“Eat less of meat, and more of beans,
If you wish to fit inside your jeans!”
Beans are a wonderfully protein-rich, fruiting veggie that is a delight to grow! There are various types of beans. This page has information relevant to most of the common beans – bush (lima/butter/french) and pole beans. Click here for info on cluster beans/guar.
SEASONS: Beans are annuals and grow well in Mumbai only during our winters.
PROPAGATING: This plant is propagated from seed. The simplest way to get seeds is to raid your kitchen shelves! Alternatively, prepare your seeds from scratch. Empty fully ripened bean pods of your choice and dry in the sun. It may take several days for thorough drying depending on the size and thickness of the bean. Once seeds are dry, store in a brown paper bag in a cool dark place.
GERMINATING: Beans are very easy to germinate (remember all your school science experiments?!) and are best germinated directly in the soil. Plant seeds in acidic, well-drained soil in holes about 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart (pole/climber beans) or 24 inches apart (bush beans). Germinate in mid-October so your seedlings grow sturdy for planting out in time for Mumbai’s winter season.
PLANTING OUT: If you have germinated beans separately in a seeding basket, then transplant to slightly acidic, well-drained soil in a sunny spot, keeping the distance suggested in the para above. Beans are not too fussy about soil and will grow in compost/manure rich soils as well as poor, sandy soils – as long as they are well-drained. While sunlight is needed, the Mumbai heat – even in our token winters – could adversely affect your bean plants. So if winter is delayed or your spot is simply too sunny, then opt for partial shade or a shade-net. Bean plants will simply shrivel in a day if exposed to strong sunlight and will thrive only during proper Mumbai winters. Beans can be grown in containers and in open plots.
NURTURING: Bush and pole bean plants do not require mulch as they grow easily and tend to discourage competing weeds. Water daily but take care not to over-water/flood the container as constantly wet roots will invite plant disease. Bush beans will grow to full size within 2 months and may need support as they tend to fall out of the container. Pole beans will grow rapidly, as much as a few inches a day, till full size in 2 months. Support this variety with a pole, stick or suspended rope/wire at least 6 feet high, so its upward-reaching tendrils can grasp support and grow taller and spread out across a broader surface. Alternatively, train your bean plants to grow in laps – upward, then downward, and then upward again, to save space. Snip off yellowing branches and dead leaves to strengthen growth of the plant.
HARVESTING: Harvest your beans when they are tender. Fresh beans look yummy but beware of grazing while you harvest! Some beans (lima, for example) are highly toxic when eaten raw and need to be boiled well before consumption. Your plants will produce plentifully until March, or as long as the weather stays cool. They sustain through summer but productivity decreases remarkably, and they get hit with fungus during the monsoons. So once productivity declines at the end of winter, snip off your plants at soil surface, leaving the nitrogenous root nodules in the earth, and compost the rest of the plant. Then replenish the soil and use that space for growing leafing or rooting veggies next.
A pole bean plant with its pure white flower, and a pole bean cluster climbing a wire support
String/french beans growing on a bush in winter
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