How to Grow Snap Beans
Snap beans are an ideal vegetable for a home garden. Whether you are planning your very first vegetable garden or you have an entire yard full of vegetables, snap beans are a popular choice. Snap beans are one of the most fertile veggies available for home gardeners and they are useful in a wide variety of cooking styles and cuisine. With their quick growth and low-maintenance, snap beans make for a good choice for younger gardeners as well. Learning how to grow snap beans takes mere minutes for growers of all ages.
Types of Snap Beans
There are a wide array of sizes and colors of snap beans. The name “snap bean” comes from the notion that any immature bean that can be snapped into pieces is a snap bean. This include a number of plants that have distinct elements when fully grown. Common varieties of snap beans include asparagus bean and bush bean. The range of snap beans means that some are grown as vines along a trellis while others grow directly in the ground with little preparation.
Any moderate-temperature soil with good drainage is ideal for growing snap beans. Since bean plants themselves are vulnerable to extreme weather, delay planting new crops until the threat of freezing weather has passed. Following the spring thaw, small bean plants can be spaced out as transplants. Different snap bean plants require different spacing so be sure to carefully read seed labels. Most plants are comfortable from eight inches to one foot apart.
Growing Snap Beans
Planting snap beans in a double row with one row of crops each foot will provide the maximum density for a given area. A reliable harvest is possible if you time the planting of new seeds. Leaving several weeks between each new row of seeds will enable you to harvest groups of snap bean crops throughout the harvest season.
Having a thin layer of compost on top of snap bean crops is the best way to keep plants healthy and well-spaced. Organic fertilizer or natural compost offers the best nutrition for young plants. With appropriate water and good drainage, plants will not need any additional fertilizer throughout the season. Be careful of using any compost or fertilizer with harsh chemicals as these will quickly leach into the beans themselves.
Weed the ground around the snap beans at least weekly to prevent invasion of damaging species. A small quantity of mulch around each plant and in vacant areas will inhibit the growth of weeds and stop water from collecting. Even better for amateur growers, a proper layer of mulch will also stop beans from laying directly on the ground and being attacked by bugs. Wet rot also kills individual bean plants so mulch also serves to defend against ground rot.
Fresh crops of snap beans planted in areas which used to have a grass cover are largely susceptible to pests. One in particular, the cutworm, is a dangerous threat to new bean crops. Cutworms are brown-colored caterpillars that often damage new bean plants throughout the night. These pests are the most active at night and can cause considerable destruction to snap bean crops without constant vigilance. The best defense against cutworms is to institute a layer of protection between the soil and each snap bean plant. Worms cannot move through plastic or a dense mulch layer.
Avoiding Pests When Growing Snap Beans
Common gardening tricks include using aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or other disposable household wrap to insulate beans from the ground. Once snap beans have grown for at least two months, they will be strong enough to withstand attack from cutworms and can be removed from insulation.
Other pest threats include beetles, snails, and slugs. Avoid using commercial insecticides near snap beans to prevent chemical contamination of the vegetable. Food-safe insect bait can be planted near–but not on–the snap bean crop to draw pests away from the beans. Any individual pests should be picked off snap bean plants to prevent them from causing damage throughout the night.
Harvesting Snap Beans
The hardest decision most amateur gardeners will have to make involves the timing of the snap bean harvest. By picking snap beans when they are young you will ensure a higher-quality, but smaller harvest. Waiting until the plant is more mature results in slightly less flavorful, but more bountiful harvest.
Pick individual bean plants carefully since their stems are fragile and subject to breaking. Slow, consistent pressure is much safer for the crop than quick, yanking action. The best schedule is to harvest every third day once the plants are in full bloom to allow some time for recovery and to prevent accidental destruction of neighboring bean stalks.
The best snap bean crop will often bloom more than once during each summer growing season. With the best timing, snap bean plants can be harvested at much as three times per harvest. Given the proper care, every bean plant should at least produce two times per season.
Snap beans can be used in any type of cuisine. The most popular method of cooking is to blanch quickly in boiling water followed by immediate ice bath cooling. Other options call for stir-frying, boiling, and pan-frying.