Talk to me about beans- not green beans- just beanie-beans

mmqchdygg(Z5NH)November 24, 2009

Like Kidney Beans, Pinto, etc...those kinds. "Beanie-Beans."

I'm wondering what kind of space I should allot for something like these, as I've never grown beanie-beans before- just green beans. How many plants would one typically plant of these for an 'average' family? Do I need lots of space and lots of plants, or are there types that produce tons and you only need a few plants?

I'll certainly google, but didn't know what 'real' people typically do in their spaces.


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Assuming that you mean dried beans, I don't fool with them except for exotics. They are so cheap, that I can't pick and shell them for that price. Use to grow Horticulturals for green shellies, but my tastes have gone more to cowpeas for green shellies. They are a lot more work, but pole types give you the most per unit of space. The number of pods per plant will be similar to those used for snap(green) beans. Certainly if something stimulates your taste buds and you can't buy it at the local grocery, it is worth doing. But I don't recommend growing things like Navy, Great Northern, Black Turtle when the mechanically harvested ones are so cheap.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 10:32AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You'll likely find lots of fans for them over on the Beans, Peas, and Legumes forum here. But like farmerdilla I don't find them to be worth all the space they require to get a decent production when they are so cheap and readily available.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 12:37PM
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number bean plants need to produce 1 lb dried beans
kidney beans 25 -167 plants per lb
mung beans 50 - 334 plants per lb
white Mexican beans 25-167 plants per lb
red Mexican beans 25-167 plants per lb
pinto beans 25-167 plants per lb

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 1:59PM
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ugh! Ok, off the list they go.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 2:17PM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

Figure 7-10 feet of row for each pound of beans you want to end up with. If you are a light eater and only use 10 lbs. a year, that is 70-100 feet of row.

Hand harvesting, shelling, and cleaning the beans is a real chore. Remember everything is dry at harvest so you are working with some fairly tough material just itching to slice/puncture your fingers as you pick and shell the pods.

With how cheap they are, you are generally better off going to a bean mill in late Sept if they raise beans in your area and buy a year's supply of cleaned beans. If they aren't raised in your area, then look for the bulk bin in the grocery store. The most important factor of quality in the beans that you can't see when looking at them are their age. As they get older, they take harder to cook and get tender so each year get new crop beans which were harvested in Aug/Sept. and use them until the next year, then start over again with new crop beans.

If you want to experiment, get a 1# bag of beans in the store, plant 1 1/2" deep just after the average last frost date spacing them 2-3 inches apart, and plant a 10 foot row, then eat the other 9/10 lb. of beans. Harvest when they ripen and dry down in late summer.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 1:02AM
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diggity_ma(5 MA)

Before you write them off, consider that those who choose to grow dry beans usually do so not because of the economy (as others have pointed out, they are cheap as dirt at the supermarket), nor because they are easy to harvest (they aren't), but because of the tremendous number of varieties available. Some gardeners really get bitten by the bean bug, so to speak, and can't resist planting every pretty looking bean they see.

Indeed, many of the heirloom dry beans are so attractive that some people leave a mason jar full of them on display on the kitchen counter. Also, the flavors and textures are varied as well, and worth growing just for the curiosity of it. I have grown many types of dry beans over the years - I don't raise huge amounts of them, but I strive to try a new variety each year.

Bottom line is, they are fun! has a pretty good selection of nice heirlooms if you're interested.


Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Imperative

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 9:50PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Wish I was posting this on the Bean Forum, since I'll be giving a lot of info.

Vegnewsday, what is the source for the yield data you quoted? Agricultural data perhaps, for unirrigated fields? Speaking as one "bean freak" to another, those numbers seem terribly low. Gardeners can do much better than that.

I wouldn't grow a bush bean for seed that gave me less than 1 ounce per plant... and since I use 6" between plants, that is pretty close to Beeone's estimate of 7-10 feet of row per pound. Even the adzuki beans I've grown ("Buff" and "Takara Early") averaged an ounce per plant. The pole beans I grow for seed typically yield between 6-8 ounces per plant, and sometimes much more. I've had one pole bean yield nearly a pound of seed from a single plant! (And that was "Brita's Foot Long", a variety grown for dry seed.)

Many of the beans I grow are for preservation, so although I grow them for seed, their intended use may be (and usually is) as something other than dry. Since I am very fond of shellies, I grow quite a few for that purpose. But there are many wonderful dry beans that never make it to commercial agriculture. Some of these are offered by heirloom seed companies (I'll list some below), and there are many more that can only be found through seed savers & collectors. In the Seed Savers Exchange catalog, in addition to their seed listings, they mention the number of varieties exchanged by their members... who offered 1477 bean varieties last year. You could spend a lifetime trying them all, and I intend to. ;-) Yeah, the bean bug bit me hard.

