Beans are not just nutritious food staples, they leave a bonus as they leave your garden — nitrogen for the next crop
India has a variety of beans, from the familiar green to a creamy white, yellow, purple and speckled; some are eaten as vegetables and others grown for their beans. Beans are a primary source of protein for vegetarians and a vital ingredient in most Indian cuisines with their versatility. Look for local varieties like avarakkai and mochai of Tamil Nadu, guar from Gujarat, yard-long beans from Kerala and soya beans from Northeastern India, to name a few. All beans can be grown using the same methods with a few variances; while some grow on short bushes, others grow into tall vines that need to be supported. They are easy to grow if the soil is well prepared and the plants receive at least five hours of direct sunlight; they need only basic care thereafter. Beans can also be grown in troughs and grow bags on terraces along with other vegetables. Pole bean vines trained up a trellis could be an attractive garden feature.
Plan: Staggered planting will give good yields for most of the year; for a small family, plant a bean or two every alternate week to be assured of tender beans through the year. Rotate bean plants around the garden space; this controls common plant and soil diseases and also helps spread nitrogen deposits to other areas. Though beans are generally grown directly in the ground, they can also be started in nursery beds in biodegradable cocopeat pots, to be transferred to the garden later.
Companion plants: Celery, corn, cucumber, potato, bhindi, brinjal, sunflower. Do plant marigold near beans; do not plant near onions and beetroot.
Soil: Beans grow best in soil enriched with quality garden compost, but do not need extra nitrogen like other plants. Prepare the soil with well-decomposed natural fertiliser rich in leaves, grass and garden trimmings; mix in crumbled neem cake and leave for a week, turning once to ensure the soil is light and crumbly. The soil should be evenly moist through the growing period — not too dry or too damp; waterlogged soil will make the plants vulnerable to diseases, so make sure the bed has good drainage.
Sow: Press each bean into the soil to a depth of 1.5 inches and cover with soil; this can be done in rows or at random at 4-6 inches apart.
Moon Phase: The best time to sow beans is the first quarter phase, especially two days before the full moon, when the light is strong.
Care: Bean stalks may be affected by aphids, beetles, leaf hoppers and mites. At the first sign of pests, blast them away with strong water hosing. Additionally, spray with a neem-based pesticide solution once a week, till blossoms appear on the plant. Once the seedlings are about three inches, mulch around each plant with leaves or shredded garden waste; this keeps the soil moist and also prevents weeds from growing close to the plants. Bush beans grow up to two feet and do not need support; the tall vines of pole or climbing beans, which can grow up to 10 feet, do require support. Once they are about three inches tall, add stakes or a trellis to support the vines.
Harvest: The plants will start yielding beans around 60-90 days after sowing. Pluck tender green, yellow and purple beans that are used as vegetables as soon as they are ready, before they over-mature; this encourages the plants to continue producing more beans. Butter beans and kidney beans are harvested when the bean pod is round and tight with the swollen bean; they can be eaten fresh, or dried for use later. Soya beans can be plucked and eaten whole as edamame beans, or left to mature to harvest the beans. Be sure to leave enough on the bean plant as it dies, to save for the next planting.
COURTESY THE HINDU