Earliness is an important factor in the culture of snap beans and both home and commercial gardeners are usually willing to take some risks in getting an early start. The first planting may be killed by frost; but if it escapes the home gardener will be pleased, and the commercial grower will probably be well rewarded. If some of the plants are damaged or killed, those which have escaped may make a profitable crop.
For hand or wheel hoe cultivation the rows are often planted 16 to 18 inches apart; for horse tillage, 30 inches is satisfactory, although many growers prefer more space.
Beans are usually planted with corn drills by the use of the bean plate. Bean "spotters" are also employed to some extent. These drop three or four beans to the hill, the hills being about 8 inches apart. This method of planting gives better opportunity for hand hoeing and is said to increase yields. When planted in drills the beans are 2 to 4 inches apart and covered with 2 inches of soil or less in many instances. No more soil should be used in covering than will insure sufficient moisture for germination. The amount of seed used to the acre varies from 3/4 to 1 1/2 bushels, depending upon the size of beans and planting distances, but 1 bushel an acre is probably most used.
Pole beans are generally planted in hills, 3 x 4 or 4 x 4 feet apart. The poles are placed at the time of planting. (See Section 311 for notes on methods of supporting.) The hills are often raised a few inches to secure good drainage. Four to six beans are planted in each hill, and then thinned if necessary.
All varieties of lima beans are very tender and must not be planted until the ground is warm and there is no danger of frost. Pole varieties may be grown in hills or in drills, and in the latter case supported by wire (311). The planting distances for pole limas are the same as for pole, snap or shell beans.
Limas are sometimes started in hotbeds or greenhouses, in which case the seed should not be sown longer than four weeks in advance of field planting. Pots or berry baskets may be used for this purpose. They should be filled with light, rich soil and about four beans planted in each pot or basket. By this method the plants may be set in the field without any disturbance of the roots, and edible beans should be obtained at least two weeks sooner than from field plantings.
Poles ranging in length from 7 to 9 feet are generally used for the support of climbing varieties. The bark is left on them, as the rough surface is an advantage to the twining plants. They are placed at the time of planting. If kept under cover when not in use, they will last several years.
Fig. 60. WIRE TRELLIS FOR BEANS.
Various forms of wire supports are used when the beans are planted in drills. This method of support is regarded as an advantage by many growers. Some home gardeners prefer the heavy types of poultry netting, especially for lima varieties. An excellent plan, although more troublesome than the pole method of support, is to plant and brace fairly heavy posts at the ends of the rows with lighter posts at intervals of 20 feet, the posts extending 5 or 6 feet above ground. A No. 10 wire is stretched over the tops of the posts, and another near the ground. The two wires are connected in a zigzag manner with light twine, as shown in Figure 60.