The Q&A Archives: Bell Beans

Question: I am tilling a garden this fall that has awful soil. I am planning to plant a green manure and have been recommended "bell beans". These supposedly pull the moisture out of the wet clay soil that I have and make it much easier to plant in the spring. I was wondering if this information is correct and where I might purchase them?

Answer: Bell Beans (Vicia faba var. minor), a small-seeded variety of the Faba bean, are a winter annual legume and native of the Mediterranean region. They are great soil builders and can help dry out soil somewhat in the spring. They thrive when soil temperatures reach 50-60? but will germinate and grow in 35-45? soils. Bell beans reportedly fix more nitrogen in 2 months than any other spring-planted field crop and continue fixing nitrogen through their entire life whereas most legumes peak out before maturity.

Their large tap root and stemmy residue both work to lighten heavy soils. Bell bean plants will not tolerate close mowing nor will they reestablish after any mowing. Although tolerant to a range of soils, they prefer a fertile, well-drained one and won't tolerate heat or drought. Plant seeds 6" apart in rows 30" apart when soil temperature reaches 50? in late winter.

Here are some sources:

Dirt Cheap Organics; 3070 Kerner Boulevard, Unit "T"; San Rafael, CA 94901; (415) 454-8278

Snow Pond Farm Supply; Order Phone: 207-877-0870; Fax: 207-872-0929

Thanks for the question!

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