July is National Baked Bean Month. You can celebrate by baking some beans to enjoy with your hotdogs (it’s National Hot Dog Month too) or you can celebrate by planting some beans now to bake later.
And there are so many different kinds of beans to enjoy. The beans considered hot season beans include black-eyed peas (cowpeas), fava, lima, garbanzo (chickpeas), scarlet runner, Anasazi, and the O’odham tepary. The great thing about the tepary bean is that you can plant them in July, and if we have good monsoons, they will survive on rainfall alone, producing a crop of tasty low carb, high protein beans with wonderful natural soluble fibers. Plus they cook quickly. All of these beans are available from Native Seeds/SEARCH. (Green beans are better planted in August up to about Labor Day for enjoyment in the cooling days of autumn.)
Light. Find a site that will get eight hours of sunlight. This will generally be on the south side of the home. East side may not get enough light for beans.
Soil. Till or use a shovel to turn over your desert soil. Turn in some compost for the water holding capacity it offers. Up to 30 percent compost. Compost can be home-made or from the nursery or garden center. If your soil is of heavy clay, add some coarse sand or pea gravel to improve drainage.
Don’t improve your soil too much. No manure or fertilizer! Members of the legume or bean family need to set up a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. They give the bacteria a home and food, and the bacteria take nitrogen out of the air and make fertilizer for the beans. If you apply fertilizer can slow their growth instead of speeding it.
Trellis. Most of these beans listed will climb towards light. Provide a trellis for them. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just a wood pole or a tripod of poles for them to twine around.
Grow. Plant your seeds. Keep evenly moist as they germinate. Then water as needed until it is time to harvest. Beans are some of the easiest crops to grow.
Containers. If you don’t want to tackle the soil, use containers. Beans grow well in large containers. Select one deep enough (36 to 48 inches), with good drainage. Do not add stones to the bottom. You can put window screen over the hole. Potting soil works well. Select a brand with at least one fifth sand or perlite to help insure good drainage and prevent root rot. Do not fill the container to the rim with soil, leave space for watering.
Water. Water enough so that some comes out the bottom of the pot. Do not let you pot sit in a saucer of water! It drowns the roots, plus serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. If you are concerned about roots growing out of the pot, use “pot feet” under your pot.
However you plant them, in pots or in the ground, it sure is wonderful to have some homegrown, delicious, fresh summer vegetables to enjoy.
You can learn more about heirloom cowpeas here from my Savor Sister, “Tia Marta.”
Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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