Black beans, like all beans, are easy to grow and can add nitrogen to your soil, acting as a natural, organic fertilizer for the plants you grow the year after! Black beans in particular are very rewarding to grow because of their rich taste and high nutritional profile.
Black beans don’t usually form vines, with the exception of one or two cultivars. Make sure you know whether your cultivar is of the vining type or not; if it turns out to be, you may need to build structures from bamboo canes for them to grow up as with other beans. But usually they won’t be. If you’re sprouting from shop-bought food beans, they probably won’t be.
Black beans don’t like being transplanted. You should plant them directly in your garden. Soak them one night before planting, and then space them one to two inches deep, with about 5 inches between your black bean seeds. Black beans germinate well so don’t count on too many failed seeds; plant about as many seeds as you hope to have plants.
Black beans do well in full sun and prefer well drained slightly acidic soil. Let the soil drain a bit between waterings; black beans don’t like excess water. Don’t plant them too early; plant them when there is no chance of frost anymore.
Black beans have shallow roots, so don’t dig around too much near them. If you have weeds, pull the weeds up by hand.
Aphids are a problem for black beans, both in themselves and because they spread the bean mosaic virus, which black beans are susceptible to. Aphids can be killed with pesticides, but if you want a natural, healthy crop (and isn’t that the idea of growing your own food?) you can buy a box of ladybirds (ladybugs) who will eat your aphids quite happily.
You might want to use a natural product called an inoculant to grow your black beans. You can find it in gardening centres. An inoculant helps the bean plant fix nitrogen better, helping it grow as well as increasing its fertilizing effects on other plants.
Don’t plant black beans in the same place each year. You’ll want to vary their location anyway, as this will help you fertilize different parts of your garden with the beans’ nitrogen fixing capabilities.
Avoid adding fertilizer, or if you do, use one without much nitrogen in it. The beans have enough nitrogen anyway, and if they get too much you’re likely to get a lot of leaves and not many beans.
Black beans require about 3 months before you can harvest them. You know they are ready when the beans are dry, black and hard and the pods are yellow and dry. At this point most of the leaves will have fallen from the plant.
If you’re likely to get wet weather about at harvest time, you may want to let them dry inside instead.
The black beans will store a long time and you can use them to grow next year’s crop, too. Use them like you would use any shop bought black beans; for soups, stews, broths, salads, salsa, or burgers.