I'm with Diggity; don't give up on the idea of home-grown dry beans just yet. If you have never eaten fresh beans, you might be amazed at how tender & flavorful they can be, compared to store-bought. The variety of dry beans available to gardeners is staggering, and the colors, flavors, & textures vary widely. Most of the dry beans sold commercially - through supermarkets or the seed trade - are bush beans. There are, however, some really great pole dry beans... and I recommend these for the best yield per row foot. "Brita's Foot Long" (white) and "Soissons Vert" (green/flageolet) are two of the best I've tried. Either will produce 2-3 pounds of beans from a 10-foot row.

Some good bean sources:
As mentioned by Diggity, the Seed Savers Exchange
Vermont Bean Seed
Southern Seed Legacy
Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center (run by Bill Best)
Synergy Seeds (also a great source for soybeans)
Native Seeds/SEARCH
Heritage Harvest Seed has an outstanding selection of heirloom beans, the best I've seen. They are, however, located in Canada. You might want to contact them prior to ordering for any restrictions.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 4:00AM
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zeedman those numbers are from john jeavsons book
how to grow more vegetables.
those numbers also assume
kidney beans plants 621 plants per 100 square feet 24 max yields

mung beans 1343 plants per 100 square feet 24 max yields
white Mexican beans 621 plants per 100 square feet 24 max yields
red Mexican beans 621 plants per 100 square feet 24 max yields
pinto beans 621 plants per 100 square feet 24 max yields

So what is your source that numbers are to low.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 10:30AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Thank you, Vegnewsday, for your reply. There was no slight intended by my comments... the numbers you gave were very specific, and I was curious as to the conditions under which they were obtained. They resemble field data, where the results vary widely from year to year, depending upon the weather. You have filled in the missing piece. However, that just leads to more questions... I don't know what the "24 max yields" at the end of each line pertains to.

The numbers quoted are for bio-intensive square foot gardening, with a very high plant density. Under those conditions, the yield per plant is low, but the yield for a given area is maximized. Those numbers will not apply to gardeners who use conventional rows.

I have the highest respect for what John has achieved; I used to buy my seed & garlic from his Common Ground shop when I lived in San Jose. It was one of the few places you could find a good compilation of organic gardening info in the early 80's. I even tried to visit his farm, so that I could see his techniques in action... but he didn't allow visitors back then. :-(

John's techniques emphasize getting the best yield per square foot. It is space efficient, but not seed efficient. The ratio of seed increase is much diminished, so to get a lot, you need to plant a lot. As a preservationist, often starting with limited seed, my concern is getting the highest yield per plant. The definition of "optimal spacing" differs widely between these two opposing philosophies, as does the yield per plant.

For me, optimal spacing means the widest spacing that I can use, and still have an unbroken canopy of foliage. Beans really thrive when given room to grow; they will branch more heavily, and the yield per plant can be very high... especially from pole beans.

"So what is your source that numbers are to low."

My own research & observations. These are my numbers from this year:

"Atlas" bush bean - 2 oz. from one plant
"Bosnian Pole" - 8# 13 oz. from 20 plants (7 oz./plant)
"Brita's Foot Long" - pole, 3# 10 oz. from 10 plants (5.8 oz./plant)
"Chester" - pole, 3# from 9 plants (5.3 oz./plant)
"Chiclet" - pole, did not fully mature, but harvested 18 oz. of dry seed from 15 plants
"Cornfield, Striped" - Pole, 5# from 7 plants (11.4 oz./plant)
"Emerite" - pole, 6# 6 oz. from 48 plants (2.1 oz./plant)
"Ma Williams" - pole, 3# 5 oz. from 24 plants (2.2 oz/plant). This was less than half of what the total would have been, the majority of the crop was harvested as shellies.
"Porcelain" - pole, 4# 6 oz. from 8 plants (8.75 oz./plant)
"Tetovac" - pole, 5# from 12 plants (6.6 oz./plant)
"Zlatac" - pole, 2# from 12 plants (2.6 oz./plant)

If I throw out the results from the varieties for which harvest was not completed (Chiclet, Emerite, Ma Williams), the remaining plants averaged 6.5 oz./plant. This is typical of what I observe every year, across a wide range of varieties. Some seed was eaten or culled out prior to these measurements, and some plants were not harvested at all due to disease symptoms... so these numbers are fairly conservative. The spacing was 6" for "Emerite", and 12-16" for the others.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 11:50PM
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24 max should 24 lbs max

    Bookmark   November 27, 2009 at 1:50PM
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wait, wait...are you saying I can put six HUNDRED plants in a 10x10 plot???

