The best bean

Growing your own may be your only chance to enjoy them fresh

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Growing tips

Timing. Wait until nighttime temperatures remain at 55° or higher to plant.

Preparation. Amend the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with compost or other organic matter.

Planting. Sow seeds 1½ inches deep and 4 inches apart. Give pole beans like 'Ramdor' (shown above) a trellis or tepee to climb, or grow them against a wire fence; plant four to six seeds about 4 inches from each pole. After seedlings emerge, thin to the strongest three.

Watering. Water well at planting time, then sparingly until seedlings sprout. After that, plants need about 1 inch of water a week, whether from nature or you.

Feeding. Fertilize with fish emulsion every few weeks.

Diseases. To discourage mildew and other maladies, avoid harvesting or handling plants when they're damp with dew or rain.

Pests. Mexican beetles can be a problem in some areas. In that case, consider planting insectary plants like dill, radishes, or tansy, which attract natural predators.

Harvesting. Gently pull ripe beans off clusters individually.

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