Most of the work of growing a good crop of beans (and all other vegetables, too) comes before you put the seeds in the ground. If you get your soil into the best possible shape and prepare a smooth seedbed, you'll have the fewest problems.
To get beans off to a good start, till or spade a sunny section of your garden to a depth of six to eight inches, making sure the soil is as free as possible of clumps of earth or sod. A seed-bed of deep, loose soil allows bean roots to stretch rapidly and to take in water, food and oxygen easily. For best germination, wait until the soil temperature is at least 60oF to plant.
To get a jump on the weeds, work the soil two or three times over a period of several days before planting (the more, the better). Each time you do this, you'll kill a lot of weeds that have just begun to germinate. Till one last time just before planting. Working the soil this way takes care of half your weeding chores before you even plant!
Most beans aren't too choosy about where they'll sink their roots. They'll give you a good crop in soil that's loamy, sandy, rocky, rich or poor and even in clay. But avoid planting beans in the shade or in soil that stays wet and doesn't drain well. Bean diseases thrive in wet conditions, and the roots may not get enough oxygen with water and mud clogging their air channels.
Beans like soil that's slightly acid, with the best pH range for them around 6.0 to 6.5 (pH is an acid-to-alkaline scale). They'll grow outside that range, but they make best use of the nutrients and fertilizers in the soil when the pH is slightly acid. If you're unsure about your garden soil's pH, you can purchase an inexpensive, easy-to-use pH test kit. Or, contact your local county extension agent, who can advise you about soil testing. The test will tell you how much lime (to neutralize an acid soil) or sulfur (to correct an alkaline soil) to add. If you have to add lime or sulfur, mix it into the top six to eight inches of soil. Although you can add it anytime, the fall is best because it takes time for the lime or sulfur to work.
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