Indoor Crops: Growing Green Beans for Supper!
Green Beans are Tasty! But oh they love heat. And at this time of year, in December, it is just too cold to grow green beans outside or even in a greenhouse without a full blast of heat for three months. So we sit back and dream of summer or eat beans from the freezer or from Mexico.
Yummy green beans from summer are just a memory in December. Or are they a reality? I am growing beans in my house this winter and loving the process.[/caption]
Is there another bean option for gardeners in Northern climates in December? Yes! If you have a home, a simple light set-up, soil, seeds and time, you have the makings of fresh green beans.
Bean seeds come in various colours and sizes but you usually can’t tell by colour what you have. Believe me I have stored many unlabelled beans in my time. Bush beans can be either black or white. Beans are easy to save and labelling beans you store away for winter makes it easier to find the right ones for growing at the right time.
It is going to take weeks to order new seeds. An alternate idea is to shuffle through your pile of leftover seeds today because green bean seeds are big so they will live for years.
If you are a new gardener you may have seeded the whole package in one row this summer. But if you grow in a small space or are more experienced you probably saved half a pack of seeds. If they are less than five years old your bean seeds are likely to sprout and grow.
Bush type beans are best for indoor growing. I prefer French-style bush beans because they are pencil thin and cylindrical in cross-section. Right now use whatever you have as long as it says BUSH on the package.
Look through your seeds. If it says bush beans on the package you are in luck.
Some beans are listed as Bush beans and French-style. This is fantastic news because it means the beans will be slender and evenly narrow. These are the beans I have growing under lights right now. Note how dirty the package is. I suspect they are 3-4 years old.
Broad, flat beans are just as tasty as French beans but they need to be sliced to cook as quickly.
Simple systems for growing indoors are widely available online and in garden shops such as “Garden Retreat” in Calgary, where I got this system.
Setting up lights for tall beans is near impossible. As plants grow they end up being so high they no longer provide light to the lowest leaves. Those unproductive lower leaves will wither and fall off. But bush beans are short and easy to grow and easily lit from lights above.
All you need is a double warm florescent bulb (such as a shop light) or a special set of T5 lights for a table-top set-up. The Sunblaster Universal Strip light Stand works with a single bulb and a few minutes of set-up. The bulbs, when on, are like a sunny day in June – just perfect for growing beans.
A system you can raise or lower as the plants grow is ideal. My system has a nut screw on the side to loosen the lights and move them up or down. The sunblaster stand also has a wing-nut height adjustment. Keep the lights at 15 cm above the top foliage.
A variety of lights are available so look around and get the length of bulb you want and the light quality of light you desire. A crop that needs to bloom and produce fruit requires a full-spectrum light.
Eight bean plants fit nicely in one standard tray under my lights when grown in 15cm pots.
SEEDING AND GROWING
It is possible to seed into a small pot and move the seedlings up into larger pots as they grow. Or you can seed directly into square plastic pots and fit two trays under a 4 foot long (60 cm) double flourescent bulb. If you buy the small sunblaster system you have room for a single tray or eight pots.
Beans seeded directly into pots germinate in 4-5 days, flower in a month, and are on target to be eaten by the end of December.
Green bean flowers do not need to be pollinated to grow beans so are simple to grow inside the house in winter.
I seeded directly into promix in the final pots and water as needed. By November 20 they are starting to flower and then – suddenly – they are forming small beans. I add a fan or touch the beans daily to keep the beans responding to their environment. They are sturdier for it.
Beans are super sensitive to spider mites so remember to wipe down your grow lights before and after you grow them. So far so good in my set-up but I did have some mites on another plant that was close-by so I am hoping for clean beans. Meanwhile I am watering as needed and touching my plants daily. The rest is up to nature and it is looking good so far.
If you want to grow beans or any other plant indoors look for short plants without much root and get started. There is still lots of time before those grow lights are needed for summer crops so put them to work now and enjoy!
What Would Donna Do?
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