Red beans, also called kidney beans, are both a healthy inclusion to your diet and an excellent crop for the home garden. High in proteins, they have antioxidant properties, vitamin B6, folic acid, and magnesium. They are also a rich source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Red beans are an essential pantry mainstay and a staple in vegetarian fare. Medical professionals and nutritionists recommend healthy servings for people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, or insulin resistance. The fiber in the beans keeps sugar levels in the human body from rising too rapidly.
Growing Kidney Beans from Seed
Beans, in general, do not respond well to transplanting. That’s why experienced gardeners suggest sowing red beans directly on the ground just after the last spring frost.
The plants require a long growing season, spanning about 80 days. But both the bush and vine varieties will rot in cool, damp soil. If you want an early start, put down black plastic in your garden to warm the soil.
Here’s how to grow red kidney beans from seed in your garden.
Planting Red Bean Seeds
Plant red beans eye side down in full-sun, one to 1 ½ inch deep in moderately fertile, well-draining soil. Space seeds for vining varieties about 4 inches apart. Plant seeds for bush varieties 8 inches apart. The vining varieties will need some kind of support or trellis for climbing.
Water the seeds immediately. Keep in mind that bean plants should be well-ventilated to promote proper development. Good ventilation likewise deters mildew or mold, which are likely to trouble plants that grow without proper air circulation. You should not grow beans in the same spot more than once every four years.
Caring for Red Bean Plants
Red bean seedlings should emerge within 10 to 14 days of sowing. Pole beans may require some initial help climbing. Other than that, the plants will require minimal care. They produce their own nitrogen so you will have no need to apply fertilizer.
However, if you think some fertilizer is necessary, be sure not to use a product that is high in nitrogen. Such fertilizers will only stimulate lush foliage, not bean production.
Keep the area around the plants free of weeds. Water the plants regularly, but when watering, try to avoid wetting the leaves. Wet leaves are likely to encourage unwanted fungus growths.
Most types of beans are fairly drought resistant, but check the surface of the soil frequently. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. A good layer of mulch will deter weeds and help maintain soil moisture.
Harvesting Red Beans
Red beans should be ready for harvest within 100 to 140 days of planting. Stop watering the plants when the pods start to dry out and yellow.
If the air is not too humid and you’ve allowed ample space between plants, the beans may well dry on the vine or bush. They will be hard as rocks and desiccated.
Otherwise, remove the entire plant from the soil when the pods turn the color of straw. Hang the plants upside down in a dry place to allow the beans to dry.
Once the beans are completely dry and cured, you can keep them in a tightly sealed container for about a year.