Beans are simply the best vegetable in the garden. I know, all you people out there who hate eating your greens disagree, but really when you compare factors like the ease of growing, pests, and diseases beans really win out. In many cases beans will just continue to grow when other plants halt in the tracks due to dry weather conditions like we’re experiencing now. While the tomato production is shutting down (hopefully that is just temporary) the beans are putting on flowers and pods in complete defiance of the weather.
I’ve planted a few types of beans in the garden this year. I always plant bush beans because of their space saving size. I pretty much can plant them anywhere in the vegetable garden where there is 6 inches of space or more. This year I added some heirloom beans like Cherokee Trail of Tears and a Purple Podded Pole Bean. The Trail of Tears has done well and is climbing on a tripod trellis in my little circle raised bed. Unfortunately the tripod keeps falling down but that hasn’t stopped the beans from growing. I planted the Purple Podded Pole Beans among the corn. The corn is a lost cause at this point due to worms but the beans are climbing all over the corn using it as a trellis. This idea came from the ‘Three Sisters’ idea. ‘Three Sisters’ refers to a method the indians used to grow their crops. They would use the corn as a trellis for beans and plant squash at the base of the corn as a ground cover. The squash would help the corn retain moisture, the corn would help the beans get light and energy from the sun, and the beans would fix nitrogen in the soil for the following season.
Earlier in the year I planted cowpeas which my girls had a great time shelling! They volunteered to remove the peas from the pods and spent a few minutes after dinner pulling out the dried peas to store in a jar. I hope that their enthusiasm translates to eating them this winter! We ended up with at least enough for a meal, I’ll definitely have to plant more than that next year.
Legumes are so easy to grow. The only issue I have ever had with growing beans is the deer. If they get into my garden the bean foliage is the first target. I’ve never had disease issues on my beans but they can get infected with mosaic viruses. The best solution is not to save seed from the beans that have been infected. That’s not foolproof since viruses can be spread by insects too. (Here is some great information on bean diseases from Cornell) Since legumes fix nitrogen in the soil I’ll leave the foliage to decompose in the garden and return as much of the nitrogen back into the ground as possible for next year’s garden.