How to Grow Pinto Beans

Known for their essential role in many Latino dishes, pinto beans also offer a unique nutritional profile. They are drought tolerant and grow well in drier, more arid climates. Here’s how to grow pinto beans at home.

Pinto beans come in both determinate (bush) and indeterminate (pole) varieties. Bush pinto beans require little care but need more space between plants. They produce all their beans at once but won’t produce as big of a yield as pinto beans grown on the vine (pole). Pole pinto beans require a stake or trellis for support but can be planted close together and thereby save space.

Pinto beans should be planted after the danger of frost has passed. They will require 80-140 frost free days to mature and need soil temperatures of about 70° F for successful germination. Black plastic mulch should be used to warm the soil in order to lengthen the growing season, as pinto beans do not transplant well. Avoid planting pinto beans too early because they will not tolerate cool, damp roots.

Pinto beans grow well in regions with long, warm summers. They should be planted in a space where they will receive full exposure to the sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day) and where other legumes have not grown for at least 3 years.

Companion plant pinto beans with cucumbers, celery and strawberries but avoid onion, fennel and garlic.

Use a well draining, loose and fertile soil. Test the pH to be sure it is about 6.0-7.0. Add plenty of mature compost before planting and you shouldn’t have to feed the beans much, if at all, during the growing season.

Soak pinto beans overnight prior to planting. Sow each bean with the eye facing down, 1-2 inches deep. Allow 8-14 days for germination when soil temperatures are 70° F – 80° F. Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart once they become established. Allow a little extra space between bush plants for good aeration.

Pinto beans should be watered somewhat sparingly. Wait until just before the soil dries out before watering. Pinto beans can handle a bit of drought but not soggy roots. Water at the base of the plants and try to keep the foliage dry. Wet leaves promote mildew and other fungal diseases.

Hand weed carefully. Pinto beans have a shallow root system. Use organic mulch to keep down weeds and maintain moisture in the soil.

Pole varieties of pinto beans will need a trellis, stake or similar means of support as they grow. Put the support structure in place before planting. The vines will need to be trained when they first begin to grow but should take off naturally after a few weeks. Use soft twine or cloth to tie them to the pole without damaging the vine.

Pinto beans will benefit from a good feeding from a compost tea about half way through the growing season. Legumes like pintos fix their own nitrogen, so avoid fertilizers that contain it. However, pale leaves may indicate nitrogen deficiency. In this case, use a fish emulsion or similar nitrogen based fertilizer to get them back on track.

Keep a clean, tidy garden. If your plants are healthy and well looked after they will be less susceptible to pests. However, pinto beans are often targeted by aphids, leafhoppers, mites and beetles. Use organic sprays, handpick and blast them off with water.

Pinto beans can be harvested while still green and immature but are best after they dry out on the vine. This usually occurs after 90-150 days, depending on the variety. Bush beans mature all at once but pole beans need to be harvested regularly to encourage continual production.

To increase the plant’s ability to fix nitrogen, add pinto bean inoculant to the soil upon planting. While not completely necessary, this will allow your plants to get off to a flourishing start.

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

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