Beans, also called legumes, are an important source of fiber, protein, folic acid and other essential nutrients. Determinant varieties grow on bush plants, while indeterminate varieties can grow on bush and vining plants. Dried beans, such as soy, lima, pinto, kidney and black, add bulk and flavor to soups and stews. String or snap beans, such as green, wax and fava, can be steamed, roasted and sauteed to flavor side dishes, soups, casseroles and salads.
The Early Stage: Germination to New Growth
Bean seeds, depending on variety, take seven to 14 days to sprout. During germination, development of the root and shoot systems begins. Beans develop a long taproot with numerous horizontal shoots that can grow as much as 12 inches by the time the first leaves appear above ground. When the initial shoot breaks through the soil, stems and leaves begin to grow, and new nodes form each week.
Once the seedling is developed, the bean plant continues vegetative and root system growth. New stems and leaves grow in preparation for the reproductive phase. Determinate bean varieties cease growth when the plant reaches 18 to 24 inches, while indeterminate bean plants don't stop until the plant is 10 feet or more in length.
Once foliage is established, small flowers develop, bloom and self-pollinate. After pollination, flowers fade and seedpods form from the exposed ovaries. Variety and use determine when beans are ready for harvest. Snap and string beans, which utilize pod and seeds before maturity, are ready within 65 days of planting. Beans that utilize only the seed are left on the plant until seeds reach maturity and the pods dry and the plant begins to die.
End of Growth
When seeds mature, reaching their predetermined size, the plant starts to die. In commercial settings, plants are left to die completely before dried beans are harvested. In the garden, bean plants can be removed before they are completely dead and can be hung or laid out to dry completely before their seeds are harvested. The remaining dead foliage, which adds essential nitrogen and other nutrients, can be left to decay on the surface or tilled into the soil in preparation for the next season.