Black bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris) provide small, high protein beans usually used for drying. The plants grow easily from seeds. Several black bean varieties offer high yields and disease resistance, including bush varieties ‘Black Turtle’ and ‘Eclipse’ and indeterminate cultivars 'Condor' and 'Jaguar'. Bush varieties of black beans reach up to about 24 inches tall and require very little care once the seeds have sprouted, while indeterminate -- or vine -- varieties need support trellises 6 to 8 feet tall.
Growing Conditions for Black Beans
Black beans grow best with full sun. Choose a location with a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. These plants aren’t finicky on soil conditions. As long as they have good drainage and average soil fertility, they will produce. If you must add fertilizer, use a 5-10-10 variety at a rate of 1 cup per 50 feet. Wait until soil temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit before planting these warm weather plants. Beans don’t do well when transplanted, so direct seeding works best.
As long as you plant by late July in most regions, you can grow a second harvest of bush black beans.
How to Plant Black Bean Seeds
Step 1: Prepare the Planting Site
Till a garden bed to about 12 inches deep using a rototiller or shovel. This aerates and loosens the soil, allowing for better root growth. Alternately, black beans do well in containers and raised beds. Use a soil mixture that contains 1 part topsoil, 1 part compost for nutrients and 1 part vermiculite for drainage.
Step 2: Install a Trellis
Build or install a trellis at the planting site if you grow indeterminate, or pole bean, cultivars. The trellis needs some resistance to wind and a height of at least 6 feet. Use a trellis designed for beans or build your own. Skip this step for bush beans.
A simple tripod trellis tied at the top and made from bamboo, branches or wood works great for support.
Step 3: Make the Planting Holes
Space planting holes around 2 to 4 inches apart for bush black beans and 4 to 8 inches apart for indeterminate beans. Place the holes for pole beans about 6 inches away from the support trellis and all the way around it. Make each hole 1 inch deep. If you have fertile soil or use fertilizer, space the rows as close as 12 inches apart for bush and 24 inches for pole beans.
Measure and mark 1 inch on a small stick or pencil. Push it into the dirt to the line to make holes for the seeds when you plant.
Step 4: Plant the Bean Seeds
Place one seed in each hole and firm the soil over the seed. Continue to fill all of the planting holes you made. Water the seeds.
Caring for Black Bean Plants
Black bean plants need plenty of water to produce a good harvest. When rainfall drops below 1 inch a week, provide supplemental watering. Avoid getting water on the leaves and water in the early hours of the day to help prevent diseases. Keep the bed free of weeds and pick off insects, such as bean beetles, that eat the leaves.