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How to Grow Beans and Peas

Peas and beans grow best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Planting in raised bed keeps pea seeds from getting soggy while they germinate in cool spring weather and warms the soil for the beans, which you plant later. Peas and beans like moderately moist soil that isn't heavily amended with fertilizer.

Here are some other growing tips:

  • Prepare the soil: Work a 2- to 3-inch layer of composted manure worked into the soil before planting. For poor soils with low fertility, add an organic fertilizer high in phosphorous and potassium, such as 5-5-5.

  • Determine when to plant: Plant beans after the soil reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant small batches of bush beans every week or so. Peas like cool soil; plant as soon as the soil dries out in the spring.

    You can plant peas 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost date if the soil is ready. Pea seeds germinate better in 60- to 70-degree soil, but if you wait until the soil is warmer, by the time the peas begin flowering, the air temperature is too warm (above 80 degrees), and your plants and production suffers.

  • Space properly and provide support: The following guidelines can help determine spacing and support needs:

    Plant bush beans seeds in rows 1 to 2 feet apart. Then thin the bean seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart.

    Plant peas less than 1 inch apart in rows 6 inches apart.

    Pole beans, and tall varieties of peas like to climb poles or fences. A 4- to 5-foot fence is good for most peas, and a 6- to 8-foot pole is good for pole beans.

    Climbers versus twiners.
    Climbers versus twiners.
  • Fight pests and diseases: Protect your beans and peas from pests and disease.

    Here are the most troublesome of the bean and pea problems:

    • Bald heading: Insects can cause your bean seedlings to emerge from the soil without leaves. Leafless beans don't produce any crops; pull them out and replant.

    • Mexican bean beetle: This orange-yellow shelled bug has 16 black spots on it. Adult beetles lay orange eggs on the undersides of maturing bean plants. When the eggs hatch, the young emerge to feed on the bean leaves. To control these pests, crush the egg masses.

    • Rust: This causes your plants to develop red or orange spots on their leaves, and then yellow and die. To prevent rust disease, clean up debris and till your garden in fall. The next growing season, move beans to another location.

    • Pea aphid: These pear-shaped, 1/8-inch, green insects suck the juices from pea leaves and stems, causing stunted growth or wilting. If your plants are severely affected by these insects, spray the plants with Safer's insecticidal soap.

    • Pea enation virus: Pea enation virus is a particular problem for peas grown in the Pacific Northwest. The virus, spread by aphids, causes plants' leaves and pods to be stunted and deformed. The best solution is to grow disease-resistant varieties such as 'Cascadia'.

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