Growing Beans Indoors:
Growing beans indoors under an LED grow light can be fun and easy, and a great way of adding a nutritiously organic home grown veggie to the dinner plate. I have grown beans for years in my outdoor garden, and have found success growing beans under the LED grow light in my home as well. Now I can enjoy supplementing various meals with my home grown bean goodies all year long! Bush bean and pole bean varieties are commonly grown in the outdoor garden during the growing season and both have benefits that a home grower might prefer. Read on to find out how to grow big at home!
Bush Beans versus Pole Bean Variety:
If you have perused other articles on this site, you have gleaned that I tend to prefer the bush variety of plants versus the vine/pole climbing variety. I prefer growing bush variety plants for several reasons. One, the bush variety plant does not require much, if any, scaffolding and supplemental supporting during the lifetime of its growing process. Less time on scaffolding and supporting vine growth translates into more time to care for other areas of the plant growing process. Two, the bush variety of plant obviously grows in a bush-like form and the majority of production is densely situated in a smaller area that, in my opinion, is easy to pick at harvest time. I will add though that it is best to grow the bush variety plant in some type of raised bed so that bending over for long periods to care for the plant, and harvest, is minimized. Three, the bush variety of plant, which grows much smaller than the vine or pole growing plant variety, is much more conducive to growing in an indoor environment. One can imagine how quickly vine and pole growing varieties can get out of control and unmanageable, especially indoors. I also find it difficult to provide adequate lighting for a pole growing variety of bean plant in an indoor environment. Even in my outdoor garden, I prefer to grow the bush variety. Maybe I just like the more controlled uniform nature of the bush variety plants. Indoors or out and more often than not, I choose to grow bush bean plants. However, as I said earlier, both types have benefits and each grower can have a different view and preference.
More on Bush versus Pole Beans:
Vine/Pole Bean Variety – Vine beans are commonly referred to as “pole beans” due mostly to their affinity to grow higher and need structure on which to climb. Pole beans are looking to reach toward the sun/light and grow in more of a vertical fashion. They can generally grow up to 6 feet high and even higher, so a grower would need to construct some sort of trellis or scaffolding for support. One can imagine how difficult it might be to construct a proper structure on which the pole variety plant could climb in a relatively small indoor environment. The pole bean plant will not be able to support itself during the growing process. If left without proper support, the plant will collapse, possible break, become an entangled mess, and likely expire prematurely. This is why vine bean plants are commonly referred to as pole beans, they need something like a pole to climb in order to continue the grow process properly. If supported correctly and properly matured, vine growing bean plants will likely produce more beans than the bush bean variety of plant. Although vine beans will take longer to mature than bush beans, once matured adequately, vine beans will likely produce more beans during their life cycle than bush bean plants. Pole bean plants, once matured, will produce about a handful of beans each day as long as you consistently harvest. The pole bean plant will continue to produce consistently for most of the growing season, weather permitting. Pole beans can have their benefits in the outdoor garden, but will require more up front work, with scaffolding support, to grow properly.
Bush Bean Variety – Bush bean plants get their name because they grow and look more bush-like. They generally grow to be around two or three feet tall and do not need much, if any support. I will normally do my best to position my bush bean plants in two linear rows so that each plant helps to support the plant next to it. When I grow outdoors, I not only place my bush bean plants in two linear rows, and I also place them in a raised bed. I prefer the raised bed for growing bush beans because it makes it easier to care for the plants during the growing process, and easier to pick the produce come harvest time. I also prefer the raised beds because I can better control the soil mixture that is in the raised beds, and weeding and keeping the plants bug-free is much less work intensive given the protections of the raised beds. Indoors, the bush bean plants are ideal for growing under an indoor LED grow light. Their dense bush-like growing pattern is perfect for getting my LED grow light at the perfect height from the plant’s canopy, and having reflected light around the plants helps to increase density which ultimately helps to increase production. Light coverage varies by light make and wattage of the light being used so see manufacturer’s data. Indoors under the LED, I can also control light type, as well as light intensity during the different stages of grow. And the biggest bonus for growing bush beans under the LED grow light; I do not need to worry about the weather outside. Beans any time of year is the biggest bonus of growing bush beans indoor!
