2023 Little Easy Bean Network - Beans Beyond The Colors Of A Rainbow

Blue-Jay

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I am becoming a bean lover. I have about 1/2 a dozen different beans to grow in 2023.
Although I have a lot of space and fencing to use, how far apart do I need to space each kind of bean to keep them from cross pollingating?
I once read something in a library book on seed production of beans that seed companies like Burpee's would seperate their fields used for bean seed production by at least one mile. Plenty of other plants in a mile for a bee to dilute any bean pollen they might have on their tongue. I'm sure you have watched a bee and seen how far and fast they can fly. Do you really think even 100 feet is going to make much difference in moving bean pollen around? You need to attract them to a plentful supply of pollen from other types of plants in between the bean rows at the same time the beans are in bloom. I think that is really the answer. Maybe one row of beans then three rows of Zinnias as an example.
 

ducks4you

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Generally ducks, you don't need to worry much about cross pollination with beans. They are self pollinating (unlike, say corn), and self pollinating plants tend to breed true. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and some of it depends on how much bee activity you have. In 15 years, I have seen one pole bean cross in all my grow outs, and I've grown about 250 varieties of beans over the years - ALL in the same garden without any isolation. So, the odds are pretty good. If you are in an agricultural area, or open field, though it seems that can increase the likelihood of crosses.

If you want to save seeds from your beans I'd say your biggest concern is with plant spacing for the purpose of drying down. The distancing on packets is for green beans, not for the full life cycle of the plant. They need a wider spacing for seed saving.
Great to know! Thx! :hugs
My planting eyes got HUGE this winter. I bought a LOT of seeds, including beans.
I figured out how to make use of my fencing by the street, which is 100 ft long, more or less. As I get a couple of hours this winter I will chop down the "waterspouts" from about a dozen volunteer tree of paradise's that I didn't kill..
I figure to saw them off with my reciprocating saw, saw into the small trunks, pour 2D-4 onto the stumps and into any holes/cracks, cover with plastic and let the temperature kill them, since you are supposed to wait until it hits 60 degrees F. I will start planting around them in March.
I will document this.
It is old cattle fencing that is taut, with barbed wire on top but Perfect for vining vegetables...like pole beans...and cucumbers.
Do you save some of your seeds for next year, or plant them all?
 

heirloomgal

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Great to know! Thx! :hugs
My planting eyes got HUGE this winter. I bought a LOT of seeds, including beans.
I figured out how to make use of my fencing by the street, which is 100 ft long, more or less. As I get a couple of hours this winter I will chop down the "waterspouts" from about a dozen volunteer tree of paradise's that I didn't kill..
I figure to saw them off with my reciprocating saw, saw into the small trunks, pour 2D-4 onto the stumps and into any holes/cracks, cover with plastic and let the temperature kill them, since you are supposed to wait until it hits 60 degrees F. I will start planting around them in March.
I will document this.
It is old cattle fencing that is taut, with barbed wire on top but Perfect for vining vegetables...like pole beans...and cucumbers.
Do you save some of your seeds for next year, or plant them all?
I nearly always have some seed I keep back when I plant. Especially with pole beans, because even a few plants can give a lot of seed, sometimes a full pound. For any one variety, I don't usually plant more than a dozen seeds because the plant spacing is quite a bit bigger when you have seeds in mind.
 

Zeedman

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I am becoming a bean lover. I have about 1/2 a dozen different beans to grow in 2023.
Although I have a lot of space and fencing to use, how far apart do I need to space each kind of bean to keep them from cross pollingating?

I once read something in a library book on seed production of beans that seed companies like Burpee's would seperate their fields used for bean seed production by at least one mile. Plenty of other plants in a mile for a bee to dilute any bean pollen they might have on their tongue. I'm sure you have watched a bee and seen how far and fast they can fly. Do you really think even 100 feet is going to make much difference in moving bean pollen around? You need to attract them to a plentful supply of pollen from other types of plants in between the bean rows at the same time the beans are in bloom. I think that is really the answer. Maybe one row of beans then three rows of Zinnias as an example.
I agree with @Bluejay77 . The other pollen/nectar sources are barrier plants. Those can be either flowers, or vegetables which flower at the same time. The barrier crop(s) acts as places for bees to 'wipe their feet' as they work their way through the garden. Squashes, cucumbers, and other bean species (such as limas & runner beans) make good barrier crops, because they are more nutrient dense than common beans, and flower over a long period. "Zebrina" mallow is also very good, it blooms early & continuously until frost (and even a little beyond). Common beans flower sparsely compared to other bean species & are not very nutrient dense, so it isn't hard to offer something the bees will like better & spend more time on.

Bees are very active in both of my gardens, but especially at home, where several species of bumbles & other ground bees have nests - which I actively encourage. So I use a combination of physical separation & barrier crops to save bean seed. I try to plant different beans about 30' apart, with at least one trellis of limas or runner beans & at least one member of the gourd family between them (and trellised bitter melon is worth growing for its barrier potential alone). So far, I've had very few crosses, maybe 1-2% at worst (none last year). But some varieties are more prone to crossing than others; "Goose", "Jeminez", and some greasy types are a few of those.

