Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > May 2013 > A Hill of Beans

A Hill of Beans

My grandparents had a “kids” garden. They planted all kinds of vegetables in there—cherry tomatoes (which they called Tommy Toes), pickling cucumbers, this cool little round zucchini, and green beans. Granddaddy said that beans and peas were a good thing to grow because they made the soil better—that is what legumes did. The science of that went over my head at the time.
 
Many legumes, particularly peas, beans, clover, alfalfa, and soybeans, contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots. The root nodules are sources of nitrogen for the plant. Because nitrogen is essential in making proteins, legumes are one of the best sources of plant proteins.
 
This boost of nitrogen also makes legumes an excellent cover crop for vegetable gardens. When the plants are tilled under at the end of the season, they’re especially good at enriching the soil.
 
Nomenclature can get really confusing, though. Many types of pods are called beans that aren’t beans at all. Vanilla beans, coffee beans, cocoa beans, and castor beans aren’t even related. Just to confuse the issue further, Asparagus or yard-long beans aren’t beans either but are more closely related to the Black-Eyed Pea, which isn’t even a pea (genus: Picum) but rather belonging to the genus Vigna. Fava Beans aren’t beans either; instead they belong to the genus Vicia. Confused yet?
 
What I call string, snap or green beans belongs to the genus Phaseolus (so do Limas) and they’re exclusive to the Americas where they were grown for hundreds of years by the Native Americans in their Three Sisters combination of corn, beans, and squash. 
 
Beans are warm weather plants, preferring to be planted after soil temperatures reach 70 degrees—usually mid-May here. Because they grow fast, and do not like to have their roots disturbed, beans should be sowed directly in the garden.
 
Soaking the beans overnight before planting will speed up germination. Allow plenty of circulation around the plants to minimize the risk of powdery mildew and rotating bean plants occasionally in your gardens will help to reduce the risk of diseases such as rust or bean mosaic.
 
Garden lore says that beans love to be grown with corn and cucumber family members, like cucumbers, squash, melons and pumpkins and that they do not like onion family members like onions, shallots, garlic, or chives. Science says they’re good sources of  vitamins A, K and C. They’re rich in several important antioxidants and fiber. I just know they’re easy to grow and delicious to eat.
Posted: 5/20/2013 by Bonnie Pega | with 1 comment(s)
Filed under: BonniePega, Bonnie'sGarden
Comments
Leigh
Very informative! How interesting that beans don't like to be planted near onions! Wonder if the aromatic quality of onions is the cause of that?
5/23/2013 9:47:13 AM

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