How to Grow Red Beans
As a person who loves to do exercise and with many friends in the Caribbean, beans in general have been a huge part of my diet. And the difference between eating beans from the market and eating them fresh from a recent harvest is something that cannot be described with words, but with taste.
As I want all beans lover to be able to describe the difference, I’ll be explaining step by step how to grow red beans and the proper care that will help you acquire a bountiful harvest during all of the harvesting season (because yes! with the right conditions, beans can be harvested multiple times).
Note that red beans and kidney beans are not the same. While from the same family and genus, they have subtle differences such as it happens with blackberries and dewberries. If you want to see the differences between them, here is an article explaining the differences between red beans and kidney beans (coming soon!).
Optimal Way to Grow Red Beans
When the temperature rises above 70° Fahrenheit in air and 60° on soil, plant the red bean in a spot with full sun 1-1.5 inches deep for both bush beans and pole beans. Space the bush beans 3-5 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. Space pole beans 10 inches apart in rows 3-4 feet apart.
If you are planting pole beans in double rows then plant them 1 foot apart in rows and space them 10 inches from each other. The seeds should sow around 7 days for bushed red beans and in 14 days for vining red beans.
Growing red beans in seedling trays
Red beans can also be sown in seedling trays. To do this, fill your seedling trays with some seed starting mix and plant them about 1 inch deep into the soil. Assuming they sprouted outdoors, transplant them right into your garden beds or pots when they get their first set of true leaves.
If they sprouted indoors and you plan on transplanting them outdoors in the garden, remember to let them go through their respective hardening process.
It’s also important to note that beans are shallow rooted plants, so they prefer to be sown directly into their definitive place. If you transplant them, they might suffer from transplant shock and not settle their roots properly.
Despite this, sowing them in trays will help avoiding getting the seeds dug up by other animals, so if you decide to take this approach, try applying inoculant powder after transplanting the seedlings to help the roots stablish.
I recommend the chicken wire and the inoculant powder if you will be planting beans (or other plants that can have these same problems) in a constant basis, but if this is your first time planting beans, I suggest planting them and see if you actually need it after seeing the first season results.
Growing Red Beans in Containers
As red beans are shallow rooted plants, they are a very good option to plant in containers, as they won’t need too much space to grow. But for seeds that need to dry (such as red beans) it may not be optimal for harvest, as the pods cannot be picked frequently to induce more growth as it can be done with green beans.
To sow red beans in containers, plant them 1 inch deep into the soil. You can use potting mix for the soil or just blend one for yourself by mixing 1/3 of compost, 1/3 of peat moss or coco coir and 1/3 of perlite or vermiculite. Just try to make sure your soil is in that Ph range of 6-7 that beans thrive for!
The pot should be about 12 inches in diameter and 10 inches deep. Here I’ll leave a link to amazon to acquire 5 gallon pots that work well to plant bush and vining beans.
It’s also important to have some draining holes ready in any pot that you use. As beans dislike having “wet feet” and this could lead to root rot.
Beans do better in clay or loamy soils that have a Ph between 6-7. But the most important part is to have them settle in a rich-nutrient soil by giving it a nice touch of compost.
For the best results, they should be located in a spot with full sun. If you are planting vining varieties, make sure to give a good use to the shadow the beans will make in your garden and place crops that grow well in partial-sun, such as lettuce for example.
Beans have the superpower of “acquiring” nitrogen straight from the air and use it in the soil (the bacteria that lives in nodules on the plant roots gets nitrogen from the air in the soil and provides nitrogen for the plant), so it’s not necessary to apply fertilizer for them to grow. It would be counterproductive if anything.
If you want them to grow faster though, apply a mid-season touch of compost or kelp extract solution.
As with many plants, applying mulch to your beans is very important.
Before applying mulch, make sure remove all the weeds from your garden bed, preferably by hand as the tools could go too deep into the soil and damage the shallow roots of the beans.
The mulch it’s great to maintain the weeds away and will help the soil conserve it’s moisture and temperature, which is very useful during hot spells.
When growing vining red beans, it’s useful to make a trellis for the pole beans to grow.
There are many ways to trellis red beans. A classic one is to plant some bamboo poles in a circle-shape and connect them at the top with a string in a teepee kind of form. If you are starting to plant red beans for the first time this is a good, affordable idea.
Make sure to plant the bamboo poles at least 1 feet deep into the soil if you live in a windy area, if the depth is too superficial, there might be a flying bamboo in the news next summer. Jokes aside, in the case you plant beans regularly, it might be a good idea to get an obelisk trellis.
Beans can also be attached to fences or arches, there is even a bean tower plant support. When it comes to trellis ideas, there are many options.
Common Pest and Diseases
In this link I’ll leave a list of the common pest and diseases beans tend to suffer from.
Harvesting Red Beans
Red Beans will be ready to harvest around 100-140 days after they’ve been planted. We want to harvest the plant when the pods are in a light brown color and the seeds rattle a bit.
There are a couple ways to harvest dry beans. The pods can be picked up by hand when they are ready and then opened to release the seeds, or you can throw the pods into a bag and throw it against the floor. Most of the seeds will get out of the pods which saves a lot of time.
Despite this, in the “beat up the bag” method some parts of the pods will stay with the red beans so you will need to winnow your beans to “clean them”.
Harvesting a red bean plant in damp conditions
If you live in an area with damp weather, it’s raining very frequently, or the season’s is about to end and there are still some undried beans in your plants, there are a few actions you can take to finish this process.
A typical thing to do is to pull the plant early and hang it in a basement, barn, or any dry environment. Despite this, taking this approach may cause the plant to get moldy.
Another approach you can take is to take the immature pods directly and let them dry near a window ledge. As soon as they get their typical leathery color take the seeds out and finish drying them in a dry spot in your house or in a dehydrator.