There are many dried green beans hanging on vines in our garden now (I need to finish cleaning up the garden before winter), and it reminds me that beans are one of the easiest seeds for a gardener to save. And, saving them really does have benefits over buying seeds each year. In order to save bean seeds (or any garden seed for that matter), you do have to grow an open-pollinated (often described as heirloom) rather than hybrid variety, but there are many good open-pollinated varieties of beans to choose from. Benefits of saving bean seed include:
- Open pollinated varieties cost less initially than hybrid varieties
- If you save the seeds from an open pollinated variety each year, you never have to buy garden bean seeds again
- The seeds saved from bean plants grown in your garden will grow plants that are better adapted to your climatic conditions, and better able to resist pests and diseases in your garden. Each year the seeds become more adapted to your garden.
- It’s easy, and makes you feel so self-sufficient!
If you’re going to save seeds, you want to make sure that the bean variety that you’re saving doesn’t cross with another bean variety, or the seeds won’t produce the same variety next year. Since beans are self-pollinating, crosses between different bean varieties are rare, but can occur due to honey bees and other insects. Where more desirable sources of pollen are abundantly available; however, bees are unlikely to bother with beans.
The easiest way to help prevent crossing, is to grow only one variety of bean in your garden. We happen to think that the green pole bean Fortex is a terrific bean that meets all of our needs, so we only grow that variety and don’t worry much about the possibility of crossing.
If you’re going to grow more than one variety of bean (or you have near neighbors that are growing other varieties), then you may want to consider caging for bush plants and blossom bags for taller varieties to prevent the possibility of cross-pollination. Cages and blossom bags can be constructed from spun polyester, but need to be in place when the first blossoms appear on the plants until the last are gone, and need to prevent insects from reaching the blossoms while also admitting sunshine and water.
Seeds should be saved from healthiest, most vigorous plants, and the beans pods can simply left on the plant to dry. The bean seeds are inside the bean pods, and once the dry pods are picked, can be split open and the seeds will fall out. Only whole, intact, unblemished seeds should be saved.
Home-saved bean seeds almost always include bean weevil eggs, and the larvae can destroy your seed crop while you’re not looking. To prevent this, the seeds should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the freezer for five days. Once you remove them from the freezer, let them come to temperature overnight in the airtight container – this prevents condensation and the seeds taking on moisture. That’s it, you can now store the seeds somewhere that’s dry, dark and cool, and they should be viable for several years.