Why and How to Grow Black Beans

Avatar David Stillwell  |  Updated: June 9, 2020
Why and How to Grow Black Beans

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Black beans and legumes, in general, are very healthy food. They are loaded with fiber and have very little fat while offering a lot of calories – energy. A single cup of black beans that are raw have 662 calories and 121g of carbs of which 4 grams are sugars and 29 grams are fiber.

Carbs and energy

Carbs convert to sugars which we burn as energy. A candy bar is loaded with sugar – processed sugars – and black beans are loaded with carbs. The deal with processed sugars and some natural sugars is that they burn quickly. You’ve consumed the candy bar and are ready to go, but half an hour later you are lagging. This is because your body has already burned the energy in the candy bar.

With beans you get a slow-burning energy. A cup or black beans is not going to make you zippy, but it will power you through from lunch until dinner. That is a big deal in a survival situation.

black turtle beans
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Growing Black Beans= Good Energy

This is a topic that we speak about a lot – taking control of your food source. There are many reasons why growing your own food is important. Not only does it help you save money, but it gives you a lot of control over the quality of food that you ear, the food you have available to you, and it can help you improve your health.

Your personal health is a prime factor in surviving a negative situation. You can buy all the fancy prepper foods, but if you cannot out run danger then all that food is not going to matter. Personal health should be on everyone’s top five list of things to improve in the prepping community.

Black beans and other legumes are sources of good energy. Since most people don’t have the space to grow all the different types of beans that they like to eat, you should consider adding some dried beans to your stockpile or if you have space, dry your own beans and shell them out.

Black Bean Nutrition

Black beans are not a significant source of vitamins, but they are a huge sink for minerals. A cup of black beans contains 24 percent of your RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of Calcium and a whopping 54 percent of your RDA for Iron – based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

In terms of what we consider healthy foods, black beans are right in the middle of the scale. They are high in calories, low in fat (3 grams per 1 cup) and they offer a whopping 42 grams of protein. The trouble – such as it is – is that two cups of beans per day is 1.324 calories and we tend to want to mix them with other things.

In short, it is really easy to go over your total calorie consumption goal making this a food that can lead to weight gain. If you are trying to lose weight, then be sure to monitor how many servings of black beans you eat per day and pay close attention to both serving size and total calories.

The good news about black beans is that you can spread them around your total consumption for the day. They go well in salads, soups, and sides. They also mix well with other fruits and vegetables. Overall, these are a wonderful food to add to a home garden and they dry well so that you can store them for use all year long.

black bean tacos
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In fact, they will last 1-2 years in a sealed container in your panty. As a food group, beans help you stretch your other food stores so that you can do more by spending less money.

How to Grow Black Beans

Beans are heat-loving plants and that means the only time to grow them is during the hotter summer months. In fact, the ideal soil temperature is between 70° and 80°F. In comparison, tomato seeds like to sprout when the soil is on average 55°F. The best time to plant black beans is very dependent upon where you live and your local climate.

black beans pod

How Much to Plant?

You can figure that it will take 8 – 12 bean plants to produce enough beans for a single person. If you are planning on growing for consumption, then 12 plants per person is a good goal. If you are planning to grow beans to preserve/dry then plan on about 36 or so plants per person. The extra plants mean that you can use the beans fresh and still have enough to store.

Planting Black Beans

You certainly can start these in a greenhouse or cold frame before the summer heat hits. Most beans transplant okay but you don’t’ want to disturb the roots very much at all. They will also need to be hardened off before planting outdoors just like any other bean..

IMO it is much better to just plant them directly in the ground. If you are in colder climates, cold frames make it much easier to harden off plants as you can just lift the lid during the day and then close them at night.

Adult plants need about 6 inches of space between each other to thrive. If you are planting them by seed, then generally plant each bean two inches apart. You will have to either transplant the extras to make room for the ones you want or thin them. Generally, I wait until they get their second sets of leaves to thin the row. There are plenty of pests that love young bean plants – snails and migratory birds are two such pests.

Planting Black Beans from Seeds

Space, wise, seeds need to be planted about 1.5 inches deep and no more than two inches. Depending on the type of black bean you plant, they can take about 140-150 days before they are ready to harvest. Some varieties take as little as 80 days to reach maturity. Before you plant the beans soak the seed-beans overnight in water. This will help them to rehydrate and then germinate.

black beans
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Soil for Black Beans

Beans do not tolerate wet, mucky soil. The roots will rot, and the plant will struggle to thrive. They do love compost so plant on amending your garden space with plenty of compost and if needed you can add sand. Bean roots are fragile, and the sand not only helps the soil to drain, but also for the roots to spread outwards.

The compost should be all the moisture retaining material needed but if your soil is very dry or clay, consider adding in perlite. Perlite is an excellent additive as it soaks up water that the plant can use throughout the day.

Garden Design for Beans

Beans like to grow in hills and a hill that is about 1 – 1.5 feet in height is perfect. The added height helps the soil to drain and gives the roots plenty of space to expand. It is easier to manage beans if you grow them in rows (mounded hills) You can do the math to determine how long each row should be – 36 plants will need 18 feet of row space. Eight bean plants will need four feet of row space.

Rows need to be staked to support the bean plants which can range in height from 2-4 feet. Two metal T-posts at the ends of each row with sturdy twin or wire (two-three strands) will help you manage the plants.

black beans pile
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The first stand should be about the one-foot mark, the second around 2.5 feet, and the third at 3.5 feet. The taller staking will help with harvesting the beans too. Bean plants are sometimes delicate so be sure to use snippers when picking the beans.


