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ORGANIC. HEIRLOOM. Heirloom beans are widely named after family matriarchs, and this is a great example. The namesake of this bean is famous bean grower and seed saver Bill Best’s mother Margaret, and it lives up to the Best family legacy. This high yielding bean has short pods that are tightly packed with seeds in the traditional cut short style. Margaret Best raised five children, of whom Bill was the eldest. She tended several gardens on their small, self-sufficient farm, canned vegetables and meat, and made the children’s clothes out of cotton feed sacks. It was Margaret who instilled the love of beans in her eldest son Bill, and in 1963 started his collection by giving him some of her seeds, which she got from her mother, and from cousins and acquaintances she’d trade with at family reunions or church meetings.
SMALL FARM GROWN by Rodger's Heirlooms, Little Mountain, SC
|Packet weight||Approx. seeds/ packet||Bulk packet weight||Approx. seeds/ bulk packet|
|Planting Season||Ideal Soil Temp||Sun||Frost Tolerance|
|After Last Frost||60-80°F||Full Sun||Frost Sensitive|
|Sowing Method||Seed Depth||Direct Seed Spacing||Days to sprout|
|Mature Spacing||Days to harvest||Production Cycle||Seed Viability|
Most beans are sensitive to cold and cannot tolerate frost, so we plant directly outside in spring when there's no longer a risk of frost. For many areas, this will be in mid- to late-spring. Pole beans can be planted when the soil temperature reaches 60 F. Pole beans need full sun to grow properly and produce the highest yields, so choose a garden bed that gets lots of exposure throughout the day.
The ideal soil pH for pole beans is between 6 and 6.5. They also need well-draining soil that’s been enriched with organic matter. Combine a well-draining soil, such as silt or loam, with aged compost. If your soil is clay-like, amend with rotted straw, shredded leaves, manure, or shredded bark to help it drain better.
Because pole beans grow tall, they need a support to grow on. It’s easiest to build the support before planting, and this will prevent damage to the beans and roots. The best supports for pole beans include trellises, teepees or pyramids, poles, chicken wire, or large tomato cages.
Use your hands or a spade to build up the soil into long rows that are 30 inches apart. Poke a 1-inch deep hole for each bean, and space the beans 4 inches apart. Place a bean in each hole and cover it loosely with soil.
During active growing periods like sprouting and producing pods, the beans will need sufficient water to grow. Keep the soil evenly moist when you first plant the beans and when they start developing pods. Make sure they get about an inch of water per week.
Adding a layer of mulch to the top of the soil will help the soil retain moisture, regulate temperature, and protect the seedlings. When the seedlings develop their second set of leaves, add a 3-inch layer of mulch to the top of the garden bed.
The first bean pods should be ready for harvest within 50 to 70 days of planting. If you harvest the pods every couple of days as they mature, the plants will continue producing pods for several weeks or more.
Harvest beans from dry plants to prevent the spread of bacteria. If necessary, wait until the late morning or early afternoon so morning dew has dried.
Pollination, self; Life Cycle, annual; Isolation Distance, 20 feet
Cross-pollination is rare with beans, but it is prudent to not grow different varieties next to each other to avoid the risk. Earmark a couple of plants at the beginning of the season for seed saving. To encourage optimal pod development, water very little and don't feed the seed plants, nor pick any pods from them to eat. At the very end of the season, pick the pods when they have turned crisp and brown. Some varieties will shatter –meaning the pod will split open to disperse the seeds- so keep an eye on your seeds' progress and harvest accordingly. With smaller varieties, the whole bush can be uprooted and hung upside-down for drying. The seed inside the pod should be hard. Dry the pods in a well-ventilated place, clean and winnow, and store.