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Phaseolus vulgaris. Papilionaceae

In Our Garden

Beans belong to the third largest family of flowering plants (after the orchid and daisy families). They are members of a group of plants called legumes which also include peas, peanuts, soybeans, and fava beans.

The pod surrounding the legumes becomes dry and brittle when it matures, so green beans and peas are harvested and eaten when immature which explains why they are edible. Early humans probably ate beans in their immature form because dried beans harvested after the plans maturity require cooking.

Kentucky wonder (pole)
Phaseolus vulgaris
6-8 ft. Tender Annual

Introduced in the mid-1800s, Kentucky wonder comes from the state given in its name. This classic brown-seeded strain yields 8" silvery green and fleshy pods with a unique and distinctive flavor.

Roma 2 (bush)
Phaseolus vulgaris
14-18 in., 5-7 in. pods
Tender annual

Full, rich flavor packaged in a smooth 5"-7" Romano-type flat green bean on a sturdy determinate plant.

Gold Rush (bush)
Phaseolus vugaris
16-20 in. Tender Annual

Very early, stongly determinate 16-20" plant produces one main, heavy picking of 5-5 1/2" round, golden-yellow, straight, tender and tasty pods.

royal burgundy (bush)
Phaseolus vulgaris
16-20 in. Tender Annual

Delicious, round, stringless, deep-purple pods are supported by stocky bushes with excellent "standability." Produces prolifically, even in cooler conditions.

scarlet emperor runner bean (pole)
haseolus coccineus
6-10 ft. Tender annunal

Time honored as an ornamental or when used in traditional ceremonies as done by the indigenous cultures of the southwest United States or Mexico. Extraordinary large vines produce stunning scarlet flowers. The large, stringless pods of savory, purple and black mottled beans up to 1" in length are delicious eaten fresh. Often called 'jewelry beans'.

In History

Beans have one of the highest statuses of vegetables in history! Four of the most famous families in ancient Rome were named after legumes: Fabius (fava bean), Lentulus (lentil), Piso (pea) and Cicero (chickpea).


Growing Tips:
Beans are self-pollinating, so planting them close together results in higher yields.

Harvesting Tips:
First plantings of bush beans should be made after danger of frost is past in the spring and soil is warmed, since seeds planted in cold soils germinate slowly and are susceptible to rotting. Also, seedling growth may be slow in cool temperatures. Plant two crops of bush beans 2 to 3 weeks apart for a longer harvest period. Snap beans should be kept picked to keep plants producing heavily. Harvest snap beans when the pods are full-sized. The pods will break easily with a snap when they are ready. Seeds should not cause the pods to bulge.

The pod surrounding the beans becomes dry and brittle as it matures which is why beans are usually harvested and eaten when immature.

Why It's Good for You

A one-cup serving supplies a hefty dose of vitamin C, fiber and vitamin K. Eaten raw as a crunchy snack or steamed until just tender, various varieties of string beans also add vital minerals to the diet such as potassium, magnesium and copper.

Did You Know

We eat the green seeds of many type of legumes, such as lima beans, fava beans and soybeans, but only eat the pods of a few: the common bean, the long bean and the pea.

There are about 20 different species of legume cultivated on a large scale, but the oil crops, soybean and peanut, are cultivated on a much larger scale than the crops of legumes that are eaten whole.

Let's Eat

How to Buy:
Good quality green beans are difficult to find because they are one of the most fragile vegetables. They have very active tissues which consume sugar quickly, thus affecting their sweetness even in cold storage. Once picked the most tender varieties become wrinkled and limp because they lose moisture and sugars.


