Classified ads helped me grow 137 1/4 pounds of green beans last year on only two 30-foot rows of my rented garden plot in Fairfax.
After danger of frost was past, I spaded the ground deeply, raked it smooth, and marked off two rows two feet apart. This accomodated newspaper sections when the time came to mulch.
Before I planted the "Kentucky Wonder" seed -- which I bought because the sale price was irresistible -- I took a three-cornered hoe and made two furrows two inches deep. The beans were planted five inches apart, using up 31/2 half-ounce packets, and covered with a half-inch of fine soil.
Most gardeners sow beans thick and thin them when they are about two inches tall; I use the Fant method: The day I plant I also start about 25 seeds in two-inch pots. When the seedlings are up about two inches in the garden, I wait for a cloudy day and transplant the pot-grown plants to the skips where seeds failed to germinate or the plants are puny. This keeps everything coming along uniformly.
When all of the beans have two fully developed leaves I am ready for the newspaper to help me keep down weeds and mulch the center of the two rows. In order for the mulch to last the entire growing season, the newspaper should be overlapped by half, like shingles, and weighed down with few rocks, clods or pebbles.
If you try to mulch with one page thickness you'll be sorry; it will "bio-degrade"after a couple of rain showers and backbreaking weeds will move in.
You probably noticed I haven't said anything about fertilizer. Perhaps I should have scratched some in while I was preparing the ground but I was just lazy. The soil had the proper chemical balance and didn't need any pulverized limestone. After the beans were three inches high I used all-purpose liquid 15-30-15, which feeds through both roots and leaves if sprayed on. I mixed it using one tablespoon to a gallon of water and applied it every 10 days through August, 15 gallons per row at each feeding, pouring the solution liberally around the stems.
Just before the beans started to put out runners, I constructed a sturdy 8-foot "fence" between the two rows using four 10- foot angle-iron posts reinforced with stakes. The beans climbed on chicken wire strung between the posts. I gave the fence extra strength by lacing wire through the top tier.
I must also credit unlimited well water. I ran a soaker hose down the center of the two rows and left it there all summer, using it about three times during dry spells; this kept the blooms from dropping and prevented the tiny new beans from drying up.
On July 4th, 65 days after planting, I harvested the first five pounds. I religiously recorded and dated my pickings on an old envelope kept on top of the refrigerator.
My chart indicates that the patch peaked on July 10 with 151/2 pounds. The vines rested near the end of July and then peaked twice on 12 and 17 August with 111/2 pounds on each of those days.
Did I have beans? I had beans coming out my ears, beans I haven't used yet. I gave beans to my friends, neighbors and relatives. And it all came from less than 20 cents worth of seed!