Here in central New Jersey we get a lot of rain. Growing dry beans is hard, especially bush beans. They get moldy, especially if the pods touch the ground.
In my personal garden, I grow plants to breed. My solution is to grow pole beans that don't touch the ground, and to select from those.
At my place of work, however, we have a wonderful selection of 2 year old bush beans sitting around-- and currenty no plans to grow them. I would really like to grow out these beans for production, (as food production is my job,) but no one here wants to see me have an abysmal harvest.
Any advice on how to grow these dry beans in a way that keeps them dry and mold-free?
These varieties all take 100 days or less to mature, so perhaps planting them early could yield dry beans in August, when the sun is still helping to deter fungus. That's my only idea so far.
Please let me know if you have experience in preventing moldy beans!
We grow over 100# of legumes each year here in humid and sometimes very wet SE Minnesota. We do a lot of pole beans to avoid molds but also to enjoy varieties that are different than the bush ones. For bush varieties we've found that giving them plenty of room (2 rows in a 4' wide bed) helps quite a bit. Keeping any weedy vegetation away from the plants also helps with air flow. It also helps to tip the rows from one side to another to facilitate dry down as the plants get heavy and start to tip over on their own. Push them all one way for a day or two, then reverse the tip over, if that makes sense to you. We also harvest as soon as the pods are mature and bring into a sun porch and spread out on window screens to finish drying. For some varieties this means picking as soon as the pods start to change color. If there are any sprouting beans in the pods then you know that they are mature. For our black beans we don't pick individual pods but pull the plants, roots and all, and bring into a greenhouse to finish their drying. Varieties also make a huge difference. We were about to give up entirely on black beans and then I found a commercial bean farmer in our area who was growing Zorro black beans. They have been bred for disease/mold resistance and they have worked great for us for several years. One thing that I've selected for is varieties with a shiny interior to the pods as they seem to resist soaking up moisture. Even on the pole beans that is a criteria for inclusion in our garden. Another disease issue here is anthracnose. We brought in some new varieties several years ago and they were heavily infected. It's a seed-borne disease so hard to eliminate. We got rid of those varieties and subsequently some of our other varieties that grew nearby and got infected. Almost have it eliminated from some of our favorites that picked it up. If bringing in any new legumes, I would suggest a quarantine garden away from everything else. Our varieties are all early and are planted the last week of May. In recent years we can't count on having a dry spell when the beans are mature, and some, like the pole beans, keep on putting out pods until frost. Even the bush beans will often resurect after being harvested and put out a second crop. If these late beans don't mature in time before fall frost, we pick them and use as shell beans. You just have to be resilient in dealing with whatever the season provides.
My area gets heavy summer rains, peak summer temps into the 90s F and occasionally 100s F, and high humidity during the growing season and I still get excellent bush dry bean harvests every year.
First thing I do is hill the plants/rows as the plants size up to help keep them upright. This only helps for around a month or so until the plants get too big and weighty, but the point is to keep them properly trained and growing upright for the next step.
When plants start to flop over meaning the soil hilling is no longer working then the second thing I do is sandwich or trap the plants in the rows with horizontal strips of wood screwed to stakes. Does not need to be heavy duty, my homemade horizontal runners are 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 12' long ripped from 2" x 8"s or whatever I have around. I stake every five feet. The horizontals are usually located 10"-12" above soil surface. This keeps the plants and pods off the ground for the remainder of the growing season. Wish I had a photo of this but I don't. I do all this set up work by myself, not that hard to do and does not take much time, but a helper would make it easier.
Third and perhaps most important thing I do is harvest pods as they mature and dry down on the plants, usually every 4-5 days or certainly just before the next rain event. If I do not do this, thinking I can just harvest all at once at the end of the season, many of my beans will be moldy or rotten and I will suffer a high loss rate due to mice and voles.
Doing these three things consistently assure me a successful harvest. My average annual harvest is around 3-5 gallons of cleaned bush dry beans. I grow other dry bean types as well to hedge my bets (semi vining, half runner, standard pole, tall pole).
I also grow my own landrace bush dry beans, which have been locally acclimated and are inherently more vigorous and disease resistant.
Photo shows my landrace bush dry beans that went into my food supply:
I agree with Larisa Walk regarding keeping weeds down around the bean plants. This is critical, I just assume folks are maintaining their gardens properly. Proper garden maintenance directly equates to quality harvests.
I understand the concept of wide row spacing as well. I put my rows a bit closer together, I am able to use a more unique row spacing tuned into my use of the row supports which keep the plants upright.
On another thread there was a discussion on how some beans are "soakers" and some are "shedders". Soakers have pods that soak up water like a sponge, which means they take forever to dry after a rain. Shedders have pods that resist water, and might only need one sunny day to dry back down.
Unfortunately, that's not a trait seed catalogs include in their descriptions.
I can tell you that from my own experiments, "Dragon's Tongue" is a soaker. "Provider" and "Jacob's Cattle" were both shedders.
With both types, it helps to pick pods as they ripen and let them dry indoors. But shedders are definitely more forgiving!
At the moment due to limitations of sunny protected areas (deer are bean addicts), bush beans I'm growing for seeds or drying for eating, I try to grow in a group around a tomato cage. Even that is no guarantee with weather weirding - sometimes they decide they're so happy they out-grow the cage!
Generally in my climate, I have no choice but to pick them as soon as I think the beans in the pod are fully grown. I have some mesh frames and one year was so bad that I put a box fan over the frames to get enough air flow to dry them. I recall that was Scarlet Runner Beans. They grow well in my climate, are very popular with pollinators, particularly hummingbirds, and generally are disease free. However the seeds grow *huge* so trying to get them to dry without going moldy is a major challenge. If anyone has any other suggestions on how to do that, I'd love to hear them. The usual way of threshing dry beans might happen in my climate about once every 5 years. Peas often manage it, but most of the beans I've tried that are supposed to be cool weather tolerant haven't been happy in our cool wet springs.
I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have high humid and a lot of rain. I have had a lot of luck overwintering Fava beans and letting them mature in early to mid summer. When dry they can be used just like a pinto or other dry beans. I also grow English runner beans that can take cooler weather. When dry these are great in minestrone and other soups. Some times the runner beans will develop a large root that looks like a dark yam and they return the next year with no planting. The first time this happened I was soooo surprised!!! I usually have to pick the runner beans as soon as they look extra fat and dry inside if it is a cool wet fall. It is a challenge to get dried beans here in the coastal climate.
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