Wide Row Planting for Beans

by National Gardening Association Editors

For years, many gardeners have planted their bush bean seeds in single-file, straight-line rows with lots of room between the rows. However, some gardeners consider this method a waste of valuable growing space and not the most productive way to grow beans.

Instead, these gardeners use a wide-row technique that allows them to double and sometimes even triple their bean crops. With this method, you simply spread seeds over a wide seedbed, instead of putting one seed behind another in a row. The wide area contains many more plants than a single row of the same length, so you can harvest much more from the same area.

A row 16 to 18 inches across - about the width of a rake head - is very easy to plant, care for and harvest. With a little wide-row experience, you may want to try even wider rows.

Why Wide-Row?

The advantages to wide-row growing are many.

  • You can grow two to four times as many beans in the same amount of space.
  • Weeding is reduced to a minimum. As the beans grow, their leaves group together and form a "living mulch," which blocks the sun, inhibiting weed growth.
  • Many gardeners spread mulch - organic matter such as hay, pine needles or leaves - around all their plants in the garden to fight weeds and retain moisture in the soil. Wide rows mulch themselves, so you only need to use small amounts of mulch to keep weeds down in the walkways and to help retain moisture. You'll also have fewer walkways using wide rows, so you really can save a lot of space, effort and mulch.
  • Moisture is conserved by the shade because the sun can't scorch the soil and dry it out as much. Moist soil stays cooler, so beans in very hot climates don't wither as much or stop producing as quickly.
  • The plants in the middle of the rows are protected from the full effects of hot, drying winds. They don't dry out rapidly like those in a single row. This can be especially important in water-short areas of the country.
  • Harvesting is easier with wide rows. You can pick much more without having to continually get up and move down the row. It's pleasant to take a stool into the garden, sit down and enjoy picking beans by the bushel.

How to Plant Wide-Row Bush Beans

Prepare the soil. Using a steel garden rake, smooth out the seedbed. Be careful not to pack the seedbed down by stepping on it. Do all your work from the walkway beside the row. If the soil is dry, wait to water until after planting. If you water before, you pack the soil down.

Stake out a row 15 to 18 inches wide (or wider if you like) and whatever length you want. Drop the seeds three to four inches apart from each other in all directions in the row. One two-ounce package of snap beans covers roughly 10 feet of rake-width row. Firm the seeds into the soil with the back of a hoe, and cover the seeds with about an inch of soil. Using a rake, pull the soil from the side of the row and smooth it evenly over the seeds. Firm the soil again with the back of a hoe.

Leave a path or walkway wide enough to walk on once the plants have grown and spread out. You'll need at least 16 inches, and more if your cultivator or tiller is wider.

Remember, wide rows work well for all beans except the pole varieties.

Single Row Method

Single row is another planting method to use. The best way to plant a single row is to make a shallow furrow with a hoe. Drop in a bean seed every three to four inches, cover the furrow with one inch of soil and then firm it. A two-ounce packet of bush snap bean seeds sows a single row 30 to 40 feet long.

Double Row Method

Make two shallow furrows four to five inches apart, and plant in the same manner as for a single row. This arrangement is especially handy if you need to irrigate regularly. You can put a soaker hose - a kind of garden hose with tiny holes in it - between the two rows and water the plants quite efficiently.

Another easy irrigating system with the double-row system is to dig an additional shallow furrow in between the two seed rows. Make this channel when you're planting the beans. To water the beans, simply run water down the channel between the two rows of plants.

Using Raised Beds

If you garden where it's very rainy, if your soil stays damp or if you have clay soil, planting in raised beds is a good idea because the soil drains better. Good drainage helps to prevent diseases and warms the soil more quickly early in the season.

Try to build up the seedbed four to six inches above the walkway. To get the most for your extra effort, plant a wide row or at least a double row to guarantee a plentiful harvest.



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