I have had a roaring success this summer with green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). Originally they were planted as part of my effort to plant vegetables my mother can actually eat- but we’re all eating well.
I got 6 haricot vert plants from my local garden center- only about 5 bucks for all 6- and I started the rest from seeds. I planted a few trionfo violetto beans, some Kentucky blues and some blue lakes and I gerry-rigged a trellis out of some poles we had lying around, some netting and some kitchen twist ties. The most expensive thing was the garden netting. These are all pole beans, all planted in the back raised bed.
I mean… it works- but it’s a little bit of a mess. Ever since about 3 weeks ago we’ve started harvesting however, and we still have flowers so we should still get green beans into August and maybe beyond.
The Italian trionfo violetto beans were the surprise winners- first to produce, even though the leaves themselves looked kinda terrible. And don’t be afraid of the purple color, they turn green when cooked.
The purple leaves are a hoot also. The biggest problem with my bean set up is the shoddy trellis. It works! But it’s a mess, and I think I planted too many plants per what the trellis can really support. It sags dramatically, but no collapse so far! So for next year I’m getting together with my dad and we’re going to design and build some movable trellises out of wood and wire so that the beans will have more room to grow. It gives me an opportunity to do a building project with my dad- and should save a ton of money, as the style of trellis I like for pole beans is pretty expensive to buy for the amount of beans I want to grow.
The other problem we had was aphids.
Ever since my failed tomato harvest of a few years ago, due entirely to an aphid infestation of extreme proportions. I have hated those damn things. Aphids are in a word- evil. But they can be countered! Both by science and by nature.
Ladybugs! They are the natural predator of aphids, and earlier this year when I noticed the aphids on my beans. (Curse them forever). I also noticed that the ladybugs were on the case. Here is one chilling on my oregano. You can buy ladybugs too- if nature isn’t providing. Think of it as helping you and your neighbors as they won’t just go stay in your yard- they’ll kill all of the aphids! Hopefully. The trick is to buy them locally. Because if you get them online, they aren’t going to be the species native to your area, and that can lead to problems.
I don’t use traditional pesticides, but there are organic pesticides which can help you, and won’t poison you also. The most benign of these is mineral oil spray- sometimes called horticultural oil. It essentially smothers bugs as it blocks their ability to breathe. The other spray is insecticidal soap. It’s potassium salts- and it’s safe for people and pets, but it kills bugs. Aphids are pretty resilient though, and you’ll have to stay on top of them. Hand killing is also an option, but it’s icky and you have to do it every day. With all these methods I have largely contained the aphids on my green beans (the fava bean saga is another post)
One of the ways you can tell if you have aphids- besides seeing the aphids themselves, is to see if you have more ants then usual. Ants essentially milk the aphids- eating their secretions after they’re done sucking the metaphorical blood from your plants. So if you notice ants climbing up and down your tomatoes- I have bad news for you.
But you know- a small aphid load is something you can live with. I have no doubt that I haven’t gotten rid of every last aphid on my bean plants- but as long as there aren’t an absolute ton of them, your plants can still thrive. I’m going to get green beans into fall- into winter if I’m lucky- even if my trellis is a gerry-rigged nightmare. And yeah ok- so some of the leaves have been nibbled a bit, and some are yellowing, but the green beans are prolific and delicious.
Beans of all types are profoundly democratic- anyone can grow them. And unlike a lot of plants which do much better from starts- honestly? The ones I planted from seeds are just as good as the haricot vert I planted from starts. Next year it’s all seeds for me.
And a better trellis. A *much* better trellis.