Pest Management

Watch out for the following pests!
  • Aphids
    Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouth parts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out plant fluids. Almost every plant has one or more aphid species that occasionally feeds on it. Many aphid species are difficult to distinguish; however, identification to species is not necessary to control them in most situations.
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  • Armyworms
    Armyworm larvae feed in groups, which distinguishes them from other vegetable pests such as corn earworms and loopers. Markings on newly hatched armyworms are usually hard to distinguish from those of other caterpillars; older larvae have distinct lengthwise stripes. The surface of the armyworm skin is smooth.
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  • Bean weevil
    Common weevils found in beans are the cowpea weevil, Callosobruchus maculatus; broad bean weevil, Bruchus rufimanus; and the bean weevil, Acanthoscelides obtectus. Adult weevils found in beans are relatively small beetles, 0.13 - 0.2 inch in length, somewhat teardrop or triangular in shape, and dull-colored with white, reddish, or black markings.
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  • Corn Earworm (Tomato fruitworm)
    The color of this species varies and is not reliable for identification. Older larvae have distinct stripes along sides and many short, whiskerlike spines over the body surface.
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  • Cucumber beetles
    Adult beetles are shiny with black heads, long antennae, and about 0.25 inch long. Larvae are whitish and slender with three pairs of short legs; the head and tip of the abdomen are darker. Adults may be striped or spotted, depending upon species.
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  • Cutworms
    Cutworms are dull brown caterpillars that curl into a C-shape when disturbed. Normally they are found on or just below the soil surface or on lower parts of plants and are commonly active at night. They are smooth skinned and have various markings.
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  • Darkling beetles
    Darkling beetles are dull bluish black or brown. They never have color patterns on the back. In most species, the segments at the tip of the antenna are slightly larger than segments at the base. Darkling beetles are found throughout California.
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  • Earwigs
    Earwigs are among the most readily recognized insect pests in home gardens. Although they can devastate seedling vegetables or annual flowers and often seriously damage maturing soft fruit or corn silks, they also have a beneficial role in the landscape and have been shown to be important predators of aphids. Although several species occur, the most common in California gardens is the European earwig, Forficula auricularia, which was accidentally introduced into North America from Europe in the early 1900s. The striped earwig, Labidura riparia, occurs in southern California and can annoy residents when it is attracted to lights. It has a very disagreeable odor when crushed. However, the striped earwig does not damage plants.
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  • Grasshoppers
    Grasshoppers are sporadic pests in gardens. However, in some years large populations may build up in foothills and rangelands, especially after a wet spring and then migrate into nearby gardens, often defoliating everything in sight. Over 200 species of grasshoppers occur in California, but only a few of these cause significant problems in gardens. The devastating grasshopper, Melanoplus devastator, and the valley grasshopper, Oedaleonotus enigma, are the most widespread and destructive.
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  • Leafhoppers
    Leafhoppers are small slender insects that disperse rapidly when disturbed. They run sideways and are good jumpers. They are wedge shaped, less than 0.25 inch long as adults, and generally are varying shades of green, yellow, or brown, and often mottled.
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  • Leafminer
    Leafminer adults are small black and yellow flies. Larvae are yellowish maggots that feed beneath the leaf surface.
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  • Loopers
    Loopers are green with several white stripes down their backs. They arch their backs as they crawl, this looping movement giving them their name. The most common looper is the cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni.
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  • Lycaenid pod borer
    Lycaenid pod borer larvae are grublike caterpillars. Adults are tiny butterflies.
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  • Lygus bugs
    Adult lygus bugs are green, straw yellow, or brown with a conspicuous yellow or pale green triangle on their backs. Nymphs are light green.
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  • Nematodes
    Nematodes are microscopic, eel-like roundworms. The most troublesome species in the garden are those that live and feed within plant roots most of their lives and those that live freely in the soil and feed on plant roots. Although there are many different species of root-feeding nematodes in California, the most important in gardens are the root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne species). Root knot nematodes attack a wide range of plants, including many common vegetables, fruit trees, and ornamentals. They are difficult to control and can be spread easily from garden to garden in soil (for example, on tools, boots, etc.) and plant parts. A number of other nematode species may also damage home garden and landscape plants, including the citrus nematode (Tylenchulus semipenetrans), the ring nematode (Criconemoides xenoplax), root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus spp.), the stem and bulb nematode (Ditylenchus dipsaci), the sugarbeet cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii), and others. Table 1 lists some common garden plant species and their nematode pests.
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  • Saltmarsh caterpillar
    Adult moths have a wing expanse of 5 to 6.5 cm. The female is white, except for an orange abdomen with black lateral and dorsal spots and black spots on the wings. Hind wings of males are orange instead of white. Caterpillars are very hairy with conspicuous tufts of long hair on each segment.
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  • Seedcorn maggot
    Seedcorn maggot larvae are small, legless, white maggots usually less than 0.33 inch when full grown; the head end is pointed and the rear is blunt. Adults are dark gray flies about half the size of the common housefly.
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  • Snails and Slugs
    Snails and slugs are among the most bothersome pests in many garden and landscape situations. The brown garden snail (Helix aspersa) is the most common snail causing problems in California gardens; it was introduced from France during the 1850s for use as food.
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  • Spider mites
    Mites are common pests in landscapes and gardens and can be found feeding on many fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Although related to insects, mites are not insects but members of the arachnid class along with spiders and ticks. The spider mites, also called webspinning mites, are the most common mite pests and among the most ubiquitous of all pests in the garden and farm.
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  • Stink bugs
    Stink bugs are shield-shaped bugs with a large scutellum or triangle on their backs. Most bugs are brown or green with red, pink, or yellow markings.
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  • Thrips
    Thrips, order Thysanoptera, are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They feed by puncturing their host and sucking out the cell contents. Certain thrips species are beneficial predators that feed only on mites and other insects. Beneficial species include black hunter thrips and the sixspotted thrips. Pest species (often in the family Thripidae) are plant feeders that scar leaf, flower, or fruit surfaces or distort plant parts. Other species of thrips feed on fungal spores and pollen and are innocuous.
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  • Whiteflies
    Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that are frequently abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings. They excrete sticky honeydew and cause yellowing or death of leaves. Outbreaks often occur when the natural biological control is disrupted. Management is difficult.
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  • Wireworms
    Wireworm larvae are slender, cylindrical insects. They are usually yellowish and resemble mealworms. They have six short legs close together near the head. Adults are click beetles; they do not weaken older plants.
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