Dry beans and peas are a healthy staple crop that can be stored long into winter. With a huge variety of colorful pods and seed shapes and colors, it’s almost impossible to grow every kind of bean and pea variety available. Pictured here is the ‘Good Mother Stallard’ dry bean.
When to Plant Dry Beans and Peas
In early spring, sow soup peas in fertile beds four to six weeks before your last frost. All other dry beans and peas are warm-weather crops best sown in late spring and summer. Sow these seeds in fertile soil starting no earlier than two weeks after your last frost date. In areas with long summers, later plantings made in June may have the advantage of ripening during the typically dry weather of early fall, when scant rain reduces chances that pods will rot. In any climate, traditional dry beans with a bush habit can be planted up to 90 days before your first fall frost date.
Harvesting and Storage
After the pods have become leathery, you can harvest anytime. If you want to use the beans or peas for fresh cooking, you can harvest anytime, but if you have plans to store the seeds, they must be fully ripe.
The process of removing bean seeds from the pods is known as shelling or threshing. It can be done by either a machine or by hands. For home gardens or small gardens, it is preferred to shell the crop of dry beans by placing the pods on a tarp and then walking over them. Collect the seeds and pour them from one bowl to another in front of a fan to remove the debris.
Now, it is the time to dry them. Put all the beans in few open bowls and allow them to dry at room temperature for about two weeks. During these weeks, don’t forget to stir as often as possible. When the seeds become glossy and hard, store them in airtight containers. If you notice any insects or bean weevils in your stored beans, place the containers in freezers to keep them safe.
Pest and Disease Prevention
On the leaves of P. vulgaris beans, you may notice clusters of yellow eggs, which are laid by brick-colored, black-spotted Mexican bean beetles. When these eggs hatch and convert into yellow larvae, they will rasp tissues from leaves. Spray Neem (an organic fertilizer) on the insects to get rid of them and be sure to handpick them as often as you see one. If you have planted the beans in a large area and handpicking is not possible, it is the time to release your army. Release the beneficial Pediobius wasps and they will clear your garden in no time.
How to Plant Dry Beans and Peas
Loosen well-drained soil to at least 12 inches deep. Mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost and, if you have it, a spadeful of soil from a bed where the same species of beans or peas grew the year before (to help inoculate the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria). Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart. Do not thin soup peas, as these grow best when crowded. Thin bush beans to 4 to 6 inches apart; thin pole beans, limas and semi-vining cowpeas to 10 inches apart. Dry beans and peas bear all at once on spreading branches, so they need wider spacing than snap beans do.
When growing dry beans up cornstalks or sunflowers, wait until the support crop is 18 inches tall, and plant bean seeds on the sunniest side of the corn or sunflowers. As the support crop topples from the weight of the beans, you may need to install stakes to give wandering vines a place to twine. Four- or 5-foot-tall stakes placed every 2 feet in rows of semi-vining cowpeas will help support and boost the productivity of the plants, which often reach heights of 4 feet tall. Pole-type lima beans are a full-season crop that require a sturdy trellis at least 6 feet tall.