Monday, February 4, 2013

blue jay bush bean

Thanks to a question from a customer a little while back, I have been trying to track down as much information as possible about the Blue Jay bush bean. This is a variety that I started growing in 2011, after scoring some at a seed exchange; the person who swapped them had done a trial run with them the previous growing season, so as far as I know they were the one to introduce this variety to my neck of the woods {from a preservation project just south of us}.

Besides some whispered rumours, I knew very little about the history of this lovely bean. So after some digging, I came up with a wee bit more, which I will share here. There are many other heirlooms that I adore, and it is my hope to spotlight more of them in the near future. Perhaps this will be a new "regular" feature on this blog.

The Story

The Blue Jay bush bean has dark navy blue/sometimes almost black colouring with splashes of white or beige. The flowers are a lovely pink or purple which attract all sorts of pollinators. From what I understand it is Canadian in origin, and one of its parent plants is the Comtesse de Chambord.

This is still a very rare heirloom variety that almost vanished. Thanks to a preservation project with Seeds of Diversity and Everdale Organic Farm & Learning Centre, gardeners will hopefully be able to enjoy these pretties for generations to come!

To read more about the history and preservation of the Blue Jay Bush Bean, check out the write up over at A Bean Collector's Window.

Growing Conditions

Being a bush bean, there will be no need to trellis the plants and you could probably do well growing Blue Jays in large containers. Like with all bush beans, you need to grow them in full sun and in well-draining soil, preferably with a pH between 6.0 to 6.5. 

Blue Jays seem to tolerate crowding fairly well I have had excellent harvests in both a hot and dry growing season and a cold and wet one.

Some plants that are known to be good companion planting matches with bush beans are peas, radishes, roses, cucumbers, lettuce, carrots, marigolds, strawberries, cabbage, beets, celery, eggplant, corn, sunflowers; avoid growing with onions.

Plant the seeds directly in the ground after the danger of frost has passed, 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart.

Personally I think that bush beans are one of the easiest plants to grow. While it is never good to neglect any plant, you are probably more apt to kill a bush bean off quicker by over watering than by missing a watering session or two. 

Should you decide to fertilize them {which to me is not necessary}, make sure that whatever you are using is not too high in nitrogen. Too much of that will mess with the pod setting. The only pest I have ever had any issues with when it comes to bush beans are earwigs {*grrr*}, but other ones to keep an eye out for are leafhoppers, aphids, and spider mites.


The really wonderful thing about Blue Jay bush beans is that you can either enjoy them green or dried. Given that they are very prolific, someone who grows them will have a great opportunity to try them both ways! For green beans it takes about 65 days to reach maturity and 90 days for dried beans.




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