Fruit and Vegetables

Bean - Phaseolus vulgaris

Bean - Phaseolus vulgaris

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The bean, like many vegetables belonging to the Fabaceae family, is an interesting crop in many respects. The product is undoubtedly of considerable interest, but so is the regenerative capacity of these plants in relation to the soil. In fact, they fall within the traditional renewal cycle.
The plant can be dwarf or climbing, but this classification has commercial value only. The bean, like all leguminous plants, has small enlargements in its roots where small atmospheric nitrogen-fixing microorganisms are located, which live in symbiosis with the plant with a huge advantage for the soils, as the crop that follows will enjoy of a considerable amount of nitrogen.

Characteristics of the bean

The bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is an annual plant with a climbing habit belonging to the Fabaceae family. The roots of this legume are equipped with nodules that, working in symbiosis with some bacteria, are able to fix in the soil the nitrogen present from the air.
The leaves are alternate and composed of oval or heart-shaped leaflets, with a very evident tip. The flowers (in some cases very decorative) have the typical butterfly shape, similar to those of the pea. The color can range from white to pink to red to light purple. The fruits are pods whose color is also very variable in this case: green, yellow, reddish, purple. Inside are contained from 5 to 12 seeds, depending on the variety, the climate and also the soil conditions. For some cultivars these are the only edible parts, for others it is possible to eat the pod in its entirety (for example the "mangiatutto" varieties, the flat or still unripe ones such as green beans).




Type of plant Annual herbaceous, climbing or bushy
Height From 30 cm to 5 meters
Maintenance average
Water needs Moderate, higher in flowering and fruiting
Growth rapid
Rusticitа Poor (dies at 2 ° C)
Exposure Sun
Soil Medium-textured, neutral or sub-acid
Distance between rows 40-80 cm (depending on the posture)Distance on the row 15-50 cm (depending on the posture)Germination: days-temperature 8 / 12-15 ° C


The plant, of subtropical origin, grows well in warm temperate climates, fears frost and prolonged rains.
The bean is a typical summer-autumn crop. It is in fact a typical plant of warm temperate climates and in order to grow optimally it needs temperatures between 18 and 24 ° C. It is very sensitive to temperature changes that can cause damage to the vegetative apparatus. Temperatures below 10 ° C induce growth arrest, while if it reaches about 2 ° C the plant's death is seriously threatened.


The flowers are papillionaceous.
The fruit is a pod that contains the seeds that are marketed as legumes. The beans are divided into two categories: to be shelled and eaten. In the first, under the cellular tissue of the pod, there is a slight leathery layer limited at the sides by hard filaments that are not edible. In the mangiatutto the shell is tender and fleshy, the leathery film is missing and the filaments are absent.


Of medium deep and drained mixture, it does not like calcareous, compact, clayey soils because water stagnates, but sandy soils that can create drought are also unsuitable. The pH ranges from slightly acid to neutral.
In this respect, the bean is not particularly demanding. However, the best results are obtained in areas characterized by deep and medium-textured soils, with a mostly neutral or sub-acid pH.
Instead, both those with a good amount of clay and extremely sandy ones should be avoided. The former can cause damage to the root system, with the consequent onset of rot, asphyxia or disease. The latter do not guarantee the abundant water supply that this plant needs in certain periods of its growth.

Turning and intercropping in the bean

It is a plant for renewal and precedes many vegetables, but its succession to peas and cucumbers is not recommended because rots can be propagated.
The consociations take place instead with numerous vegetables: lettuce, tomato, cabbage, chard, radishes. Not associated with garlic, onion and peas.
As we have said beans are precious to enrich the nitrogen soil, so it is therefore recommended to precede demanding crops such as cereals or solanaceae. It is good, however, not to repeat the cultivation of fabaceae several times in a row because it could be the cause of the spread of bacteria and radical diseases.
Excellent combinations are also those with celery, turnip and cucumber.


It is sown in late winter in the south, in late spring in the north. Sowing should be carried out when the minimum temperatures exceed at least 12 ° C. Generally in the Center-South it is possible to start already in April, in the North it is certainly better to wait for the middle of May. Sowing can also be scaled until the end of summer so that the harvest is guaranteed until the end of autumn.
To facilitate the emission of the first radicle, it is necessary to leave the seeds in water for a few days. As soon as it comes out we will be able to transfer the seed directly to the dwelling, taking care that the soil is well moist.
The distribution of pre-sprouted seeds follows different ways depending on the variety chosen.
Green beans are generally arranged in 3-4-seed post-braces, at a distance of 15 cm from each other and with a distance of 50 cm between the rows. Alternatively you can leave a seed every 5 cm.
In the so-called dwarf species one plants at a distance of 60 cm between the rows and 6 - 7 cm on the row, in climbing species the distance is one meter between the rows and 20 cm on the row. It is sown on well developed and moist soil. The seeding depth is around 3 - 5 cm. Before sowing, it is best to put the beans in water for one night.
The supports must be positioned before sowing because they could later damage the roots.

Sowing From April to August
Flowering From May to July
Collection From June to October


The bean needs fairly frequent watering at the time of flowering and enlargement of the pods.
In other periods the distribution must be regular, but it is better to let the soil dry between one administration and another.
It is extremely important during operations to avoid wetting the vegetation, in particular the flowers (which could abort) or the leaves. It is in fact one of the most frequent causes of the establishment and spread of cryptogams. This is why it is advised, at the time of planting, to create furrows along which to let the water flow. Irrigation with dripline or underground pipes is also an excellent alternative.

