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Enjoy the Flavors of the Past by Planting Heirloom Beans in an Organic Garden

written by: amefree•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 3/24/2011

Plant heirloom beans in your organic garden and enjoy the flavors of the past. Many heirloom beans date back to the 1600s. Give the beans the best conditions in your garden and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

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    Choosing Heirloom Beans

    You can easily plant organic heirloom beans and enjoy the flavors of the past. Choosing the type of heirloom beans to plant is the first step. Dragon's Tongue beans are a type of bush bean that are great for growing in a container. The heirloom beans feature long cream-colored pods with vibrant purple stripes. The pods are stringless. Since Dragon's Tongue are a type of bush bean, they produce early in the season, usually after less than 60 days.

    Another heirloom bean variety is the Yin-Yang. Yin-Yang beans have a taste similar to black beans and are white and black in color. You may also find them labeled as Orca beans. Like the Dragon's Tongue, they are a bush bean type but, unlike the Dragon's Tongue, they are a drying bean, not a wax bean.

    If you want to grow a stunningly beautiful heirloom bean, try the Speckled Cranberry. Speckled Cranberry beans are also versatile, depending on when you harvest them. If you harvest them early, you can use them as snap beans. Wait until the bean pods have matured fully to use them as drying beans.

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    Planting Heirloom Beans

    Start your organic heirloom beans from seed after danger of frost in your area. You should wait until the air outside is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit regularly and the soil is warm. You'll get better yields if you soak the bean seeds in water or a tea made of seaweed the night before planting.

    Heirloom beans produce nitrogen in the soil, and do so through a symbiotic relationship with a type of bacteria, Rhizobia. To improve the health of your bean plants and boost yields, you can dip each bean seed in a Rhizobia inoculant after soaking but before planting.

    Cover the seeds with an inch of soil if you have soil that is very heavy and clay-like. You can plant the beans a little deeper, an inch and a half below the soil, if you have sandy soil. Space the bean seeds 3 inches apart. If you're planting in rows, space each row 3 feet apart.

    You can grow bush beans in a container and still get a decent yield. Use a container that's at least 12 inches deep. Use an organic container mix when growing beans in a pot.

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    Care For Heirloom Beans

    Beans need full sun, at least six hours of it a day. They also need a good amount of water, at least an inch per week. Be careful not to overwater the beans though, as too much water will cause the seeds to rot before the plant can grow, can lead to fungal infections or can cause the pods of the beans to be deformed. If the beans do not get enough water, they will drop flowers and pods.

    Since beans produce their own nitrogen, don't fertilize with too much nitrogen. Instead, use a fertilzer that has higher amounts of potassium and phosphorus. Side dress with potassium and phosphorus once your bean plant has begun to produce flowers. A handful of compost mixed into the soil will provide a good dose of organic fertilizer and will improve drainage.

    Protect beans from common pests, such as the Mexican Bean Beetle, with row covers. Planting marigolds near the beans will repel pests without the use of chemicals. Learn to recognize pests and pick them off with your hands.

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    Harvesting Heirloom Beans

    When you can harvest your organic heirloom beans depends on the type of beans. If you're growing snap beans, pick them once the pods is a quarter inch wide. Wait for shelling beans to completely swell in their pods before picking. If you are growing dry beans, wait from them to dry on the bush and turn brown before harvesting. The more frequently you harvest the organic heirloom beans, the more you'll be able to enjoy the flavors of the past.

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    Trail, Gayla. Grow Great Grub. Potter, 2010.

    Lerner, B. Rosie. Growing Beans in the Home Vegetable Garden.