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 – here in the Southwest – you can celebrate by planting some beans now to bake later!
There are so many different kinds of beans to plant in the long Southwestern hot season. That’s a gardening term by the way – an easy way to refer to growing seasons – warm season, hot season, and cool season.
The beans considered hot season beans include black-eyed peas (cowpeas), fava, lima, garbanzo (chickpeas), scarlet runner, Anasazi, and the O’odham tepary. Note that green beans are not on this list. They are planted at last frost (around St. Patrick’s Day) and are harvested by about Cinco de Mayo. If you really love green beans, you can also plant them around Fall Equinox and grow them during in the cooling days of autumn.
Tepary is Best for the Southwest
Rather than plant a bean from somewhere else and baby it and fuss and worry, plant the bean with native ancestors right here in the remote hills and canyons of Arizona and New Mexico – the tepary bean.
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, packed with wonderful natural soluble fibers. Plus they cook quickly. Tepary and the rest of these beans are available from Native Seeds/SEARCH.
Grow Your Beans
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.
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 speading it.
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. One tepary plant can cover a standard tomato cage.
Plant your seeds. Keep the soil evenly moist as they germinate. Then water as needed until it is time to harvest. Beans are some of the easiest crops to grow.
Grow Beans in 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 to help keep the soil in.
In a container, potting soil works well for beans 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 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.
Learn More about Southwest Gardening
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More about growing beans and other vegetables in Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press) This link is to Amazon. If you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.
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