Have you checked the snow on Mount McLoughlin lately? If it has melted so that the remaining snow looks like an angel — or an eagle, depending on your perspective — it is time to plant beans, according to local folklore.
Can't see the mountain? A second option is to plant your beans when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear. Or, use your soil thermometer and plant when the soil temperature is 70 degrees.
When we say "beans," it can mean bush, pole, lima or beans that are dried and shelled for winter use.
Bush beans, commonly called "green beans," are easy to grow, and most people like them, especially fresh out of the garden. When the soil is warm enough, plant them about an inch deep and 2 to 4 inches apart. Beans are light feeders — in fact, they will make nitrogen for your soil, so don't overfertilize them.
You will be able to begin picking your beans about two weeks after they bloom. Some of my favorite varieties are Jade, Venture and the old standby, Blue Lake. If you're into trying something new, bush beans also come in yellow and purple.
While beans can be planted when the soil warms in the spring, I prefer to plant my bush beans in July. That way, I usually escape any insect and disease problems, and the beans seem to like the cooler weather that precedes frost. This works only for bush beans, however, as others mentioned here need more growing time.
Pole beans need something to climb on. A trellis, fence or netting works well, or use wire or rough string to fashion your own structure. When my children were young (and later, for grandchildren), I used bamboo poles to construct a tepee shape and planted the beans around the outside of it. It's a grand place for them to play, with a good snack readily at hand. Remember to leave an entrance!
Many people claim they don't like lima beans, but I suspect most of those folks haven't tasted them fresh out of the garden. Serve them with sauted bacon pieces — mmm! Check the seed packet, as some grow on short, bushy plants, while others are semi-vining and do best with some support. Don't let them get over-ripe before picking.
Dry shelling beans are grown like any of the beans described above, but they have tough, fibrous pods. Shelling beans need a longer growing period than some of the beans described above. They should stay on the bush until most of the leaves are yellowed and falling off. If fall rains begin, and your shell beans are still in the garden, just pull them up and hang them by their roots in the garage until they are ready.
I have not talked about fava beans, runner beans, edamames or yard-long beans, but I need to leave some things for you to explore on your own. And I hope you will. Go ahead, get full of beans!
Coming up: Oregon State University Extension Agent Maud Powell will teach a class about noxious weeds, including how they are spread and how to control them, from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 30. The cost is $5.
Greg Marchesse will hold a hands-on workshop on Huglekulture, an ancient form of raised-bed gardening that involves burying rotting wood and planting on it. The class will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1. The cost is $10. Preregistration is required.
Both classes will be held at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at email@example.com.