Growing and harvesting red kidney beans

Written by peter mitchell
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Growing and harvesting red kidney beans
Red kidney beans are poisonous if eaten raw. (ChrisBoswell/iStock/Getty Images)

Red kidney beans are a key ingredient in classic chillies and stews. Kidney beans grow from bush-variety plants, so they don't snake up garden canes or need training to a trellis. Establishing the bean plants is relatively straightforward. These beans require a very long growing season to mature, however, so they may not be suitable for short-season gardens. Kidney beans are toxic when raw, so soak and stew them properly before eating.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Soil test kit
  • Manure
  • Spade
  • Fine soil
  • Red kidney bean seeds
  • Hose
  • Straw mulch
  • Sack
  • Stick
  • Containers

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  1. 1

    Choose a sunny location in your garden with crumbly, well-drained soil. Check the ground pH with a pH testing kit, available from most garden centres. Ideal pH for red kidney beans is from 6.0 to 7.0. Dump a generous amount of farmyard manure on to the ground and turn it into the soil.

  2. 2

    Plant seeds when spring weather has warmed up the soil, after the frost-free date. Check soil temperatures with a thermometer, as ground temperatures below 10 degrees C (50F) can cause seed rot. When the soil temperature exceeds this, sow seeds 10 cm (4 inches) apart, with 90 cm (3 feet) between rows, by placing them on the ground and then covering with 2.5 cm (1 inch) of fine soil.

  3. 3

    Water the seeds each week to a depth of 2.5 cm (1 inch), with heavier applications during summer. Pull out any weeds that sprout near the beans.

  4. 4

    Spread a mulch layer, such as aged straw, around the beans when they are well-established. This helps keep weed growth down and moisture levels high.

  5. 5

    Look for pods turning dry and brown. This is a sign that kidney beans are getting ready for harvest. Beans will turn dark red, hard and the pods will shatter easily.

  6. 6

    Strip all dry pods from the plant and place them in a sack. Hit the sack with a stick to separate the beans from the pod. Pick out the beans from the sack. Winnowing will help to remove chaff and other light pieces of plant material that may stick to the beans. Pour the sack contents from one container to another on a windy day to separate the beans from the lighter chaff.

Tips and warnings

  • Rotate your bean crops to a different location every year to avoid disease and replenish nitrogen in the soil.
  • If autumn arrives before your beans have dried on the plant, remove the whole plant and hang them upside down in a dry location.
  • Soak red kidney beans for at least 12 hours before use.

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