How to Grow Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are large, dry beans known for their kidney shape and usually a dark, red appearance though they do come in other colors. They are a staple of southern cuisine and make a great supplement to meat for vegetarians due to their high levels of protein, calcium and magnesium. Let’s look at how to grow kidney beans in your home garden.

Kidney beans come in both bush and vine varieties. Bush beans take up a little more space and usually yield all of their beans at once. Vine beans need a stake or trellis for support and yield a continual harvest for 1-2 months.

Kidney beans should be planted in the spring, after the last frost date for your area. They need 90-150 days to reach maturity. Soil temperatures should be 70° F – 80° F for successful germination. Avoid frost and temperatures below 60° F whenever possible.

Kidney beans are best suited for hardiness zones 4 and warmer. However, they can grow anywhere with enough frost-free days. Temperatures should be 65° F – 80° F for the majority of the growing season for good results.

Plant kidney beans in full sun. They can also be grown in 12 inch pots. Bush varieties are better suited for containers. You’ll need 6-10 plants for just one person, so container growing kidney beans may be impractical.

Kidney beans grow best in loose, well draining soil. If you have heavy soil, amend it with lots of mature compost. Adding a couple of inches of compost will be good, even in sandy soil. Till it in when you prepare your garden bed a couple weeks prior to planting. Test the pH of the soil to be sure it is 6.0 – 7.0.

Kidney beans don’t transplant particularly well so direct sow them 1-2 inches deep. Keep the soil moist and seeds should germinate in 10-14 days. Vining varieties should be spaced 4 inches apart. Bush varieties need 8 inches between plants. Best to plant seeds every 1-2 inches and then thin them out once the seedlings have reached about 3 inches high.

Kidney beans should be watered evenly but not too often. Try to let the top layer of soil just dry out before watering again. No need to keep the soil constantly moist but keep an eye on them during dry spells.

No need to feed kidney beans if they are planted in rich soil. If you choose to fertilize, use an organic fertilizer that is not based in nitrogen.

Kidney beans have shallow roots so be very careful when weeding. Best to use a thick layer of organic mulch, like straw or leaves to keep the weeds down. Mulch also helps maintain soil moisture and warmth, which will be very important in cool or dry climates.

Kidney beans are susceptible to fungal diseases. Avoid overhead watering and water in the morning to keep the foliage dry.

The large leaves of kidney bean plants are targets for lots of different pests including slugs, leafhoppers, beetles and aphids. Organic sprays and hand picking are the best way to deal with bugs like these.

Use fencing and netting if squirrels, deer or rabbits become a nuisance.

Keep a tidy, healthy garden. Practice strict crop rotation: do not plant kidney beans where other legumes have grown the past 3 seasons.

Harvest kidney beans after they have completely matured and dried out. In humid environments, hang them in a dry, well-ventilated space to let them dry off the vine.

Shell dry beans and store them for up to 1 year in a cool, dark space.

Raw kidney beans, as well as their sprouts, are poisonous.

Mix an inoculant powder to the soil when preparing for planting. Inoculant helps legumes like kidney beans draw nitrogen from the soil. This will get them off to a strong start.

Keep row covers on hand to protect young seedlings from late frosts and unexpected cold spells.

Do not plant kidney beans too early. Soil that is too cold or too wet will cause them to rot. Use plastic mulch to warm the soil prior to sowing seeds.

In cooler climates, choose quicker maturing varieties.

When in doubt, a dry kidney bean is ready when you gently bite into it and leave no tooth mark.

Do you have tips on how to grow kidney beans? Let us know in the comments section below.

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