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 9:43AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"wait, wait...are you saying I can put six HUNDRED plants in a 10x10 plot???"

Those yields are based upon a degree of soil conditioning that is very labor-intensive... and while I have read of such recommendations, I have yet to see photos, or hear first-hand observations, proving that they would work for most gardeners. All of the digging aside, in my area, I'd be flirting with disaster if I crowded my beans that closely. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it.

Most bush beans - when healthy & mature - have a footprint of 1/2 - 1 sq. ft. or larger. 100 plants (1 per sq. ft.) should be a safe bet; I've successfully used 6" between plants w/ 2-foot spacing between rows, which is close to the same thing. You might be able to get away with 2-3 plants per sq. ft. for the more compact varieties. Crowding more closely than that may work in the warm dry climate of California; but in the cooler, wetter Northern climes, it could lead to severe disease problems. I'm not saying that it wouldn't work... just that I wouldn't put all my eggs in that one basket, unless/until small-scale trials proved it to be successful.

In a post above, I had mentioned "seed efficiency". To put that in perspective, large kidney beans are somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-60 seeds per ounce. If planted at the recommended bio-intensive density of 600+ for a 10' X 10' plot, you would need between 10-16 ounces of seed to plant... so you would need to buy (or save from the previous season) a pound of seed. Assuming you harvest 24 pounds of dry seed (which is, keep in mind, the best case scenario), it would represent a return of between 24/1 & 38/1, depending upon seed size. Most gardeners would get much less than that, since the maximum is for experienced gardeners, on well amended soil.

In contrast, my observations are that large-seeded bush beans, given the 6" plant/2' row spacing I mentioned above, are easily capable of a seed increase of between 50/1 - 100/1. Small-seeded types will tend to yield about the same weight/plant, but at an even higher ratio of increase, well over 100/1... so in terms of cost effectiveness (if purchasing seed) small is often better. Pole beans can do better still; the "Striped Cornfield" I grew this year (@45 seeds/oz.) produced a return of over 500/1! My results were obtained by mechanical tilling, with leaves & mulch turned under each season.

Using these numbers, the same kidney beans - if grown in 5 rows in the same 10' X 10' plot - would be 100 plants. This would produce between 5 & 10 pounds of seed minimum... with only 2 ounces of seed required for planting, the average in a packet of beans. Also, at this spacing, the plants have sufficient air flow through the foliage to minimize the chances of disease during prolonged periods of rainfall. Having tested that theory in some very bad years recently (such as in 2008) I consider these yields to be realistically attainable, year after year.

I don't doubt that my spacings could be improved upon; it is something that I often experiment with. Most likely, there is a happy medium somewhere between row spacing & high-density plantings which will produce the best yield, for a given area, with the littlest possible seed. That "happy medium" should take into account the expected annual variations in climate, since what works well one year, might not work the next. With soybeans, I have had some success with closely-spaced double rows, with standard row spacing between the pairs... so that may work for bush beans as well. Given the observations I have made on over 100 bean varieties over the years, I expect the optimal spacing will vary widely, depending upon variety, climate, and soil fertility. So there is really no "one correct answer" for bean spacing... just starting points for personal experimentation.

Keep in mind, John Jeavons' bio-intensive recommendations mentioned above pertain to bush beans only. Pole beans are not suitable for wide bed planting, due to shading. However, you can have the best of both worlds using pole beans. Planted in a single row on the North side of the bed (where they would not shade shorter crops), they take up a relatively small footprint. A high-yielding pole variety could give you 3-4 pounds of dry seed from one row in that same 10' X 10' bed. You could use the majority of the bed(s) for other things, and still get a good crop of beans.

My apologies for all of the long (and probably dry) posts, but as an amateur researcher, I just wanted to share some "bean science". Just wish this was on the Bean Forum.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2009 at 1:45AM
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Don't forget Sustainable Mountain Agriculture! I think, if I lost everything (all my seeds with no chance of recovery) I'd go here to get bean seed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sustainable Mountain Agriculture

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 10:23AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"I don't fool with them except for exotics. They are so cheap, that I can't pick and shell them for that price."

Same here. Three "exotics" which to me are worth growing for dry beans are Chevrier Vert, Soissons Vert (thanks Zeedman) and Tarbais. I have seen Tarbais advertised for $15.95 per pound and more.

Zeedman, I enjoy reading your posts, not only for the information they contain but for the analytical methods they demonstrate. It is rare to see that in home gardening. Most often, an "experiment" in home gardening means just trying something out and speculating about the results with no experimental design, no controls and no objective analysis of results. So thanks for the effort you expend in posting your information.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tarbais

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 11:34AM
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