The Great Bean Mystery​ of 2018

We have been avid gardeners for many years and can’t remember a time we had a hard time growing green beans. Green beans, simple right? Over the years, we have always grown green beans with great results, sometimes all season long.

IMG_1545Not this year. We planted 4 different varieties in our new market garden beds including bush and climbers. The green beans sprouted and were looking good. We noticed that only a few of the plants flowered then yielded only a handful of beans. There were 3 rows that were 36 feet long each.

Soon, these dried up and died. No obvious explanation. No obvious reason.

IMG_1936As a test, we planted the same varieties in our traditional family or kitchen garden. We were shocked when the results were the same. Great germination, nice plants and then, no flowers and no beans.

Possible Causes of the Bean Mystery?

  1. I understand that beans will drop some early flowers and not produce beans before they take off for the rest of the season. But in our case, they didn’t even produce enough flowers in the first place to yield more than a handful of beans.
  2. Lack of pollinators can be another reason for beans to perform this way. In our case, we have a beehive and pollination did not seem to be an issue anywhere else on the farm.
  3. Overfertilization can be another reason for beans to fail. Our plots were virgin ground and no fertilizer was added. This area of soil was amended with wood chips and dried molasses.
  4. To much water has been an issue that causes bean plants to sprout, grow and then die without production. In both our field rows and in the family kitchen garden test, water was not an issue.
  5. Bug pressure. Not sure if this was a cause or not. We did have some kind of worms but thought we had that under control and the plants were fine. Then, one row after another seemed to have a powdery mildew or something like it. Late in the season, we have had a lot of pressure from grasshoppers but by then, the green beans were nearly dead anyway.

Bean Erika!

  1. Soil and air temperature. Very important. By the time weather conditions and temperatures were right to plant outside this year the weather went from “ok! its time to plant” to “OMG it is too HOT”! Most varieties of green beans like soil temperature no warmer than 85 degrees. There were just too many temperature fluctuations to count on green beans making a crop on our farm this year. We attempted to reduce the soil temperature with additional mulch to no avail.

So if your green beans or other crops have a bad year, it may or may not be your fault. It does not mean you are a bad gardener. What it does mean when a garden plant fails is that nature is telling us something is off. Sometimes we don’t find the solution until it is too late.

Green beans like all other crops must have the right conditions to grow and produce successfully. Careful study of insect pressure, soil, air, and water conditions will often lead you to better understand what’s happening. In our Great Bean Mystery of 2018, I am convinced it was a combination of soil and air temperature issues that lead to this year’s failure to produce green beans.

Never give up! We will try again next season. So should you.

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