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Soaking beans before planting helps to increase the germination rate, decreases germination time, and allows you a faster harvest!
I have been growing beans for the first time in my garden this year and have been falling in love with those sweet plants. I love their hardiness and their large leaves. Especially when it seems like everything else has daintier and smaller leaves. So the pinto and kidney bean plants are really drawing my attention! They are so tall and bold.
I think beans are a wonderful addition to any vegetable garden, especially as some of them don’t require constant care. After all, I do love it when you can set and forget.
To Soak or Not to Soak Beans
When first starting my bean seeds in little 6-cell planters, I did not soak my beans. I thought about researching whether or not to soak them, but then I was just too antsy to wait. So, I emptied my little seed packet and planted one sweet seed per cell. The seed germination rate was 100%. I was so proud of my new little green bean plants and myself too! I always thought I had a black thumb. It turns out that is not true!
The seedlings grew and leafed out really nicely.
Like I said before, I fell in love with them.
So, when it came time to plant out my sweet pinto, kidney, and blue lake beans, I was excited to see them explode with growth.
I didn’t harden them off right and probably waited too long to transplant them out. The ones that survived the transplant are definitely stunted.
So, now I will be doing the right thing.
Bean Plant Behavior
Beans are quite finicky when it comes to their roots and are sensitive as seedlings. This is why my beans are a bit stunted. They just really don’t enjoy being moved. Especially because their natural tendency is to have shallow root systems.
Any maneuvering of the roots is a significant blow.
Types of Bean Plant Structure:
These bean plants bush out when they grow, like bushes! These beans are able to support themselves without the help of a trellis and are usually less than a couple of feet tall.
Pole Beans and runner beans are essentially the same. Some people get picky with the direction that they climb up a trellis, but for my purposes, they are climbing beans. These beans are lovely when trellised over an arch.
Bean pods harvested in their “green” stage are called green beans, string beans, and snap beans. They are what you can get canned from the store and what you most often see in the produce department. All green beans will eventually become dry beans if you let them. The longer you wait to harvest, the more fibrous and hard the pod becomes. This creates the hard shell of the dry seeds.
These are the set ’em and forget ’em plant of the garden! These are kind of like potatoes. You plant them, give them a lot of water, and harvest them when they turn brown and fall over. These are dry beans like kidney, black, great northern, and cowpeas. The plant is ready for harvest when the outer shell is brown and dry. Then you can pluck the pods and deshell them in a nice little harvest party!
Beans are hard seeds. This means that they have a thicker protective coating around the fragile embryo. The seed coat protects the seed from disease, injury, and from drying out. When the seed is in contact with enough water, the seed coat softens and the embryo is able to germinate.
This is the part that I failed to focus on when dealing with these hard-shelled little seeds. When direct sowing without soaking, there is not much water to soften the outer shell. It takes and extended amount of time to get to the point where the embryo can grow. However, you can bypass this process by soaking the seed enough for the germination process to start.
Soaking the Beans:
Too much soaking is not a good thing! I always tend to think more is better, but that is not the case here.
Depending on your water temperature, you will have a time period of 8-24 hours. That is a very large time frame! The general rule is that the warmer the water, the faster the outer shell with soften. Check on your little seeds. Once you start to feel them plump a little and soften, its time to take them out.
Depending on the water temperature, you can actually speed up the soaking process. Room temperature water will be better for a longer soaking time. 12-24 Hours is the ideal time for soaking seeds in this temperature range.
Warm water is better for a shorter soaking time. Closer to an 8-12 hour soak. Warmer water softens and penetrates the hard coat in less time than room-temperature water.
There is a possibility that you will get a faster germination rate with warmer water as well. However, I am not sure of the actual numbers behind that claim.
Just remember to use warm water and not hot water. You don’t want to cook your beans!
In order to get these babies a head start in life and a longer bean season, you need to soak the beans. Keep the soil moist but not wet. The best way to test this is that the top of the soil is dry, but when you stick your finger in the soil an inch or two, it is damp.
The danger of having soil that is too wet is that you will have seed rot and kill the plant. Wet plants after germination are also not good. You can cause the root to rot right off! I might have don’t this a time or few…
Just remember, damp soil is good. Wet soil is not good!
Scarification of seeds:
Based on the characteristics of the seeds, they all need different types of environments to germinate. Bean seeds actually benefit from something call scarification.
This is when a small nick or injury to the hard outer shell is present. It allows water to get past the outer shell and absorb into the inner contents of the seed.
Although this also speeds up germination, you don’t need to do it. You can do this in addition to a good soak, but not necessary.
Diseases and Pests
Because the process of soaking a seed quickly infiltrates a hard seed coats natural defense, it also means that is is more susceptible to diseases. Bacterial and fungal infections can happen.
Here is what I believe to be the best, easiest way to soak seeds for healthy beans.
Make sure that you are past the last frost date and check the weather forecast. Make sure all danger of frost is gone. A great soil temperature for this type of seed is about 70 degrees. Warm soil is the key here. The correct planting time is paramount to having healthy seedlings and plants.
Make sure to have well-drained soil and make sure to have enough room between plants to allow for healthy germination and decrease the chances of bean diseases. Your garden soil is going to determine how well your plants grow and produce yummy pods for you to harvest.
How to Soak Beans Overnight
- Rise the beans in warm water (not hot water. We don’t want to cook these babies).
- Place the Beans in a small bowl filled with room-temperature water.
- Let sit for an overnight soak.
- The next day, wash the seeds gently with a dilution of water and vinegar (2 cups of water to 1tablespoon of vinegar.) Let soak for 5-10 minutes. Rinse and drain the seeds.
- Go to the garden (My favorite part) and plant those little seeds in their soil home and cover them
- Water well daily. Keep the soil moist, but not wet until your seedlings emerge and continue to water. As they get older, you can allow for more dry conditions. Just remember that these plants have shallow root systems and will need to be watered more frequently if in a dry arid place.
For new gardeners, I suggest going the high chance of success route by direct sowing soaked seeds.
This will help you, and your more experienced counterparts, to have more success with beans in the future!
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