Kidney beans are a healthy inclusion to the home garden. They have antioxidant properties, folic acid, vitamin B6, and magnesium, not to mention they are a rich source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. One cup (240 mL.) of kidney beans provides 45 percent of the recommended daily intake for fiber! High in protein, kidney beans, and other beans are a vegetarian’s mainstay. They are also a good choice for folks with diabetes, hypoglycemia, or insulin resistance because their rich fiber content keeps sugar levels from rising too rapidly. With all that goodness, the only question is how to grow kidney beans.
How to Grow Kidney Beans
There are a number of kidney bean varieties to choose from. Some of them, like Charlevoix, are more prone to viruses and bacteria, so do your research. They come in both bush and vine varieties. In the same family as black beans, pinto, and navy beans, these big red beans are a staple in most chili recipes. They are only used dried and then cooked, as the raw beans are toxic. A few minutes of cooking time, however, neutralizes the toxins. Kidney beans do best in USDA growing zones 4 and warmer with temps between 65-80 F. (18-26 C.) for most of their growing season. They don't do well transplanted, so it's best to direct sow them in the spring after the last frost date for your area. Don’t plant them too early or the seeds will rot. You may want to lay down some black plastic to warm the soil. Plant them in full sun exposure in well-draining soil. Beans don’t like to get their “feet” wet. When growing kidney beans, space the seed 4 inches (10 cm.) apart for vining beans and 8 inches (20.5 cm.) apart for bush varieties, one inch to 1 ½ inch (2.5 to 4 cm.) below the soil surface. The growing kidney bean seedlings should emerge between 10-14 days from planting. Keep in mind that the vining types will need some sort of support or trellis to grow on. Beans shouldn’t be grown in the same area more than once every four years. Plants such as corn, squash, strawberries, and cucumber benefit from companion planting with beans. Kidney beans can be container grown, but it is best to use a bush variety. For each plant, use a 12-inch (30.5 cm.) pot. Keep in mind that it takes 6-10 bean plants to supply enough for one person’s use so container growing, while possible, may be impractical.
Care of Kidney Beans
The care of kidney beans is minimal. Beans produce their own nitrogen, so it usually isn’t necessary to fertilize the plants. If you feel compelled, however, be sure not to use a food that is high in nitrogen. This will only stimulate lush foliage, not bean production. Keep the area around the beans free from weeds and keep them lightly moist, not wet. A good layer of mulch will aid in retarding weeds and maintaining moist soil conditions.
Harvesting Kidney Beans
Within 100-140 days, depending upon the variety and your region, the harvesting of kidney beans should be near. As the pods start to dry out and yellow, quit watering the plant. If it is not too humid and you have left plenty of space between plants, the beans may well dry on the plant. They will be hard as rocks and desiccated. Otherwise, when the pods are the color of straw and it’s time to harvest, remove the entire plant from the soil and hang it upside down inside in a dry place to allow the beans to continue to dry out. Once the beans have completely cured, you can keep them in a tightly sealed container for about a year.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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