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March 2008
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Growing string beans

The bean is a tender, warm season vegetable that ranks second to tomato in popularity in home gardens. Green bush beans were formerly called “string beans” because fiber developed along the seams of the pods. Plant breeders have reduced these fibers through selection and green beans are now referred to as “snap beans.”
Green beans are several inches long and either round or flattened in shape. Most varieties are green, but you’ll also find purple, red, yellow and streaked varieties. Green beans are eaten while still immature. They are picked young and tender, before the seeds inside have fully developed. Most popular varieties have been bred to have stringless pods, but many gardeners prefer the flavor of the old-fashioned ‘string’ types.
Many varieties of snap beans exist, ranging from Roma string beans to Bush Blue Lake string beans to Royal Burgundy snap beans, but these varieties can be grown year-round so long as the weather isn’t too hot or cold.
Beans grow best on well-drained soils. Avoid highly acid soils as this will cause magnesium deficiency. Symptoms include scorched leaves, stunting and lack of flowers. Counteract by applying lime to the soil. Poor germination results from planting too early in cold soil, planting too deep (>30 mm) or mechanical seed damage. Sow seeds in moist soil and avoid watering until germination.
Snap beans are warm-season vegetables and should be planted after the danger of frost is past. Bean seeds should be planted 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Beans like a moderately rich soil with a slightly acidic pH of about 6.0 to 6.2. They prefer a loose, moist soil.
Seeds of most varieties tend to crack and germinate poorly if the soil’s moisture content is too high. For this reason, never soak bean seed before planting. Instead water just after planting or plant right before a heavy rain. Water the pIants about once a week in dry weather. Do not let the soil get dry while the beans are blooming or the blooms will drop and yields will be decreased. Beans have shallow roots and frequent shallow cultivation and hoeing are necessary to control small weeds and grasses. Because bean plants have fairly weak root systems, deep, close cultivation injures the plant roots, delays harvest and reduces yields.
Snap beans should be harvested frequently and thoroughly. Leaving mature pods on the plant will decrease yields. The bean plant will divert much of its energy into seed development rather than additional crop production. Harvest snap beans when the pods are young, firm, and the seeds are small.

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