Beans Seed Saving self sufficiency

Dried Beans — Not too time consuming

This year was my first year growing beans for drying.  I usually have purchased dried beans on hand in the winter, but I wanted to see if I could handle growing my own without adding more to my work load than I could handle.  (Also — as with any food — homegrown is always far superior to store-bought.)

I choose two varieties: Agate Pinto and Taylor Dwarf Horticultural, both of which I purchased from Fedco.

I only planted about 24 Agate Pinto beans and about 30 Taylor Dwarf Horticultural.  The idea was to test and see what they’d do for me and how much time they’d take before I took on a larger planting.

The Results of my Test

According to the Fedco catalog the Agate Pinto is suppose to be a breakthrough that dwarfed most of the typical vininess out of pintos making the Agate more like a bush bean.  That didn’t happen in my garden and I ended putting some tall tomatoes stakes with them for them to climb.  The catalog said that an occasional plant will still send out sprawling runners, but all of mine grew at least 6 feet.  They mention that excessive nitrogen can cause that — but I feel confident that was not the case in my garden.

The Taylor Dwarf Horticultural was a true bush bean.

Both beans looked great in the garden.

How I Harvested

As the beans matured and the leaves started to fall from the plants, I checked the beans at least every other day and picked any pods that were totally dry.

In the house, I had a basket designated for each variety of the dried beans.  I’d add each days harvest to the appropriate basket.

I just couldn’t give priority to shelling the beans until after last Saturday’s showing of my husband’s recent works. (He’s an artist and that’s how we make our living:

This was one of the baskets designated for the Taylor Horticultural Beans. I'm not quite finished shelling them.

This was one of the baskets designated for the Taylor Dwarf Horticultural Beans. I’m not quite finished shelling them. The beans in the zip lock are Pinto beans.

Finally shelling the beans

Yesterday, I shelled the Pintos.  Had them on the kitchen table and shelled a few off and on during the day as a break from other work.  From the 24 beans I had planted I got a pound of dried beans.

A pound of pinto beans from 24 seeds planted.

A pound of pinto beans from 24 seeds planted.

Today I started shelling the Taylor Dwarf Horticultural beans.  They’re really beautiful to look at.  I still have a few to shell but it looks as if I’ll get more than pound from the 30 seeds I planted.

Taylor Dwarf Horticultural Beans are just beautiful.

Taylor Dwarf Horticultural Beans are just beautiful.

Determining the size of the planting for next year

Now I have to decide if I want to use the garden space I have to at least double my planting for dried beans. I love lima beans  and snap beans for fresh eating and they’ll take top priority.  I’ll look towards doubling the amount of beans for drying next year, but it will be determined depending on what is taking place in the garden when I get ready to plant.

Saving my Seed

I’ll save about 60 of the biggest and best looking beans from this year’s harvest of each variety to plant next year.  After growing them from my seed for 3 or 4  years I should have beans that will be  perfectly suited for my garden’s conditions.

Final Thoughts

Why not think about growing  something new each year and maybe something that you can easily keep for winter.  If you’re not sure what you can handle time-wise, plant a small amount so you can see what’s involved and also how that particular crop will do for you.

Taking on too much has done-in many a gardener.


Related Posts:

Probably the Biggest Deterrent to Your Success in the Garden.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Little


Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, effective — and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • I too have been experimenting with raising beans that can be used as dry beans in the winter. I haven’t had much luck yet with the beans but for the amount of work and space, I get the best yields with black-eyed peas, purple hull peas, or field peas. I let them dry on the vine and then harvest them. The past 2 years I’ve left the plants in place after harvesting instead of cutting them down and got a second crop! Maybe that’s why they’ve been so popular in this part of the country (Middle Tennessee)–they’re easy to grow and produce a lot.

  • Hi Theresa,
    Thank you for the informative post. I’ve been thinking of trying to grow dry beans next year, so your timing was perfect!

  • Good to hear from you Susan. Good luck with your beans. I’d love to know what variety you grow and your thoughts after the experience.

    Thanks for the input and sharing what your experience has been Betty.

  • Was it worth the space for the amount you harvested? A pound of beans is about a dollar or twos worth, and would make only a few meals. This is why I don’t grow edamame beans anymore. I would much rather grow green beans, where I get more pickings from the same space. Of course, if I had more land…

  • As usual, Theresa, you offer great information and advice. Just curious about how you will store the dried beans. I’ve heard freezing them in bags eliminates any insects that might be lurking amongst the beans. Is this what you would recommend?

  • GardenDmpls — Your question is the one I’m still asking myself and have not yet determined. The space used was minimal. The beans that had the tomato towers to climb on took approximately a 3 x 3 foot space. The other beans occupied a 3 x 5 foot space. There’s no doubt that I could buy the 10 pounds of organic dried beans I use per year without any work at all, but I want to see if I can get 5 to 10 pounds of my own beans to have on hand for winter eating without too much space being used and without cutting too much into the time I need for things that are have-to-haves.
    I — like you — much prefer the green beans —- that keep on coming until frost in the same space. So — I’ll probably do the dried beans again next year to enable me to know what I really want to do.

    I finished shelling the Taylor Dwarf Horticulture beans today. Out of the 30 that I planted I got 1 1/2 pounds of dried beans.
    I know home-growns are fresher and tastier than ones you buy — so my tasting them this winter will also play a part in what I finally decide to do.
    By the way — always good to have you comment. I think you’ve grown about everything there is to grow and I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

    Hi Mary,
    I’ll store the beans in a container in a cool, dry place which will probably be my cupboard that stays very cold in winter and cool in summer.

    I too have read in various catalogs about putting the beans in the freezer for a few days to kill bean weevils. So far I have not noticed any small holes in the beans that would indicate weevils. I’ll check again before storing and if I don’t see anything I’ll just store without freezing.

    The primary thing I’d be concerned about when freezing is the moisture that collects. If I did freeze them I would leave them out to dry some more after their time in the freezer just to make sure there was no moisture to carry over to storage.

    Glad you brought that up Mary. I think it’s an important point.

  • We have tried a few varieties with some success. Our favorites are Black Turtle, Nora Day (a white bean), and Grape (little round red-purple beans). We eat a lot of beans, either dried or fresh/frozen. Most years we just don’t grow enough ourselves. My husband wants to dedicate a whole garden just to beans!

  • Hi Theresa,
    What is a green shell bean? I’ve been looking at beans, and some are described as being both a green shell and a dry shell.

  • Susan, some beans can be harvested when mature but still in their green pod or shell or they can be harvested after the pod dries. That would be both a green shell and a dry shell bean.

    The Taylor Dwarf Horticultural beans that I grew this year could be eaten as a snap bean (the young green bean) — or they could be shelled and eaten when mature but the pod still green — or they could be dried and then shelled and the bean eaten.


  • Have you ever tried Christmas Limas? I am toying with the idea of erecting a couple pole teepees to grow them, but would love to get an idea of how much they’ll produce first. I figure six poles per tepee, with four seeds planted around each pole…that would make a total of 48 plants.

  • Theresa, have you eaten any of those beans yet. Do they taste any better than store bought. I have grown Christmas limas, but only got a handful harvested. Could have been in a bad spot or poor weather, though. May try once more in optimum conditions before I give up.

  • No I have not. But I can hardly wait to try them, so will let you know as soon as I do. 🙂

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