The green bean is a vegetable that is low in calories, but rich in vitamins and minerals. Easy to grow, it needs a sunny location, with temperatures exceeding  50° F (10 ° C) and that is sheltered from the wind. To grow well, green beans need a ground tilled with a spade in order to have a well-ventilated structure. During the fall or winter preceding cultivation, the soil needs to be enriched with compost.

These plants are native to South America, where they were grown for the first time 8000 years ago. Green beans belong to the Fabaceae family. Easily digestible and rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium, green beans are consumed as side dishes or left raw to be incorporated in the preparation of French dressing. Green beans are the unripe fruit of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). Depending on their colour, we can distinguish green beans from wax beans, which have a yellow colour. One can find different varieties including dwarf beans, runner beans and winged beans. Green beans are valued for their medicinal properties against diabetes, hypertension, kidney disorders or itching.

Growing green beans according to precise timetables

Sowing is achieved once the earth has sufficiently warmed up, starting around the second half of April and lasting until the end of July.  The seeds are placed every 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimetres) in 1.2 to 1.5 inch (3 to 4 centimetres) deep furrows. They are then covered with soil, taking care to pack it lightly. The soil should be kept moist until the shoots start to emerge. Hilling, which consists of bringing earth back around the plants’ base, will be carried out once the seedlings reach a height of 8 inches (20 centimetres). For tender green beans, harvest them in mid-growth in order to avoid stringy products.

Maintaining the plants for a good production

Among the main types of care necessary to green beans, one can include watering, which must be performed 8 to 10 weeks after sowing. Watering should be done by sprinkling gently until the shoots have emerged, followed by irrigation at the seedlings’ base to prevent disease. Setting up stakes is required for certain varieties and mulching of the ground helps to keep the soil moist by preventing evapotranspiration. Covering the plants is essential in case an unexpected drop in temperature occurs.

Some useful tips to obtain a good production

Soaking the seeds in cold or lukewarm water for ten hours facilitates their germination by softening the shell around them. Allow sufficient 20-inch (50 cm) spaces between rows of seedlings to facilitate circulation during irrigation and to limit competition between plants. The timing of sowing needs to be respected because excess moisture or cold can jeopardize seed germination. Spreading out sowing procedures over the recommended time period allows one to have a staggered harvest that will last until fall. When digging the furrow with a hoe, the removed earth needs to be left on the side to be used later for covering up the plant. The use of a cord, held and stretched by two small sticks, allows you to create straight furrows with ease. For starters, growing bush beans is easier because it does not require maintenance such as staking. Green beans that are ready for harvest are easily broken in half by hand. In order to avoid uprooting the plants during the harvest, the stem must be held with one hand while the other takes care of the picking. Since its main enemies are spider mites, aphids and slugs, using a layer of mulch or spreading coffee grounds helps you fight them off. To optimize the growing surface area, green beans can be cultivated in association with corn and pumpkins. By growing in height, corn provides shade for the pumpkins and can serve as a stake for green bean seedlings.

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Published in Green vegetables by Alexander on 14 Sep 2011