Dry bean questions...

tcstoehrFebruary 5, 2010

I've never grown any dry beans, although I eat quite a few of them it really makes sense that I should. Plus I like to save seeds when I can and it seems pretty easy.

1) How much beans will a moderately sized bush produce? A cup? A pint? A quart?

2) How much beans will an individual, healthy 8-foot pole variety produce?

3) Will they cross pollinate without physical or distance separation between varieties? I've read they self-pollinate even before opening, but I also read people have problems with crossing.

4) How far would you space a 20-inch bush variety within a row, and how far apart should the rows be?

I know all this is variable, but I'm just looking for ballpark figures to get started.

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plant 2 or 3 beans per foot of row and the rows should be 20 to 36 inches apart. A single bush bean will rarely produce more than 1/4 cup of beans. From 100 ft of row, I have harvested as little as 1/2 gallon of beans. Typically, you need about 300 ft of row of bush beans to justify growing them.

All members of the common bean family Phaseolus Vulgaris will cross whether they are pole or bush varieties, however, because of the flower structure, crosses are rare. I typically get about 1 crossed seed per 300 seed harvested even when plants are right beside each other. That is too high for my purposes so I plant bean rows 80 ft apart in the garden. This reduces crossing to minimal levels.

I have harvested as much as 3 gallons of seed from a 100 ft long row of pole beans. This is significantly more than bush varieties produce.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 1:23AM
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Wow... just 1/4 cup per plant. I just went into my kitchen and measured out 1/4 cup of kidney beans. I counted 110 beans. Let's say 5 beans per pod, that would be 22 pods. Seems reasonable.
I was thinking of devoting 100 square feet to bush dry beans, or a 25-foot trellis to pole dry beans. In the bush case I would plant roughly 100 plants total, which at best would yield 100 * 1/4 cup = 25 cups = 1.5 gallons.
Not exactly a high-yield crop, but I really do like to grow things that I can store for a long time and eat during the winter months.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 11:25AM
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check out the thread called 'bean science' where zeedman links to a thread that has a good discussion about dry bean yield.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 12:24PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I concur with Fusion's recommendations for bush bean spacing. The 20-36" spacing between rows is dependent to a large extent upon the variety - some sprawl more than others. In my irrigated garden, 24" between rows usually works for me. Only a few varieties - such as some of the bush Romanos, like "Jumbo" - need more than that. It depends, too, on how much of a path you need.

Most of my beans are pole... but I generally grow 1 or 2 bush varieties each year, usually for shelly or dry use. My yield for bush beans has been 1-2 ounces/plant dry seed, at 6" spacing. This is considerably less per plant than pole beans; but since you can space the plants & rows more closely, the difference is not as great as it might appear to be. For large areas, due to the wider row spacing required by pole beans, the yield per square foot for bush beans can exceed that of pole beans.

I would count on a pound of dry seed per each 15 feet of row, at 6" spacing. Well cared for, on good garden soil, you could get twice that.

As Fusion mentioned, pole bean yields can be much higher - per plant. In the "Bean Science" thread, I linked to a discussion where I gave the yield per plant for the pole beans I grew last year. Best case scenario, I have had single pole bean plants yield nearly a pound of seed. These were very widely spaced (due to a poor stand) but the results were spectacular nonetheless, and showed what pole beans are capable of under ideal conditions. At 12" between plants (my default spacing for most large-seeded pole beans) I typically get 6-8 ounces per plant.

Since I generally lose a percentage to spoilage each year (from late summer rains & frost), these figures are fairly conservative. Don't know about your climate in late summer, Tsctoehr, but if all of the pods which set are able to ripen before frost under dry conditions, 8 ounces per plant (at 12" spacing) should be a reasonable expectation. That is for beans intended for dry use; snap beans with their smaller seeds may yield less.

Realistically, I would count on using a 30-foot row for a gallon of dry beans... but with a little TLC, you can get better than that. One pole variety gave me 7 pounds from a 20 foot row last year... and the last pods were lost to frost. If space is limited, you can best take advantage of pole beans' superior yield by planting a single row on the North side of the garden/bed, where they will not shade shorter plants.

Since we are discussing both weight & volume in regard to yield, I wanted to get a conversion factor. Measuring several of my dry beans, their net weight was between 7-8 pounds/gallon. Keeping in mind that dry beans expand when cooked, a gallon is a lot of beans.

As for crossing between common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)... like Fusion, I have personally experienced very little. When I grew pole beans in adjacent rows, I had some crossing, maybe 5% or less. I grow them at least 30-40 feet apart now, with barrier crops (flowers & flowering vegetables) between them, and almost never get a cross. However, I have received severely crossed bean seed in trade - one ("Jeminez") nearly 100% - so I know it can occur under the right conditions.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 7:08PM
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Thanks, guys. I did go and read the "bean science" thread and as a result I think I'm comfortable trying a bush density of one plant per square foot.
One nice thing about gardening in NW Oregon is that is that it simply does not rain in August or September. That will work in my favor as I try to ripen my dry bean crop... whatever that turns out to be.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 9:38PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"One nice thing about gardening in NW Oregon is that is that it simply does not rain in August or September."

Sounds like perfect bean weather! You should get a great crop.

Wish I had the same... I usually get a few all-day soakers while my pods are drying, which cost me a lot in terms of spoilage. Last year was an exception, had 3 weeks of dry weather in September, just as all of my beans were drying. It was a great year.

Have you considered any varieties in particular?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 12:39AM
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Zeedman, yes, I think I've settled on YinYang(Calypso) for the following reasons:

  1. It is reputed to be a productive cultivar.
  2. Looks really cool.
  3. Territorial Seeds sells it. They market seeds for my bio-region and it's by no means a guarantee, but at least somebody has decided that it does well here. Although I think I'll buy a 1-pound bag from the Purcell Mountain folks.
    Cannellinis look interesting too.

I know that green beans do well here, since I grow them myself and this area (Willamette Valley, OR) used to be bean country before the bush varieties and mechanical pickers took over. I grow a 24 foot row of Helda pole beans and I swear I can watch them grow right before my eyes. They seem to like the moderate summer weather. I don't see why dry beans won't do well. I could see that if we get alot of cool and cloudy weather, it might be a challenge to get them fully ripened and dry before October.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 12:57PM
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vtguitargirl(Z4b VT)

I'm late to this party, but I did find Fedco's "King of the Early" (2009) dry bean variety to out produce "Soldier Beans" (2008) by about 2:1.

And that was in spite of the fact that we had nothing but rain for the first 5 weeks of summer 2009. Both crops crowded closely together in a 6X6 bed. Seeds about 3" apart, in rows 18" apart.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 1:27PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"Zeedman, yes, I think I've settled on YinYang(Calypso) for the following reasons:
1) It is reputed to be a productive cultivar. "

I'll vouch for the productivity. Can't tell you much about the taste, though; I grew it for trial & preservation, and didn't have enough to do much testing. You might want to buy the beans from Purcell, and eat half, to see if you like them.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2010 at 5:37PM
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Calypso is pretty good flavor wise. They are a bit on the soft side to me, but easy to grow and relatively productive, and cook faster than pintos or kidney beans.

I have grown Calypso, Hutterite, and Jacob's Cattle in the same season with a full row of each variety. Production was low for the Hutterite, medium for the Calypso, and high for Jacob's Cattle. I really like the flavor of Black Turtle Soup beans, but would point out that they are best used in different dishes to the others. In particular, the black beans make really good cajun beans with rice.

Does anyone have experience with Marrowfat?


    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 1:46AM
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