Steps to Grow:
Start Seeds – For my bush bean plants indoors, I normally use a container with a diameter equal to or greater than 8 inches. Anything smaller will not be adequate space for the plant and root growth. Also, if you have a large enough container, you may want to consider placing in two seeds at once and then make a determination regarding which plant to keep after you have observed several inches of growth. Consider this method survival of the fittest. I do this more for my indoor growing to strengthen the probability of growing robust bush plants. When placing the seeds in the soil, I normally use my thumb to depress the soil, no more than an inch. I place the seed in this depression, and then lightly cover the seed once more with the potting soil mix. Also, if you are using a rectangular shaped container, be sure to give the seeds enough space to sprout and root. I normally keep the plants about 6 inches apart in these types of containers. Add a bit of water to moisten the soil and you are off to a good start. Be sure not to over water, you will only need to moisten the soil. I sometimes use a spritzer during this stage to routinely moisten the soil without over watering. Be sure that your containers/pots have adequate drainage holes at their bottoms to allow excess water a path to escape. If your pot/container looks like a muddy mess, then you have added to much water. If you stick your finger down into the soil and it feels moist a two inches down and soil particles stick to your finger, then your soil’s water retention is likely good. If the soil is dry an inch or two down, then you have not watered adequately. Also, if you stick your finger in the soil, just be sure that it is not near the seed, seedling, or area of root development. Checking the soil several inches away from the seed/plant will work just fine.
Mix Some Soil – Although I will admit that sometimes if in a pinch I will use a bit of my outdoor soil for my indoor grow, I often try to avoid this practice. The main reason is control. When I grow plants indoors, I look to control as many variables as possible. Control is one of the benefits of growing indoors under LED grow lights. Utilizing soil from my outside garden, although pretty good stuff, can still be more detrimental to my indoor growing process than mixing with purchased potting soil and supplements. Since the chemistry of outside soil is drastically different from region to region, I can’t really recommend its use for starting seeds indoors. Plus, bringing in soil from outside might also be an avenue by which weeds and other unsavory spores can negatively impact your indoor grow process. Purchased potting soil mix minimizes these issues and maximizes control. I use a potting soil that contains beneficial microbes and fungi which helps to break down organic matter and feed plant roots. Although I have used several different types of potting soil, most recently I have used Happy Frog which has well balanced ingredients that helps to support seed germination, seedling rooting, and health plant growth during all stages. Additionally, I will mix in a general hydroponic growing medium. I’ve used CocoTek with positive results. Adding in this medium helps with nutrient retention, aeration, and balanced water retention. The ratio of potting soil to the CocoTek medium I use is 1:1. For more information on my soil mix process, check out my article on plant soil mix.
Lighting the Way – I like to use my LED grow light even during the initial germination process. I always feel like it gives my eventual seedlings something to strive for. Keep the ambient room temperature around 70 degrees initially and bump this up so that the ambient room temperature is in a more ideal range between 72 and 82 degrees during the vegetative and flowering stages of plant growth. Once the seedling is several inches high and leaves appear, it is photosynthesis time! I try to get 12 to 16 hours of light time during which my plants receive light from a full spectrum LED grow light. It is important that your grow light emit light wavelengths that supports both the vegetative and flowering stages of bean bush plant growth. I normally place my lights on around dinner time and then turn them off in the morning prior to leaving for work. Since my grow room is in my basement and has no windows, my plants can get the dark sleep time they need during the hours I am at work. Also, be sure to know a little about your grow light and its coverage area. If you have too many plants that fall outside of the light coverage area of your indoor grow light, you will definitely have mixed results and minimize growth and production. Coverage area information and recommendations normally come with most LED grow lights. If you do not have or know this information, you should contact your light’s manufacturer to find out before beginning your indoor growing. For more information on growing basics for indoor settings, check out these indoor grow tips.
Harvest Time – Harvest time is the best time. Depending on the variety of bean plant that you prefer, your plants should grow and produce within 50 to 70 days or so. This is the exciting part! Be sure to be careful when harvesting the beans from your plants. I grasp the bean and also grab the stem of the plant so when I pull to disconnect the two, I do not inadvertently damage the plant. Also, do not wait too long to harvest the beans that have been produced by your plant. Leaving beans on too long tends to result in a bean with less flavor and is more chewy and tough. If you have not grown bush beans before, you will quickly determine the right size of the bean to be picked. Once you find the sweet spot, all that is left to do is harvest and enjoy! Although bush bean plants tend to produce less than the pole bean variety, the production time frame on a bush bean plant lasts for approximately two or three weeks. Keep your lighting and watering cycle going until you see that the last wave of bean production has ended. I love to grill my beans with a little oil and garlic. They are superb and full of nutrients. Time to Grow Big or Grow Home!