It’s probably best to begin by clarifying that the “seeds” we’re saving are actually the beans themselves. When you grow beans for dry beans, you allow the pods to turn brown and dry on the vine before harvesting. This is the same basic principle. In this article, we’ll talk about saving seed for snap beans, string beans, wax beans, kidney beans, and all other dry beans.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re considering saving beans for seed:
- Save from open-pollinated or heirloom varieties. These varieties come true from seed, so you’ll be sure the beans are the same quality as the plant you saved the seeds from. Saving from hybrid beans is not a sure thing — the beans you get as a result can often be quite different from those produced by the original plant.
- Once you start letting the pods dry so that you can save seeds, the plant will stop producing pods. This is something to keep in mind. You may want to set aside a few plants just to be your “seed saving stock” and keep the rest of your plants producing as long as possible (this is less important if you’re growing bush beans, which produce a harvest all at the same time anyway. But it’s a good idea if you’re growing pole beans.
How to Save Bean Seeds
Don’t plant two different side by side, if you want to save the seeds from your beans. Because they self-pollinating and there is a chance of cross among varieties if planted too close to each other. Also, you need to ensure that there is no crossing via insects. How can you do that? Make sure that there are a lot of plants around the beans so they will ignore them.
Apart from all this, the best option is to plant only one variety at a time if you want to save the seeds. If you have no intention of saving seeds, then you can plant as many varieties as required.
Bean seeds are ready to harvest when the pods are dry and kind of crunchy. You can either pick dried pods individually from the plant when they are ready or pull up the entire plant right before a frost and harvest the pods that way. If you pull up the entire plant, you can hang it in a sheltered location (such as a garage or basement) and the pods will continue maturing for a while.
Three Methods for Cleaning Bean Seeds
There are three basic ways to remove the beans from the husks:
1. The Feed Sack (or Pillow Case) Method
To use this method, place all of your bean pods in a sack or pillow case, then repeatedly smack it against the inside of a large bucket or even against a wall or fence. This will dislodge the beans from the pods. Pick out the beans and compost the chaff and other debris.
2. The Tarp Method
Lay out your beans on a tarp or blanket and either walk over them or roll the tarp up and roll it back and forth to separate the beans and husks.
3. By Hand
If you don’t have many beans to process, you can simply open the pods and remove the beans by hand.
Storing and Using Bean Seeds
Store your beans in a cool, dry place, such as a refrigerator or unheated basement. Beans remain viable for approximately four years after harvest.
Saving beans to plant next year is an easy, frugal way to keep growing your favorite varieties.