Recent adventures with pantry beans

cabrita(9b SoCal)December 9, 2008

This is a short report on my results planting common pantry beans.

I had 3-4 beds that needed a cover crop, after and before planting brassicas. One of my purposes was to enrich the soil as much as possible, keep the weeds away and hopefully also get something edible. I used pantry beans since I needed bush beans for my purposes, but in larger quantities than I had commercial green bean seeds. I had a little commercial bean seed so I also planted half a bed with Kentucky wonders.

Magnolia red beans (Magnolia is just the brand name). Sprouting rate not too bad. I tried them as green beans, they can be eaten this way but are nothing spectacular and they have strings. I did get some tender beans (shellies?) and they are good without being spectacular, but unfortunately my crop did not get very far. That bed (and others) got attacked by what I think are flea beetles. White small insects under the leaves that form a dust cloud sometimes and that made the leaves seem speckled like if they were variegated. All in all I was not sufficiently impressed with the red beans to plant them again in my garden, even if I have insufficient beans for cover crops since I found one I like better.

Great white northern (also from Magnolia). Flea beetles did not let me get a crop at all, they looked sickly from day one. I might try planting a white bush bean again but first I have to figure how to prevent/detract these flea beetles.

White and green baby limas (also from Magnolia). They had a really lousy sprouting rate so I planted several times (filling in the gaps where nothing grew). These were less susceptible to attack from the white flea beetles. I tried eating the pods and I do not recommend it (do not laugh, it was my first time growing limas so I did not know if the pod was ever edible). I harvested some as green shellies and used them in our green beans (and lima shellies) thanksgiving dish. I cooked sautéing them with a few onions greens that I now have sprouting all over the place and some home made all i oli. They were just sooooo delicious. I will use them again as an inexpensive cover crop. Next time I will take note of the poor sprouting rate and just plant more heavily. At $1.19 a lb for those beans I can afford to plant more heavily.

I should also mention that the Kentucky wonders also got attacked by the white flea beetles but not before giving me a very nice crop, considering how few plants I had. Does anyone here have a good way to get rid of the flea beetles? We tried some soap/hot pepper/tobacco diluted mix but it was a little too late for some of them. Anything else better (non pesticide)?

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Sounds like you may have had white fly, rather than flea beetle.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 4:21PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

I agree. It probably was white fly.

Thanks for your report on using pantry beans for seed. I have thought of this many times but have not had the occasion to do it. When I need a cover crop, I will do it.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 7:37PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Thanks for the correction! Yes, from the pictures it does not look like flea beetles. Sometimes I get flea bettles on my eggplants, they make lace out of the leaves. We can somewhat control them spraying with the soap/hot pepper stuff.

How does one control white fly? First time we get that on beans (or anything for that matter).

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 8:09PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I agree with the others about the whiteflies, they are a warm-weather pest.

Ladybugs & lacewing larvae will help to control whiteflies, but may not fully eliminate them. You could purchase predatory insects, but they are notoriously hard to keep in the place where they are released, unless there is a good food supply for the larvae (such as an substantial aphid population) and flowering plants to feed the adults.

Insecticidal soap spray (such as Safers) might reduce the infestation... but before using it or any other spray, inspect for the predatory larvae mentioned above. If they are present, those larvae would be killed by the spray also - and they represent the best long-term solution to control sap-sucking insects.

Cabrita, I wonder... were the beans growing in bare, unmulched soil? And do you irrigate overhead, such as with a sprinkler? Most of the soil in SoCal is high pH, and when mud is splashed on the bean leaves during watering, it weakens them. You would notice pronounced yellowing & leaf curl almost immediately following germination. This weakness makes them more vulnerable to insects & disease. I found this out the hard way when I lived in San Diego.

It may be that the best way to prevent whiteflies in the future may be through cultural means. Mulch the beans shortly after germination... this reduces not only mud splash, but water stress as well. Irrigate through non-overhead means if possible, such as drip irrigation or soaker hoses. You might also find (as I did) that pole beans are less prone to soil-related problems.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 12:53AM
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Cabrita, the link under whitefly goes to a site for Florida management, but if you asked around other California gardeners, or your local extension office, they should have lots to tell you. You should be able to get the yellow sticky traps locally without too much trouble. I've heard of people vacuuming whitefly clouds with with pieces of flea collar in the bag, or using a dustbuster, though it seems they could get out of that if not damaged. You could try spraying the clouds with a fine soap mist. Even dishsoap will do, as it clogs their spiracles so they can't breath. I've read that dishsoap in water is what exterminators spray on Africanized bees to kill them.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 3:07AM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

I just realized I forgot to post about the pantry chickpeas. I planted them after soaking overnight and had a good sprouting rate with them. They were nice looking middle-eastern-store chick pea (no brand on the package). Right after I planted them in early fall we got a heat wave though, and a few of the plants turned yellow-brown and died. The other ones looked unhappy, but recently we got some cool weather and now they are looking OK. Still no flowers and they sure do not look like any legume I met before. I am hoping some will flower and pod so I have more to report.

