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Growing Dry Beans for Soups and More

Whether you prefer red or white beans, pinto or kidney types, you can group all dry beans into three categories based on how they grow:

dry beans

1. Bush beans are the most common way to grow dry beans. Compact plants will produce an abundance of beans over a short period of time. Popular bush dry beans include ‘Red Kidney’, ‘Black Turtle Soup’, ‘Vermont Cranberry’, ‘Dragon Tongue’ and ‘Jacob’s Cattle’. Plant seeds about 2 inches apart. Bush dry beans need no staking and can be planted the same as any bush green bean.

2. Pole beans produce less but over a longer period of time. ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Black Valentine’ are wonderful and tasty varieties to grow. Pole beans can get quite tall and need a good sturdy support. Whether you use a trellis, an old ladder, or other structure for support, be sure to have it in place before you plant the seeds. Plant pole beans a little farther apart than bush types, about 3 inches or so.

3. Half runner is the category of dry bean I discovered by accident. In an effort to save a little money and as an experiment, I planted beans purchased in the soup aisle of our local grocery store. Sure enough they grew and most were bush beans. Some of the bushy plants did grow little tendrils, too, and attached themselves to each other. After doing a little research I stumbled on the term “half runner” and knew that’s what I had. Some varieties of this type of bean include ‘State’, ‘Pink Bean’ and ‘Snowcap’. The recommended spacing for half runners is 2 to 4 inches (so basically all dry beans are planted in that range).

Whatever the growing habit, harvest is the same. When the pods are dry or at the end of the season, either pull the pods off and shell or you can thresh. If you have a lot of beans place them stem and all in a paper bag, close it and shake the bag vigorously. Remove the debris and you’ll find the beans at the bottom.

Always give your beans some additional time to air out to be sure they are completely dry before storing. It only takes a little moisture to affect your beans.

The beauty of it all? Well, aside from the variety of colors, you can save some of the beans to plant the following year.

Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more
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