Growing Bean Plants for Kids
Bean plants are fun and easy to grow. Beans begin their life cycle as seeds, which grow into full-grown plants that bloom and produce seedpods. The bean seeds inside of these seedpods are what you harvest and eat. There are many different types of beans, but bean plants all fall into two main categories: pole beans and bush beans.
Types of Bean Plants
Most dried beans are bush types, but there are a few that grow vines, along with string beans. Vining and semi-vining varieties have wiry tendrils, so they can be easily trained to grow up poles or trellises to save garden space. Build your own support by tying three poles together, like a teepee.
Beans are found in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. In the Roman Senate, beans were used to cast votes: white beans were used for a yes vote and black beans were used for no votes. (ref. 2)
Starting Bean Plants
Bean seeds are large and easy to germinate, or sprout in moist paper towel or cotton. They are fun to watch as the new plant emerges from the seed, sprouts leaves and grows. It is fun to watch seeds emerge into seedlings that are ready to plant in pots, or directly into the garden.
String bean seeds can be started indoors, in individual peat pots around the time of the last frost. Use a growing medium of half potting soil and half sterilized compost that have been sifted into a fine grain. Make sterilized compost by baking it at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle Rhizobia, a nitrogen-rich bacteria, on bean seeds to inoculate them. Harden seedlings off when they are 3 to 4 inches tall, by placing them outdoors, in a protected location, for a few hours each day about a week before transplanting them in the garden.
Dry bean seeds should be planted directly into the garden about two weeks after the last frost, when the soil is thoroughly warmed. Bean seeds need soil temperatures of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate. Cover the soil with clear plastic after planting to keep soil warm and help with germination, but be sure to remove the plastic as soon as green sprouts appear.
Bean plants like full sun, with well drained soil with compost turned into it (about 2 inches).
Beans actually fix nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil for other plants to use. Too much nitrogen in the soil will result in lush and green plants with very few seed pods, so it is best to withhold fertilizer until after the first harvest.
Bean plants love moisture. Water your bean plants regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, as bean plants that are water stressed produced small, curved seed pods. Mulch the soil around the plants lightly to help conserve moisture and keep weeds down.
Pick string beans early in the season, while their pods are still small, or you can let them mature into plump, round pods. The hardest part may be not eating them all as you pick them. Be sure to leave some for the harvest basket.
Dry beans are harvested late in the year, after most of their leaves have turned brown and fallen off. Bunch together plants with pods that did not dry thoroughly and hang them upside-down in a warm, dry location until the drying process is complete.
Save seeds from some pods to be planted next year. Store seeds for next year’s crop in a tightly lidded jar, in a cool location.
Golden Harvest Organics. “Companion Planting”. September 27, 2009. http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html
Royal Horticulture Society. "Broad Beans".