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How to grow beans

Growing beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ) can give great satisfaction to fans of the home garden. It is a food capable of providing a high protein value, at low cost and with excellent organoleptic qualities. These characteristics make it the most famous of the legumes. Furthermore, precisely for these reasons, the bean boasts a long tradition in the agriculture of our countryside.

To be able to grow beans in the best possible way, you must, first of all, choose well among the many existing varieties. It is also important to follow the necessary cultural precautions. In this article, we try to provide you with a complete guide to the cultivation of this important leguminous plant.

The bean, botanical identification

BeansThe bean is a herbaceous plant with an annual cycle that belongs to the large Leguminosae family. This family includes numerous other species that we have already talked about: green beans, broad beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, lupins, and peanuts.

For the rest of the discussion, we will speak in particular of the varieties of climbing beans, that is, the best known and most productive. These types, precisely because of their characteristics, can give satisfaction even to the most inexperienced farmers.

Recall that beans are a botanical species native to Central and South America.

They were introduced to the old continent only after the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Today the cultivation of beans is widespread above all in Asia and in the North African countries bordering the Mediterranean basin. In Europe, the largest producers are the Spaniards, followed by the Portuguese, Italians, and Greeks.

Botanical characteristics of the climbing bean

The climbing bean is a very rustic and fast-growing plant. It has a root system formed by a central taproot, from which numerous lateral rootlets branch off. On the roots, we can observe a series of enlarged tubercles, in which the Rhizobium leguminosarum bacteria live. These are able to fix the atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, improving it, a peculiarity that unites all leguminous plants.

Long stems branch off from the root system, which can even exceed 4 meters in length. For this reason, in order to cultivate climbing beans, adequate supports are needed to allow the plant to grow harmoniously. The stems are devoid of tendrils that allow them to adhere to the support, as is the case with peas. The plant manages to climb anyway as the stems themselves twist around the supports.

Leaves, flowers, pods, and seeds

The leaves of the bean plant are composed of three-pointed flaps, and for this reason, they are called trifoliate. Every single flap has a petiole and the surface is covered with a rough down.

The flowers are gathered in inflorescences and inserted on the stem at the base of the axilla of the leaves.

For each inflorescence, the number of flowers is different and also depends on the variety chosen.

The color of the flowers is also variable, from white to yellowish, pink, lilac, violet, and up to bright red. The flower has the characteristic shape of the papillon (papilionaceous flower). Pollination generally occurs through self-fertilization but is favored by the presence of pollinating insects.

The pods are also very different in length, width and shape depending on the variety. For example, borlotti beans reach 18 cm in length and 1.5 in width.

The pod contains the seed, which is the beans we eat. These are present in a variable number from 2 to 10. Of course, the color is also different according to the variety. There are single-colored (white, coffee, brown, greenish), two-colored (brown and hazelnut), and mottled or marbled beans.

Variety of beans

Now let’s see what are the main varieties of beans that we can grow in our home garden.

On the seed market, you can find numerous varieties of climbing beans, let’s see which are the most interesting and widespread.

  • In Spain, it is the most cultivated white-seeded variety and is also known as the Corona bean. The plant is very vigorous and with excellent disease resistance. It enters production late, but prolongs the production period a lot. The seeds are large (up to 2g in weight) and have a great flavor.
  • Borlotto di Vigevano is the most loved variety in Italy. Represents the reference for beans with variegated colored seeds. The plant is vigorous and with stems up to 3 m long. The pod, when fully ripe, is yellowish with wine-red streaks and contains from 5 to 7 quite large seeds. Borlotto di Vigevano can be used fresh, frozen or dried.
  • Borlotto lingua di Fuoco is a variety characterized by a very showy pod, with evident intense red streaks. The pod contains 6 to 8 seeds, of medium size (up to 1 g in weight). The plant is very productive.
  • Di Lima or del Papa, variety with curved pods, which contain 3-5 seeds of flattened shape and excellent size (2 g in weight). The seeds have evident white streaks on a dark red background. It is less cultivated than the previous types.
  • Stregonta or Fiamma, is quite a wide variety, with large and elongated seeds, with dark red variegations. Inside the pod, there are 6-8 seeds and the production is fairly early compared to the other varieties.

Grow runner beans

Climate and period

Runner beans have a cultivation cycle of 110 to 150 days. The plant prefers a mild climate and does not tolerate cold and prolonged rains. It is sown in the open field in late spring, from the second half of April (in the South) to May (in the North). It should be emphasized that the bean not only fears the cold but also prolonged arid heat, above 35 °. Once this temperature is exceeded, flowers drop or the production of deformed and poor-quality pods. For this reason, the best soils for the cultivation of beans are those sheltered in the valley and in the hills. Here, in fact, it is more difficult to reach high summer temperatures.

Harvesting takes place from the end of summer and can last until autumn, for late varieties such as the Spanish bean.

Land needs

Beans prefer medium-textured soils, which tend to be loose and with a good amount of well-decomposed organic substance. The soil must have a good degree of humidity, but it must not be too cold.

The plant adopts less to clayey soils, above all due to water stagnation which irreparably damages it.

The ideal pH for bean cultivation is between 6 and 7.5, i.e. moderately acidic to slightly alkaline.

Calcareous soils are to be avoided. In this type of land, in fact, the plant does not grow well due to an irregular and/or insufficient capacity to absorb nutrients.

Irrigation and sowing

Being a spring-summer crop, beans need an adequate irrigation system to grow luxuriantly. The water must be guaranteed constantly, but without exaggerating and causing water stagnation.

Sowing can take place directly on the ground, with the portabella technique . 2 seeds are buried about 2-3 cm deep, keeping a distance of 20 cm between one portabella and the other and 1 m between the rows. The emergence of the seed occurs 8-10 days after sowing.

Crop care, supports, and mulching

To cultivate climbing beans it is essential to arrange adequate supports, where the plant can grow and produce in height. The method that we recommend for organic cultivation is the preparation of a simple system of poles and nets. After having carried out the sowing, they are placed along the row of standard wooden poles, 2.10 m high. Each pole must be placed at a distance of about 2 m from each other. A special plastic net ( like this one) is attached to the poles, which will form a row, which is fixed with nylon thread.

The net must be well stretched so that it can support the weight of the plants over time.

Another crop care to be taken into adequate consideration is that of cleaning from weeds. Weeds can affect the success of the crop, absorbing precious nutrients.

To minimize cleaning work (weeding) we recommend natural mulching with straw. The latter is to be placed among the young plants when these are sufficiently robust.

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