Photo/Illustration: Greg Holdsworth (All photos)
White flowers will soon be followed by developing beans.
'Blue Lake 274' is by far the most productive bean I've ever grown.
Green beans have always had a place in my vegetable garden, and for good reason. The “snap bean” or green bean is one of those vegetables, such as tomatoes, that tastes significantly better when grown at home rather than bought at the store. I have tried several bush and pole varieties of green beans, and I keep coming back to the classic, ‘Blue Lake 274’.
The bush bean Blue Lake 274 (Phaseolus vulgaris), is an old time favorite with reliability, great flavor, large yields and disease resistance. The bean was developed in 1961 from the Pole Blue Lake variety. It is well-known in the canning industry because its crop matures all at once, making canning a much easier task.
For faster germination, soak the seeds in water for 30 minutes before planting, or put the seeds between two damp paper towels the night before planting. You can also coat them with a powdered form of “inoculant,” available from online bean seed suppliers as well as local garden centers.
The seeds are best sown outdoors after all danger of frost is past in the spring, and when the soil is warm. The recommended spacing between seeds is 4-6 inches, but I tend to space them about two inches apart. Why? They’ve got big cotyledons (seed leaves) and it seems like a third of the seedlings don’t develop because the young growth breaks off or doesn’t develop at all. For a continuous harvest, sow seeds every 2-3 weeks.
Once the plants get established, they grow quickly. At full size, they will only grow to 12 to 16 inches wide. Although they are self-supporting and don’t need to be staked, I still need to “contain” them with a chicken wire or hardware cloth wall if they are sharing the garden bed with other crops.
When the plants are full size, it won’t be long before you will start to see its beautiful white to lavender flowers appear. The flowers are self-pollinating. When the flowers fall off, you will see the tiny beans start to form. Bush Blue Lake beans resist Bean Mosaic Virus.
This variety matures in 50 to 60 days. Bush beans are determinate plants, so the harvest will last for a certain amount of time (usually 2-3 weeks), and then the plants will dwindle. The pods are 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches long. If you pick the pods young, they are stringless. Regardless of when you pick them, Blue Lake 274 produces a very large crop with excellent flavor. They are known for retaining this flavor and texture when they are canned or frozen.
The classic ‘Blue Lake 274’ definitely deserves a spot in your garden.
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