Growing your own garden vegetables is an exciting adventure in self sufficiency. Not only can you save a small fortune and score yourself an unlimited supply of fresh, organic vegetables, you also do a good thing for the planet by reducing your carbon footprint.
If you want a great starter crop that is easy to grow, requires little in the way of soil work, and returns a large yield, look no farther than beans.
These hardy plants should be planted after your first frost date, and should be planted directly into the soil. Pretty much all you have to do is plant them, keep the weeds away, and come back in 8 weeks for a nice yield. For green beans, 2-3 plants are enough for one decent meal from them. For dry beans, you’ll need a lot more, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Beans can be planted fairly close together, and can be container gardened. I put a total of 12 bean plants in 3 5 gallon buckets last year, and got enough for 3-4 meals out of them for a family of 3. (Granted, one of them is a 6 year old who has to be sat with for 2 hours as he takes the worlds tiniest bites from his single bean serving.)
If you want to do row gardening, space them 2-4 inches apart so they have enough root space. You can stagger the planting by spacing out the planting over a few weeks, so that they become ripe over a longer period of time.
This is about how many dried beans you get from a bean plant. It comes to a scant 1/4 cup of beans per plant. If you want to grow enough for yourself for the year, figure out how many cups of beans you typically eat in a year. To give you an idea, most chili recipes using dried beans typically call for 2 cups of beans for enough to feed a family of 4. That’s 8 bean plants right there for one meal. That being said you can plant them fairly close together, as their spacing requirements are the same as for green beans.
To drastically increase the yield per bean plant, choose pole beans over bush beans and trellis them vertically for maximum growing space. These beans can grow 5-6 feet tall and will produce all the way up. (The beans shown to the side were from bush beans. I will make an update post next year after trying a cool new growing technique I’ve learned about.)
Cool fact about beans:
Beans don’t require bees or wind to pollinate them. Their male and female parts are together in the same flower, so they can even be grown indoors and still produce. While they don’t need it, they still can be pollinated through these methods, so if you have a rare bean plant, be sure to keep them far away from other beans to avoid cross contamination.
What’s your favorite gardening secret for growing beans? Let me know in the comments!