"Jeminez" is the bean I point to when seed savers say beans can't cross. When I grew that variety from a sample received in trade, all 10 plants were different. :ep To say it was crossed would be an understatement. And when I first started saving beans, I planted 3 snap varieties side-by-side, and noticed my favorite snap was deteriorating from year to year... then having read the barrier crop philosophy recommended by Dr. Jeff McCormick (hope I spelled that right) I began using that method, and have done so ever since. It is effective for tomatoes as well (with some exceptions best discussed on another thread). But as @Bluejay77 mentioned, bees forage widely, and over time, some degree of crossing is inevitable. My "Ma Williams" (similar to Goose) has had a couple crosses for me. And the presence of 'segregations' mentioned on this site is also indicative of fairly widespread incidents of crossing.

The question is really the degree to which seed purity matters. If you are saving seed strictly for your own use & don't mind a few crosses, if you ascribe to the "land race" philosophy of growing a widespread genetic base, or if you are trying to develop new varieties, then crossing is irrelevant. If you have a rare heirloom though, if you have a bean that you really like as-is, or if you intend to share seed widely, then purity is more important. Planting multiple short rows in lieu of one long one, and only harvesting seed from the middle of the center row, can reduce crossing. So can harvesting seed from only the first blooms, when the bee population is still small. Planting a short-DTM bush bean next to a longer-DTM pole bean, then saving only the first seed from the bush bean & the last seed from the pole bean, will also make crossing unlikely.

A fellow seed saver & small lot seed supplier (who posts elsewhere) says that beans had two distinct centers of origin, and adjacent varieties of the two different types are less likely to cross. i haven't found scientific evidence to back that up, but I try to use that philosophy as well, and it seems to work.
 
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meadow

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I've not seen honeybees show any interest at all in bean flowers. It is the little bees (or flies?) and the bumblebees that are the more likely pollinators in my garden. Hummingbirds regularly take sips from the flowers too.

One thing to keep in mind is that beans are more susceptible to crossing in hot weather or drought conditions. I'd recommend some distancing (and buffer crops) because there is no way to predict what the season will bring. If it is a particularly prized bean, insect netting is another way to keep them from crossing.
 

Zeedman

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If you watch bees, honey bees tend to work down a row, sticking to one species at a time. Bumbles & other ground bees tend to work the whole garden... and bumbles can pollinate flowers that are difficult for other bees (such as runner beans). Bumblebees are the ones most likely to wreak havoc when saving bean seed (or tomatoes). I have a lot of tiny ground bees ("sweat bees") but have been unable to tell if they frequent bean blossoms.
 

meadow

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If you watch bees, honey bees tend to work down a row, sticking to one species at a time. Bumbles & other ground bees tend to work the whole garden... and bumbles can pollinate flowers that are difficult for other bees (such as runner beans). Bumblebees are the ones most likely to wreak havoc when saving bean seed (or tomatoes). I have a lot of tiny ground bees ("sweat bees") but have been unable to tell if they frequent bean blossoms.
I watched a bumblebee aggressively work over the row of GaGa Hut and was glad that I'd covered the Network beans with netting! After seeing that, I paid more attention and would sometimes sit in the garden and just watch what was happening.
 

ducks4you

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I've not seen honeybees show any interest at all in bean flowers. It is the little bees (or flies?) and the bumblebees that are the more likely pollinators in my garden. Hummingbirds regularly take sips from the flowers too.

One thing to keep in mind is that beans are more susceptible to crossing in hot weather or drought conditions. I'd recommend some distancing (and buffer crops) because there is no way to predict what the season will bring. If it is a particularly prized bean, insect netting is another way to keep them from crossing.
OMGOSH!! Ducks winter project (that I Better get done!!!)
You may recall that a bumblebee stung me last summer. I was pulling bindweed and they had a nest below it and felt threatened.
Don't really want to kill any bees BUT, I know where the nest is. We are expecting 3 days of rain, then cold. Best time to dig up the nest while they are dorment, then let it get flooded out and frozen out.
Back to topic...
I do plan to plant flowers along this fencing, so it all can work pretty well.
Thanks for the advice! @Zeedman and @heirloomgal
and @meadow :hugs
 

nune

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Honestly, seeing happy bumblebees cuddle in my squash flowers is adorable. However, I understand the concern with seed keeping. I might plan some more native flowers/herbs in my backyard garden this season to distract them, since I'll likely be saving seeds.
 

Blue-Jay

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@Artorius

Can you identify a bean. Small, red and white about half the size of Bobolink Maybe similar to Pea Bean Turkey. Having been grown maybe for a century in the Polish town of Podolszynka Ordynacka. However the bean might be of French origin. The bean in the upper right side of the photo is Bobolink for comparison.


Bean from Poland.jpg
 

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