Many years ago I found some fresh green beans really cheap and so I thought I’d buy a lot and can them because we love green beans. I knew that everyone said you have to have a pressure canner for green beans but I thought, what do they know, I’ll just do a really long water bath. Well, I’m as not clever as I think I am sometimes and some rules just cannot be broken. They were a total disaster and within days we were throwing them out due to obvious spoilage.
A couple of Christmases ago my mom and her husband gave me pressure canner! I was so excited. So last year I planted what I thought were tons of green beans. Each time we picked we only had enough for us to eat as a meal not any extra to can. I think part of it was that we really struggled last year to keep the garden watered and of course our soil isn’t that great yet. But we’re working on both of those things and keeping notes in our gardening notebook to track our progress.
We have “installed” a homemade drip irrigation system ~ aka milk jugs with about a hundred holes in them. And we have a ton of leaves that we are using as mulch. We have hauled so many leaves that the boys just groan when we mention leaves. However, this has meant that they don’t have to rake our leaves so they are very grateful. We have used leaves before and they work great, but we have not ever used the milk jugs. So far I am really liking them. I can put the water right into the jug and either just fill it up or let it overflow a bit ~ which is what I do with the beans since they are kind of far from the jug. We are hoping this will also keep the leaves dry. Last year we also struggled with powdery mildew which gets worse if you water your plants leaves.
Here’s what I’ve learned about growing green beans over the years:
- For our area the suggest time to plant is March 15-May 15 and for a fall crop from Aug. 15- Sept. 15 (these are just recommended times, last night a friend told me her 9 year old started about 50 seeds in Jan and planted them in the garden in Feb. They now have 2 bags of cut green beans in the freezer!)
- The soil temperature needs to be at least 60 degrees for the seeds to germinate (that is really never a problem here)
- Plant 4-6 inches apart – don’t crowd them
- Water the soil, not the plant – prone to powdery mildew
- Pick when they are on the small side – 6 inches or less- to keep the plant producing.
- Pole beans are a vine and need support. They produce beans all season long
- Bush beans are a bush and they produce a big crop at one time and then their production tapers off
- Beans are a nitrogen fixer in the soil – meaning they add nitrogen to the soil.
- Do not plant next to garlic, onions and shallots – I have not actually experienced this myself, but I’ve read in many places that they are not good companions.
Pests and Problems:
- Most of the problems with beans can be prevented or at least decreased by rotating crops on a 3 year basis (esp. if you have had rust) and not watering the leaves.
- Powdery mildew – is a white mildew that will attack the leaves of beans, squash, melons and cucumbers. It is caused by too much moisture on the leaves and is spread by bugs. We try to cut off infected leaves and burn them. Last year we had a hard time with this and are changing the way we water to hopefully avoid it this year.
- Rust -causes brown, withering leaves and can lead to a loss of bean crops. A fungus causes this ailment, and it’s spread when spores from infected crops are carried along the wind and land on healthy plants. We have never experienced this but we have some friends in our area who struggle with this. Remove any infected plant sections as soon as you notice this.
- Bean Beetle – This looks like a big orange lady bug with an orange (not black) head. Here’s a great article on them. We pick them off and squish them. The rule is “If it’s a lady bug that doesn’t have a black head it’s bad.”
Harvesting and storing:
- Harvest when the pod are small, be diligent when looking – they can easily hid under the leaves
- You can blanch and freeze them (we don’t because we don’t like frozen green beans)
- You can can them IF you have a pressure canner
- You can eat them every day – this is more of what we do! Here is a great roasted green bean recipe from A Farmish Kind of Life
Any other thoughts? Feel free to leave them in the comments.
You can find information about other fruits and veggies by searching clicking on the In The Garden tab up top or in The Gardening Notebook.