If you’re starting a home garden, make sure you add beans! Beans improve soil fertility, which helps crop diversity and sustainability in Hawai‘i. They’re highly nutritious—rich in protein, fiber, and the good carbohydrates. And beans don’t require much water or fertilizer, yet they’re fast-growing and produce heavy yields, especially if you’ve picked the right location.
As a vegetarian advocate for healthy eating, I am a big believer in adding legumes—beans—to your everyday diet. The benefits include reducing your risk of heart disease and colon cancer, controlling diabetes, boosting your immune system, and eliminating harmful free radicals from your body. Nutrient-packed beans also benefit your eyes and bones, while regulating the digestive processes.
Pole or bush? It depends on your available space
Pole beans are a smart choice for space-challenged gardens, or if your aim is to produce various crops all at once using a smaller space, since they take up less footprint. The plants will produce for 4-6 weeks, but if you’re lucky, some varieties will continue to yield indefinitely in Hawai‘i, and will flower and produce pods over and over.
The twining vines of pole beans can rocket 5–10 feet skyward, as long as they have good scaffolding to climb. This doesn’t require a fancy contraption. Any sturdy support will do: an old ladder, bamboo tied together to form a tepee, old wire or slatted wood fencing, or heavy-duty nylon string strung between two uprights. A homemade trellis should be 4–8 feet tall and strong enough to withstand high winds and the weight of mature beans.
Bush bean pods are round or flat in shape and come in green, yellow wax, and purple shades. The plants grow around two feet tall and two feet wide. They have a production period of just 2–3 weeks and a relatively short yield period of 50–60 days. They tend to produce fewer beans than the pole variety. You can grow them in the ground or in pots or raised beds.
Planting, growing, and harvesting beans
Beans are easy and satisfying to grow in Hawai‘i, especially in spring and summer. They flourish most anywhere but prefer well-drained soil with good organic matter. I recommend planting 2–3 seeds, 1–1.5 inches deep, with 1-foot spacing between plants and 2-foot spacing between rows. Plant them directly into soil or media, and protect the baby sprouts from snails and birds. Beans donʻt require a lot of water, but they do prefer regular irrigation.
Once your legumes begin to bear fruit, it’s important to harvest regularly. Donʻt allow your plants to reach the dry-bean stage, or they will slow down or even stop producing. But at the very end of the season, leave a few pods on the vine to dry. This way, youʻll have your own seeds for the next growing season.
In general, all bean varieties grow well in Hawai‘i, but some will yield early in the season, others later. For more information, visit the UH Master Gardeners website.
Amjad Ahmad. Cooperative Extension Service, Sustainable & Organic Agriculture Program. UH College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources