The Lazy Gardener: Beans

Beans are the coolest. The are a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means the plant naturally produces nitrogen, a nutrient we often add to the soil in the form of fertilizer. The way I understand it, the nitrogen the bean plants produce actually end up being used up by the plant rather than adding a ton of additional nitrogen to the soil. But it’s almost like they do since they do not really need additional nitrogen nor will they pull a lot of it from the soil, which could be used by surrounding plants.

Besides that beneficial characteristic, they seem to be pretty innocuous when it comes to disease. They don’t seem to be nearly as susceptible to detrimental diseases and pests that kill the plant and live in the soil. It was with that in mind last year that I put my bean raised bed “to bed” the lazy way, allowing me to add more nutrients to the soil as the plant broke down over the winter with hardly any work at all.

When you’ve harvested all your beans and your plants start looking like this, follow this process for a raised bed that will be ready for planting in the spring!

Cut down the bean plants and roughly cut up large stems. Leave all of the plant material covering the soil in the bed – the leaves especially!

Give it a jump start by watering the bed a bit and then cover the entire thing with burlap.

Leave it be over winter and come spring time, it will look like this:

You’ll have to remove some of the big, stringy sticks that didn’t break down, but you’ll be surprised how much decomposed.

Then, you’re done and ready to begin planting! Being lazy might not be such a bad thing after all.

* Remember, this would not be an appropriate technique to use with plants that already have some disease or are generally susceptible to soil-borne diseases and pests that could over-winter. My brassicas (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), solenacea (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), and cucurbits (summer and winter squash) always come out and are composted. I never leave those leaves or decaying fruit in my raised beds so as to not perpetuate disease and pests in my little farm. The general rule is that sanitation, or good garden clean-up, is one of the best ways to prevent pests and diseases in your garden. So, remember to keep that in mind!


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