September 24, 2015

This year, I only grew bean varieties that would climb a trellis.
Jessica Walliser

This was a spectacular year for beans in my garden. I’ve harvested more beans than any season before from my 25-by-30-foot vegetable garden. I attribute my successful year to a few different factors.


1. I Made Good Choices

Fortunately, I hit the jackpot on the varieties I decided to grow. This year, I went completely vertical, choosing to grow only climbing bean selections in order to save space. I grew a phenomenal yellow filet bean called French Gold from Renee’s Garden Seeds and trained it up an old metal closet organizer I spray painted turquoise. From one packet of seeds, I harvested 13 pounds of beans from only a 2-by-2-foot square of garden space!

I also grew a green pole bean called French Emerite, also from Renee’s Garden Seeds. This selection climbed the fence around the garden with a little help from a piece of chicken wire I stapled to it. From that packet, I harvested 9 pounds of beans.

The third variety I grew was a runner bean called Scarlet Runner. Although most of the U.S. grows runner beans as ornamentals, I grow for dried beans. I don’t know how many beans I’ll harvest yet, as the pods are just beginning to swell.


2. I Waited To Plant

The second reason my beans totally rocked this year was because I waited a few extra weeks to plant them. Bean seeds do not like cold, wet soil. For this reason, I’ve discovered that waiting until late May or early June to sow the seeds means faster growth and higher yields. In past years, when I sowed my bean seeds in mid May, they sometimes rotted before germination or were very slow to take off. This simple practice has made a huge difference in my bean production.


3. I Companion Planted

I also think my beans did so well this year because I managed to escape the dreaded Mexican bean beetle. This pest has plagued me in the past, but ever since I started inter-planting my veggies with lots of flowering herbs and annuals a few years ago, I have enough predatory beneficial insects around to keep the bean beetle numbers in check.

4. I Harvested Regularly

In addition, I was religious about harvesting my beans every few days, all season long. Pole beans will keep producing new beans as long as they’re regularly picked. In other words, the more you pick, the more pods the plants produce! What we couldn’t eat fresh, we blanched and packed away in freezer bags for winter use. We also gave some to friends and neighbors.

5. I Mulched With Compost

And the final thing I feel made a huge impact on the productivity of our beans was a hearty application of compost this spring. Every year, I add 2 to 3 inches of compost to the garden as a mulch. This keeps the plants from drying out during summer’s heat and adds a good balance of nutrients to the soil.

All in all, it was a successful year for many of the crops in my garden, but my beans certainly earned their place at the top of my favorites list.

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