Old Style Bean Farming Wisdom From The Past

Snap beans for a shtf survival garden

Bean-growing in a small way is fully warranted in every garden, but on a large scale it is a different question, being somewhat a matter of soil and location.

Food Value — The bean is one of the most excellent of human foods. Its botanical kinship is close to the pea, and both are legumes. The leguminous plants, it will be remembered, have the rare ability of obtaining nitrogen through the tubercles on their roots, taking this expensive element partly from the air, and not greatly impoverishing the soil by their growth.

Something of the food value of the bean may be learned by comparing its chemical analysis with that of beef. In 100 pounds of beans there are 23 pounds of protein (nitrogenous matter), while in 100 pounds of beef there are but about 15 to 20 pounds of protein. Peas are almost as rich as beans in protein, which is the tissue-building element of all foods, and, hence, it is easy to realize the fact that both beans and peas are foods of the highest economic value. They are  standard foods of the world, entering into the diet of soldiers, laborers and persons needing physical strength.

It is generally safe to grow beans for the retail market of any town or centre of population, but to compete in the open wholesale market demands experience and good equipment on the part of the grower to insure profits.

Bean Varieties and Types

The varieties of beans are well-nigh endless. Some demand poles, while some are dwarf, being called bush beans. The influence of man has developed the bean into a vast number of different forms, which frequently show a disposition to revert or go back to some ancestral type, no matter how carefully the seeds may be kept.

The pole beans, in general terms, yield larger crops and bear through a longer season than the bush beans. The green-podded beans, as a rule, are more prolific and more hardy than the yellow-podded or wax beans. The climbers demand a whole season, and bear until frost. The bush beans are mostly employed where two or more crops are demanded per year from the ground.

The so-called cut-short or snap-short beans are those in which the whole pod, in its green state, is used for food. They are of both types, climbing and bush. The Lima forms include a number of distinct beans, differing greatly in size and shape and also in habit of growth.

Bush Beans (green pod). We recommend Improved Round Pod Extra Early Valentine; also, New Giant Stringless Valentine.

Bush Beans (yellow pod). Wardwell’s Kidney Wax and Davis’ White Wax are largely grown in the South for shipment North. Valentine Wax is recommended for the North. For descriptions, see “Johnson & Stokes’ Garden and Farm Manual.”

White Field or Soup Beans. We recommend Day’s Leafless Medium and New Snowflake Field. For descriptions of these and other varieties, see “Johnson & Stokes’ Garden and Farm Manual.”

Pole Lima Beans. We especially recommend Ford’s Mammoth Podded Lima and Siebert’s Early Lima.

  • Pole Snap Beans
  • Golden Andalusia Wax is one of the best yellow-pod pole beans
  • Lazy Wife’s one of the best green-pod sorts.
  • Dwarf Lima
  • Dreer’s
  • Burpee’s
  • Henderson’s represent three distinct types.

Bean Garden Location

In choosing a spot for bean culture the farm gardener should select good mellow soil that has been manured the previous year. Fresh manure produces an excessive growth of vine at the expense of pods.

Making Ready: Much stable manure, which is rich in nitrogen, should be avoided. In good ordinary soil, with some rotted manure from the previous crop, the bean plant will do well. It will obtain nitrogen, in great part, from the air, as already explained. Old manure is very favorable as a starter, as it contains the minute organisms mentioned in the preceding pages. Complete fertilizers or those containing phosphoric acid and potash must be supplied. Only nitrogen is derived from the air.

Soil Inoculation: The soil of a new bean patch is sometimes inoculated with soil from an old patch, to get quick action of the bacteria (little organisms), which form the lumps or tubercles on the roots. The scattering of a little soil over the surface is all that is required.

Care should be taken to avoid the transfer of soil for this purpose from a patch affected with rust or blight, as diseases are carried from place to place with only too much ease.

When to Plant Beans

Beans may safely be planted when the apple is in bloom, in May; not so early as peas, as beans are less hardy. The ground should be dry and warm. Beans of all kinds demand shallow planting, as the seeds must be lifted from the ground in the earliest process of growth.

The seed swells, bursts, sends a shoot (radicle) downward, and the two parts of the seed, called the seed-leaves, are pushed up into the daylight. Small round beans can take care of themselves, as they turn easily in the soil, but lima beans often perish in the effort to get above ground. This is why lima beans should always be planted eye down, and less than an inch deep. A half inch is deep enough for most beans. If lima beans are wanted extra early, they should be started on small squares of inverted sod, under glass.

The earliest bush beans yield marketable pods within forty to fifty days from planting; the pole beans in from seventy to ninety days from planting. There should be successional plantings made of the bush beans from the first date to within fifty days of frost. The different types of beans are fully and carefully described in the seed catalogues.

Distances: Poles for beans should be set about 4 feet apart each way; or, in single rows, about 3 feet apart. Not more than three or four plants should be allowed to a hill. Wires stretched between posts, with strings down to the ground, are sometimes used. The bush beans are planted in rows 3 feet apart for horse culture, or half that distance where a hoe or hand cultivator is to be used. The plants in the rows should stand 3 or 4 inches apart for best yield.

Growing Beans On a Large Scale

In large field operations, where the dried bean is the object in view, a clover sod is a favorite location. The ground is enriched by 400 or 500 pounds of complete fertilizer, and the beans are planted with a grain drill, using every fourth tube. The culture is by horse-power, and the vines are pulled by hand or by means of a bean-harvester, and threshed with a flail or grain thresher. These white grocery beans are sold everywhere in large quantities.

Bean Cultivation

All bean cultivation should be shallow. Nothing is gained by cutting the feeding roots.

The climbing sorts twine “against the sun;” that is, in a contrary direction to the apparent motion of the sun. The shoots must be tied up several times, to keep them on their own poles.

Bean Plant Diseases

The worst bean enemies are rust and blight. In new soil, with good weather, these troubles seldom appear. During prolonged wet weather there seems to be no help for them. Spraying with Bordeaux mixture is a preventive. The spraying should be done in advance of blossoming. The seed is sometimes soaked in Bordeaux mixture for an hour where rust is anticipated. Prevention is better than cure, and new soil and fresh seed are the best precautions. Diseased vines should be burned.

Insects: The weevil which attacks the bean is closely allied to the pea weevil. Some practical people say there is no remedy known; others recommend heating the beans to 145° for an hour; others use bisulphide of carbon in a closed vessel, along with the beans.

Profits: By far the largest cash receipts per acre are obtained by selling beans in their fresh state; preferably in the pods.

The production of bush beans (pods) may run up to 75 or 80 bushels per acre, or even more. Lima beans are more profitably sold in the pods than shelled, though some markets demand the shelled article.

The consumer gets a fresher and better article in the pods, and the producer is saved much trouble, and this method should be encouraged. Beans should be cooled, if possible, before shipment in bulk to distant markets, thus avoiding danger from heating, moulding and spotting.

This article was taken from,


Author: JOHNSON & STOKES, Seed Growers and Merchants

Published 1898