Seed beans should be watered every day. They germinate in 8-14 (ish) days and once they have sprouted need to be kept moist but not saturated. When you water beans be sure to only water the ground and not the plant.

Beans grown when they have just the right moisture content in their soil. The trick is to water them just before they wilt. You never want to spray the leaves with water so be gentle in how you water them. The problem with getting their leaves wet is that beans are prone to rust and mildew. Both of which require moisture.

A drip irrigation system works well to water just the roots and not the leaves. You can even add a soil hydrometer which will tell the unit to turn on and off based on soil moisture.

Sun and Light

Beans need full sun, but not tons of it. 5 – 6 hours of full sun per day is all they need. They can handle afternoon shade if they get strong morning sun. They can handle the backlight and UV from a building and often do well against a structure, so long as the structure does not get too hot.

sunlight clouds sun

Black beans are easy to grow. Turtle beans are one of the more popular varieties but there are many options. A good rule of thumb is to choose a bean seed that is suited to your local area. Not all beans thrive in all climates. If you have a shorter growing season, then go with a colder climate short harvest time. If you have a lot of sun and long summers, then choose a bean that grows well in those conditions and that has a longer harvest time.

Tips For Aspiring Bean Growers

Remember that you don’t just have to grow black beans in your garden. You may want to save some space for green beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and others. Black beans are a bush bean but as stated before, they need a little bit of support. Pole beans are good to add to your garden because they offer amazing yields. By adding a variety of beans to your garden you can add a lot of variety and nutrition to your diet.

Pinto beans are usually dried and shelled unlike snap beans like Kentucky Wonder Pole or Bush Beans that are typically snapped into pieces and canned or frozen.

In the meantime, dig in and get to planting and we hope that you will consider adding black beans to your garden.

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9 Responses to “Why and How to Grow Black Beans”

  1. Great article, we were just digging into our family staple meal of black beans and rice and wondering if we could grow black beans in our yard. We too live in No Cal and have a hilly and sunny back yard, sounds like a go! One question: you said “it will take 8 – 12 bean plants to produce enough beans for a single person”; is that per day, month, season, year? Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the post. “Something for everybody”, indeed! 🙂
    You can plant the black beans dry from your grocery store. “Turtle beans” is what those are called when you buy seed. There are a lot of improved varieties of black bean. It’s worth finding out what is doing well for growers in your area, and with similar soil conditions. //www.centralbean.com/seed.html
    You can just buy a pound bag at the grocery stor and plant the first year. Go for it!
    If several varieties do well in your area,plant them all together and save seed.
    You’ll make your own land-race. Storage time depends on temperatures. Lower is better.
    Grow what you can, when and where you can, and use it as much as you can.

  3. Wonder why you limit your choice to black beans? There are so many types of beans that make great tasting green snap beans and once they dry on the vine make great dry shelling beans. Stored in glass jars with tight fitting lids, in a basement or root cellar, they could last for decades. Keep some for seed to replant. In 20 years half will probably still grow. Plant several varieties in your garden to see which ones you like the best and which have the highest yields. Pinto beans are very creamy and make great refried beans and cook quickly. Black beans have a more meaty flavor and retain their firm shape and texture, but take a long time to cook. Cranberry, red, orca, tiger eye, myacoba, brown cattle, red silk are just a few varieties. Also consider bush beans that don’t need trellising or pole beans that need some fairly tall support. If you’re limited on garden space consider that pole beans could be grown on twine that run from the eaves of the house to the ground and can be planted in front of windows to provide shade and cool your house in the summer. Beans can be grown in a lot of places, not just straight rows in the vegetable garden.

  4. Years ago I used to receive a news letter from a farm group. There was always a note at the end that read:

    We strive to put something for everyone in our news letter. Since some people need to nitpick to feel superior, we have placed a few misspelled words in there for them.

    • This reminds me of how sometimes I will have people email me on a Saturday morning to point out a very small grammar error. Now, these are folks that are trying to prepare for a disaster. I always have to think about how this type will fare during a real emergency if a single comma out of place bothers them that much. To top it off, the emails complaining about small grammar errors are often full of them! Then there is the issue of dialect. If writers all have the same style and dialect then it is very boring. I live in the South and I am very used to people from other parts of the USA feeling like they need to tell me how to speak. The people that I went to college with that were the worst to correct others did not become professional writers. A lot of the complainers became English teachers. Go figure. Thanks for reading Backdoor Survival.

  5. This was a great post, but y’all need a proofreader….

    “In fact, they will last 1-2 years in a sealed container in your panty.” Got a good chuckle out of that one!

    “They do love compost so plant on amending your garden space with plenty of compost and if needed you can add sand.”

    • “…plant on amending your garden space….” ?
      Plant on, or plan on?
      Proofreader CC

  6. I let mine dry right on the vine for storage. That gives me more time for all the crops that need my attention. As the picture shows, they are much easier to shell when dry. You might want to write down a good black bean soup recipe.

  7. In my neighborhood, white-tail deer are also a major threat to bean plants at any stage of growth. The plants can be protected with lightweight plastic mesh “deer netting”, but it’s important and challenging to keep the plants from growing through the net. Once that happens, it’s hard to remove the net to reach the beans for your own harvest.

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