Zeedman, Happyday and Jimster, thanks for the great info/links. I have heard of some yellow tape too, and soap/water is really easy. I have a lot of lady bugs by my amaranth which is in the front garden and I have lots of cilantro coming up, hopefully will attract lady bugs on the back garden as well (bush beans are in the back). I irrigate those beds with soaker hose. The beans I described above are planted in the zone 9b garden and I have not tested the Ph of the soil there yet. My guess is that is it neutral since it is some darn good soil with a wonderful texture (not sandy, not clay). I have a test kit and will test soon. The soil in 10a garden is clayish but slightly acidic though, so not all soil in SoCal is basic/alkaline. They used to have black walnut trees there many years ago, maybe this made the soil a little acidic?

Not sure why I got the whiteflies but you are right, the pole beans did not get anything. I harvested some dried beans in pods in z10a, put them in my pocket, went to 9b and planted them by the corn and sunflowers. They have been giving me beans (green kentucky wonders and purple peacocks) the whole time (since July) and they are still flowering. The corn and sunflowers are dead stalks just holding the beans now. I love pole beans!

For now I will spray some soap mist on the remaining limas and KW, but they are almost done and I will soon need to prepare the beds for something else. At this point I don't know if I should plant some of our new edamame seeds there, or maybe some of the new seeds for bush shelling peas? or maybe I'll go back to brassicas. I now have beets and carrots sprouts coming up where the white beans were attacked and died, so life is still good ;-)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 4:02PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

When I lived in San Diego, there was a distinct cool season and the cool season vegetables would grow all winter there-

Cole crops- broccoli, collards, kale, cabbage, mustard

Swiss Chard, beets

Beans- Fava, yardlong

Peas- Edible pod (my favorite, no shelling), Chinese or snow peas (edible pod), regular peas

Carrots, nasturtiums

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 5:36PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

...and beets, lettuces, celery....bok choi, gai lan, fenugreek greens, onions, garlic, potatoes...

Plenty to grow for sure. My indecision is connected with crop rotation. We are told to not plant the same thing in the same bed for several seasons, but we garden 4 seasons so at some point we run out of beds that have not had some crop on it that we want to plant what to do? I cannot follow this advise (not the same crop for 4 year? what?) so I do a much shorter rotation, but perhaps I should not even bother trying to rotate at all. Do you folks have the same problem? this belongs on another thread perhaps.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 4:35PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Crop rotation isn't very practical on the scale of the typical backyard garden. There just isn't the space to move things very far from season to season and not too much is at stake in event of a loss. I won't worry about it unless I see a problem. For farmers with large acreages and large investments in a crop, it is a matter of real importance.

Back to the topic, the phrase "pantry beans" is a good one. It nicely expresses the idea. Yes, I suppose it does add to the already cluttered bean nomenclature. But it clearly identifies dried beans, not dried beans in general but the ones which were intended for cooking as opposed to seed. The "adventure" part comes in using the pantry beans as seed. I like it.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 10:41PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

I am pleased with what I learned. I will use the baby limas this way again. I will plant more beds and use it as just one cover crop so there is enough to gather for a meal or two! It was interesting that the sprouting rate was much lower than good seed beans, I would not be pleased with it if I had bought the beans for seed. It would be good to find out how to tell the age of the different food beans and keep using some this way.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2008 at 10:11PM
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What a great idea! Pantry beans could keep me from having to spray daily for the aphid infestation that occurs with early plantings of southern peas.
I could plant the pantry beans and wait for the aphids to get well established, then pull every one of the beans, aphids attached, and discard the whole mess in a garbage bag. Mahwahahaha.
Yes, the aphids and ants have just about tipped me over the edge.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 10:30PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Aphids, white flies and cut worms are doing it to me too...when those get tired then the Harlequin bugs come in and this is when I scream! yes, they will even attack beans the little suckers.

Just an update. I went shopping for the 'pantry' beans that did the best for me(baby limas from Magnolia) and I noticed after spending some time looking at the package that they have dates on them! This is very helpful for sprouting. I got some from 2008 so I hope for a better sprouting rate next time.

