Summer is made for beans

July 11, 2018

It's summer and time for baseball. And even if you don't know beans about baseball, you probably know it isn't right to throw a pitch that hits the batter's head, a beanball.

Summer is made for beans – not just baked beans, but three-bean salad, and breaded, deep-fried beans, because nothing tastes better than taking something healthy and making it unhealthy but delicious.

Luckily, beans grow fast, usually in under 60 days, and they actually need warm soil, so summer is a good time to plant a second crop of beans. Beans are legumes, plants that can take nitrogen from the air and fix the nitrogen into the soil as fertilizer. Bush beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) can be grown in pots or raised beds if you don't have an outdoor garden. If you do plant in the garden, sow the rows north to south, with the bean plants about two feet apart in rows three feet apart. Ideal soil pH is 6.5 -7.5.

Before planting, dust the bush bean seeds with a garden inoculant, the harmless Rhizobia bacteria. This will allow the roots to produce nitrogen. Just toss the seeds and inoculant together in a bag until the seeds are coated. Plant bush bean seeds about an inch deep, two inches apart in full sun. Thin to four inches apart once they germinate. Bush bean seeds are large enough that even little kids can plant them. Keep your beans well watered, but not soggy. Good companion crops for beans include carrots, cabbage and cauliflower. Avoid planting bush beans near basil, onions, kohlrabi or fennel.

Royalty Purple Pod beans not only have deep purple pods, but also purple leaves and purple flowers. This variety was bred by the late Professor Elwyn Meader at the University of New Hampshire. The stunning curved purple pods are stringless, and they turn green when cooked. This is one of the few bush beans that will germinate well even in wet, cold soil. You can pick Royalty Purple Pod bush beans 55 days after planting.

Pencil Pod Golden wax bean is an old-fashioned favorite going back to 1900. It has stood the test of time because it is still one of the highest-quality wax beans. The five- to seven-inch-long stringless pods grow on small plants only 15 to 20 inches tall. Pencil Pod Golden Wax beans hold up well when frozen. The productive plants often begin producing beans in just 50 days.

Dragon's Tongue bush wax bean yields big six- to eight-inch cream-colored pods swirled with bright purple stripes that fade when the beans are cooked. The wide, tender pods are stringless, and the compact, high-yielding plants are ideal for pots or container gardens. Dragon's Tongue bush wax beans mature in just 55 to 58 days.

For years, Kentucky Wonder pole bean was the standard green bean, and now it is available on a bush plant. Kentucky Wonder bush bean is known for heavy yields of thick eight-inch pods over a long harvest season, starting in just 60 to 65 days.

So go ahead and spill the beans! It's easy to plant bush beans in summer for a quick harvest before winter. And for that, you don't have to be a bean counter.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.