“Eat less of meat, and more of beans,
To stay inside those shrinking jeans!”
Beans are fruiting veggies, of which there are various types. This page has information relevant only to cluster beans/guar. Click here for info on other common beans – bush (lima/butter/french) and pole beans.
SEASONS: Cluster beans or Guar are seasonal plants. They are a warm weather crop that prefer drier climates but will tolerate Mumbai’s summers as long as humidity levels are not too high. It does not do well at all during the monsoons, and tends to succumb quite suddenly to fungus and disease because it cannot bear our high levels of humidity and rainfall.
PROPAGATING: This plant is easily propagated from seed. Buy cluster bean seeds from your garden shop or prepare your seeds from scratch. Empty a fully ripened bean pod and dry it in the sun. It may take several days dry completely. Once dried, store in a brown paper bag in a cool dark place.
GERMINATING: Sow in mid August for a second summer/winter harvest or in mid Jan for a summer harvest. Cluster beans are easy to germinate and come up enthusiastically. Sow directly in the ground.
PLANTING OUT: Sow your cluster beans seeds in 1 inch deep holes in neutral to slightly acidic, well-drained, sandy or loamy soil in a sunny, but not too hot spot. These beans grow well in north-west India, and Mumbai’s heat often sounds its death knell. They grow till about 5 feet in height, so plant them at least 12 inches apart to provide space for growth. Cluster beans grow well on open plots and in containers of all sizes.
NURTURING: Place mulch around your saplings as weeds can deter growth. Water daily but take care not to over-water/flood the container. This plant does not take well to constant moisture and humidity. It is also highly prone to insect attacks and once attacked, it rarely recovers. Cluster beans will grow to full size within 2 months and may need support as they tend to tip over as they grow taller. Stake a pole or stick alongside it, and loosely tie your plant to it as it grows taller. Snip off yellowing branches and dead leaves to strengthen growth of the plant.
HARVESTING: Harvest your beans when they are tender. A fertile cluster bean plant is an absolute delight to behold as each plant can hold scores of beans, all hunkering together close to the stem – the reason they are called “cluster beans”! Your plant will produce plentifully for at least 3 months, or as long as the weather stays cool and dry. Once productivity declines at the end of season, snip off your plants at soil surface, leaving the nitrogenous root nodules in the earth. Compost the rest of the plant, replenish the soil and use that space for planting leafing or rooting veggies next.
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