How to Grow Black Beans

Black beans are a staple of Latin cuisine and offer many great benefits, including good antioxidant activity. They can be grown easily anywhere with a long enough, warm enough growing season. Here’s how to grow black beans in your home garden.

Black beans come in both bush (determinate) and pole (indeterminate) varieties. Bush types tend to need a little more space between plants and are harvested all at once. Pole beans will need a stake or trellis for support but generally produce a greater yield. They can be planted in tighter spaces, so long as their vines have space to stretch out.

Black beans need between 80-140 days to mature in warm weather. Do not plant until after the danger of frost has passed. They will not tolerate cool, damp roots so do not try to plant them too early. Soil temperatures should be about 70° F for successful germination. They do not transplant particularly well, so if you need to get a head start on the growing season, use black plastic mulch to warm the soil.

Black beans should be grown where the weather is warm for at least 3 months. Plant somewhere they will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day but the more the better. Do not plant in a garden bed where other legumes have grown for the past 3 years.

Black beans companion plant well with cucumbers, celery and strawberries. Do not plant with onion, fennel or garlic.

Black beans can be grown in 12” containers as well, but you will need several plants per household member to produce a good yield, so container gardening may not be worthwhile.

Black beans do well in loose, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Add plenty of mature compost prior to planting and the beans shouldn’t need much if any feeding for the remainder of the growing season.

Plan to grow about 8 plants per person for a plentiful harvest. Soak beans overnight prior to planting. Sow black beans with the eyes facing down, 1-2 inches deep. Germination should take 8-14 days with soil temperatures 70° F-80° F. Thin to about 6 inches between plants after the seedlings have emerged. Bush varieties will need a little extra space to allow for good aeration.

Water as needed to keep the soil consistently moist but never soggy. Try to water just before the soil dries out but black beans handle drought better than soggy roots. Avoid getting the leaves and foliage wet as this can promote mildew and other fungal diseases to which beans tend to be susceptible.

Cultivate carefully. Hand weed to avoid damaging the shallow roots of the black bean plant. Better to use mulch to keep down weeds and maintain good soil moisture.

Black bean vines grow to about 3 feet high and will need a trellis, stake or other means of support to keep them off of the ground. Put your trellis in place before planting. Train the vines to use the support structure as they begin to lengthen. Use soft twine or cloth to tie them gently to the pole or line.

Beans do not need much fertilizer to thrive. However, pole beans will benefit from a little compost tea half way through the growing season. In general, avoid nitrogen-based fertilizer. However, pale leaves may indicate a nitrogen deficiency. In this case, a light feeding of fish emulsion or a similar fertilizer can help.

Black beans are usually harvested after 90-100 days when they are firm and dried out. Some varieties can take up to 140 days. Bush varieties will mature all at once but pole beans need to be harvested regularly to encourage production until the growing season is over. If you’re unsure if they are ready, bite into one – mature beans shouldn’t leave a teeth mark.

Black beans can also be harvested when the pods are still green and beginning to swell, but black beans are best suited for dry harvest.

Black beans can be susceptible to aphids, leafhoppers, mites and beetles. Handpick and blast them off with water. Organic sprays may be used as well. Be sure to maintain a clean, tidy garden. If your plants are healthy and well looked after they will be less prone to pest invasions.

Add a black bean inoculant to the soil upon planting. This is not necessary, but will help the beans fix nitrogen and get off to a flourishing start.

In case of wet weather around harvest time, let the pods dry out indoors before picking them from the vine.

Have tips on how to grow black beans? Let us know in the comments section below!

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