Preparation of supports

Supports are particularly important for climbing beans, while they are not necessary for dwarf beans.
Generally, tent structures are created with canes (at least 2.5 m high). Two can be joined at a distance of about 80 cm on the row (then placing a reed horizontally on the tips to ensure greater stability). Alternatively, four canes can always be tied on top, which limit an area of ​​about 1 square meter to the base.
In areas hardly touched by the winds it is also possible to place a pole or a barrel very firmly in the ground every two or three meters and fix a rather resistant net.

Crop care

Repeated hoeing must be carried out to keep the soil airy and loose and light earthing up when the seedlings reach 20 cm in height.
Climbing beans at some point in their development require a brace to climb on. The supports can be rods, posts or nets of synthetic material. If you choose the canes, you plant them by surrounding each plant, and gathering them at the top by crossing them and tying them at the crossing point.
At the end of August it is advisable to thin out the plants by removing a few leaves so that the solar radiation reaches the vegetables better.
Watering: they are practiced after sowing to facilitate germination and are repeated in particular in the phase that goes from the flowering to the enlargement of the pods. If you choose nets, the height goes from one and a half meters to two meters.
It is a vegetable that does not require constant attention.
It is good practice when the climbing plants have reached about 15 cm to dedicate to earthing up. A good amount of soil must be added around the base of the plant so that it is more stable and the growth of the more superficial roots is stimulated. It is an operation to be carried out with extreme delicacy because the hypogeum apparatus of the bean is very delicate.
Another important intervention is the weeding of the area around the plants. It is a basic operation to avoid the onset of infested, to aerate the soil and, consequently, to significantly reduce the evaporation of water. The ideal is to carry out this operation at least every two weeks, also in this case paying close attention to the roots.

Fertilizing bean

The bean is traditionally placed on land that has already been exploited by a more demanding crop. In this case the fertilization carried out before this insertion is sufficient. If we want we can still slightly increase fertility by incorporating at the most a further 25 kg of compost or well-seasoned manure every 10 square meters.
Instead, it is extremely important to provide the substrate with a good amount of phosphorus and potassium, which are very important for the structure of the plant, for flowering and fruiting. We can use a special synthetic fertilizer or distribute a handful of ashes for each seedling. About 1 kg of ash is sufficient for 10 square meters of cultivation.


It is different depending on the type of bean and its use. For the green beans it is done by hand and is repeated every two three days depending on the production. The green beans come off before the pod grows bigger and becomes stringy. The beans to be shredded are harvested when the pods are almost dry, or for fresh consumption when the seeds are completely enlarged but the pod is still tender.
Depending on the variety and the type, it will be necessary to wait between 60 (green beans) and 180 days (borlotti) from sowing.
- Green beans are harvested at least twice a week, making sure they are very tender and the seed has not yet fully developed.
- The beans to be shelled are instead collected when the pod begins to turn yellow.
It is important to be assiduous, so that the plant is stimulated to bloom again and continue production for a long time.

Pests and bean diseases

Among the most common parasites we remember anthracnose and rust: cryptogamic diseases that are prevented by spraying copper sulphate.
Among the insects is the Tonchio that develops in dried beans. It is fought with carbon sulphide used in tightly closed environments.
The snails and snails are also harmful, especially after the rains. They are eliminated manually or with traps and baits.
Aphids can be biologically eliminated by spraying macerations of suitable plants.
The parasites are several: aphids, noctuids, bedbugs, thrips. They can be fought with insecticides based on natural pyrethrum or other specific products.
The frequent cryptogams are foot pain, gray mold and anthracnose. All are favored by excessive humidity. In the case of anthracnose it is good, to defend oneself, to buy seeds treated with specific substances for the prevention of the onset.


The varieties are very numerous and we can, in general, distinguish the beans on the basis of the habit: those dwarfs and climbing ones.
Both include eat-in or shell beans.
There are also differentiations based on the fruiting period: early, medium or late.
The Vigevano Borlotto to shell with a reddish green pod, white seed with red streaks.
The bean of Valsesia; the early and highly productive Cannellino bean; among the mangiatutto we remember S.Fiacre, the Marconi whose allusive name means without wires. Among the dwarves we remember the Quarantino, the King of Belgium, the Metis.

History of Bean

The bean is native to Central and South America. The Spanish conquistadores knew him as soon as they arrived in the New World and, considering him an important plant for the proteins contained in the seeds and for his capacity of regeneration of the soil, introduced him almost immediately to Spain.
Native Americans had developed a very interesting cultivation technique: they combined pumpkin, corn and beans. Maize was used as a support for the legume (and at the same time gave nourishment to the roots). The space between the rows was occupied by pumpkins (also abundantly nourished). Even today, these techniques are replicated all over the world, with the support of the scientific community.
On our continent it immediately had great success and we began very early to carry out crossings and hybridizations to obtain new varieties: they became very numerous and each with its own peculiar characteristic. However, up until the end of the 18th century, only seeds were eaten. In Italy, in that period, it began in fact to collect and consume the pods still immature, therefore with the tegument still very tender.
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