I also wanted to give an update on my attempts to grow chickpeas (from pantry beans). Very negative results, those plants are just taking up space and they do not look like they ever intend to flower. I will be tilling them in soon and plant corn there. At this point I don't know if my troubles with the chickpeas are because I used food seed chickpeas or why? I will not try sprouting pantry chickpeas again, but I might give chickpeas another try if and when I get reliable seed.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 4:38PM
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Cabrita, before giving up on the chickpeas, why not spread some phosphorus and potash, just to check if that might be the problem.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 5:27PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Thanks for the suggestion happy. I do have time to do this since I was going to wait until early march for the corn sowing anyway. I recently tested my pH and it seems to be slightly alkaline, at least in the bed I tested (maybe like 7.3 or 7.4 it is a color test so not very precise). I know my nitrogen is excellent in most beds but I have not tested the P and K yet, and I have reasons to suspect they are not that great. The phosphorus and potash would address this problem. I also have hard wood ashes (lots of it for free).

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 5:49PM
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If you already have strong stemmed, healthy looking plants that just won't flower, I'd get some super phosphate to side dress them with. Think of it as the plant equivalent to the fertility drugs they give women who end up having octuplets.

Its unlikely that a commercial food plant would not flower, unless it is a hybrid or a GMO.

If your plants are leggy and weak, then add the ashes too, but not touching the plants, as wood ash turns to lye when combined with water. Wood ash makes the soil more alkaline.

If you have more ash than can be spread on the whole garden, you could use it as a liming agent on fresh manure, if you wanted to get into composting. Or you could trade with someone who keeps chickens, for instance, in exchange for half the resultant compost.

Here is a link that might be useful: wood ash in garden

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:43PM
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I'm also in SoCal and can garden year round. Frosts are rare here. The pH here is in the 8's so I cant used wood ash on anything. I've also grown pantry beans in the past. Black beans in the summer were fun and produced lots of smaller beans. Other than for fun, I'm not sure it was worth it in terms of saving $ however, since bagged beans are cheap, and we have to pay for water. Of course there is soil enrichment and plants for the compost heap.

This past year I grew dry limas from the store. They were a great success. Picked as young beans and cooked with a bit of butter, they were wonderful. I was also able to save more than a pound of dry beans which will be my seed source for them this year. As mentioned above, germination from the store seeds was poor, less than 50% - but enough to get some plants.

What was interesting about the lima plants was they did better vegetatively in the fall than in the warmer summer. In fact the plants are still alive now, though not blooming or producing - I just havent pulled them up yet. I wonder what would happen if I just left them there.

I also grow Romano beans, and although I purchased them from a seed company years ago, I have at times collected enough extra seed to cook up as dry beans. They were good, but it seemed like such a waste of good growing seed. Now I give extra seed away.

I also want to try to grow pantry chick peas one of these years.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 2:38PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Well, I guess my garbanzos were sterile hybrids, I gave them long enough and have not had this trouble with other plants. They never flowered, and I am talking long enough waiting. They have now been cut, the roots plowed in (for the nitrogen they provide) and the plot is ready for corn. It is OK, some experiments fail, or fail partially. I wanted an inexpensive cover crop and hopefully I got the benefits to the soil of planting a legume.

The branches and leaves will be ground up for mulch/compost. Then we got a cold rain, and another 10 days of cold rain, so I am holding of on the corn. I am going to wait for a warming trend and make a small 3 sister's garden. I got my corn picked out and ready (Hickory king), my squash (good old butternut), and I have now a choice of 3 types of beans (thanks to the generosity of some of you members). I hope I get to do two back-to-back 3 sisters, so I get to try some more cornfield beans....

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 3:56PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Bumping this thread....

I still have not gotten the chance to grow chickpeas. I will order some from a seed company thought, not from the market this time.

I have recently sowed Purcell Farm beans, and I would say their germination rate was better than expected. More expensive than most beans in the market, but you do get a whole pound, so it would be a good choice for a cover crop. Some of them climb too! (I bumped that thread too).

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 1:49PM
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    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 3:57PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

I planted Goya-brand, brown fava beans this spring, and thinking they'd grow big, bushy plants, spaced seeds a good foot apart. One or two inches apart would have been better for voluminous greens to turn under. Germination was high, but growth pitiful, probably due to tree roots invading.

Pods are short with just a few seeds each. The shellies has an off taste, barnyard-like. Too bad, for we had a great time in Italy eating fava shellies with Pecorino cheese and red wine.

The California-based Peaceful Valley Farm has a huge assortment of cover crop seeds (annual, perennial , organic).

Their web site has lots of useful information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Peaceful Valley Farm

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 6:24PM
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