart.
4. Fertilize Only If Necessary
Beans fix their own nitrogen in the soil, but the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute suggests that applying nitrogen fertilizer or an organic source of nitrogen might increase bean yields. This information differs from other sources that state applying nitrogen to bean plants will result in excess greenery with less blossoms and fruit. If your beans are producing the right yield, it's best to hold off on the extra nitrogen.
5. Beware of Diseases
Viruses, fungi and bacterial infections can damage or kill bean plants. Buy disease-resistant seed varieties to ensure a bountiful crop of beans. Rotate bean crops every year or two to prevent soil-borne diseases. Harvesting beans while the plants are wet can spread fungi and disease. Let plants dry thoroughly before handling. Destroy disease-infested plants, and clean all tools you use on the plants before and after use. Do not plant beans in the same area for three to five years.
6. Possible Pests
Shell beans are prone to pests such as the bean leaf beetle, cutworms, white flies, spider mites and leaf miners. Examine your plants closely for signs of infestation. Treating infestations early with insecticides or organic pest products will result in higher bean yields.
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