A quick guide to growing green beans

Zambian farmers prefer to farm dried beans compared to fresh green beans. Green beans are one of the easiest crops to grow. Plant a bean seed, and it will definitely grow and produce a generous crop with little effort. However, if you want the biggest and best harvest possible, there are a few things you should know starting with variations.

The  two main variations of beans – Pole and Bush can both be grown in Zambia. The biggest difference you’ll need to know before running out and buying seeds is their growth habits, which can be either pole beans (climbing vines) or bush beans (compact plants that don’t need support) and are often quicker to mature than pole beans.

Preparing to grow your beans

Many sites advise you to soak seeds overnight to germinate. Please don’t do this because soaking causes the seeds to slip or rot in the ground. The best way to aid germination is by soaking them for 30 minutes or less before planting and then heavily watering the soil where you planted them.

Green beans grow best in the sun so avoid planting in the winter months from May to July. They grow well in fertile soil, rich in organic matter. Once the green bean seedlings have several true leaves, cover the garden beds with several inches of mulch to conserve moisture, keep soil temperatures cooler, and keep weed seeds from germinating.

The soil that they grow in has to be slightly acidic (6.0-6.2) and well-draining. Since you’re planting on a large scale, it’s best to plant without having to transplant later.

Growing your pole beans

You should plant he seeds about 10-15cm apart and 5cm deep. Since pole beans grow as vines, one simple way of preparing the field is to put a post in the middle of each bed and attach chicken wire.

Pole beans tend to produce continuously throughout the season (about 60 days after planting, depending on the variety) and can end up yielding more green beans per plant than bush beans.

The harvest: It’s advisable to start harvesting your pole beans when the pods are still small and tender, using two hands to pick them to keep from ripping the vines. Ensure that you pick your beans every few days to keep the plants flowering and producing new bean pods, but if you like, you can let them grow to a larger size before harvesting them.

Growing your bush beans

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You need to also plant these seeds about 15-20cm apart and 5cm deep. Because bush beans grow like shrubs there should be a distance of at least 50cm between beds.

Bush beans tend to produce a crop about 50 days after and will continue to produce but if you want to have a bigger harvest, you have to replant a few weeks apart from the biggest yields.

The harvest: You have to pick Bush beans regularly. Use two hands to twist or snap them off of the plant. It’s important to pick both varieties of green beans before they get tough.

A 30 metre row of bush beans, planted 5 to 8 cm apart, with rows spaced 45 to 60 cm apart, should yield roughly 34kg of bush beans. However, with little maintenance (ie no irrigation, no pest-control measures) you can expect to yield from a 1.5 to 2.5 kg from a similarly planted 3m row.

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