Whether you are looking for a healthy alternative to your current diet or just want to try something new in your garden, soybeans are a great option. Although they are not a traditional staple in most backyard gardens, it is possible to grow them in many areas. Find out when to plant soybeans and how to grow them.
When to plant soybeans: Soybeans can be grown as an annual in just about any location in North America. They like warmth, however, so you should wait until after the last frost date in the spring. Don’t rush the soybeans as they need warm soil and warm air to grow. Soybeans will be ready to harvest in 10 or 12 weeks, depending on the variety. Plant them in full sun with a neutral acidic level in the soil. A benefit of growing soybeans is that they will release nitrogen into the soil, which makes it a great plant if you are trying to practice crop rotation.
Planting Soybeans in Different Climates
Soybeans are native to Asia and can have very high humidity levels. You can definitely try soybeans out in a tropical climate. Just watch out for certain issues such as powdery mildew.
You can try to plant soybeans in a dry climate but keep in mind that they don’t like their soil to dry out. You will have to stick to a very rigid hand watering schedule to compensate for the lack of precipitation.
A temperate climate is ideal for soybeans. You don’t have to wait too long in the spring to plant them and the extra rainfall in the spring will help them get off to a great start.
Because of their versatility, you can plant soybeans in a continental climate. You will want to wait until late May to plant them outside as they need consistently warm temperatures both with the air and the soil.
If you have a warmer summer in a polar climate, you can try soybeans. However, they need full sun and warm soil and air, so this might not be the success you’re hoping for.
Can you grow soybeans in North America?
Soybeans, also known as edamame, have become a popular snack and many restaurants now feature them as a tasty appetizer. Most people are familiar with edamame but still associate it with Asia.
While it is true that soybeans are native to Asia, you can actually grow them in North America. What’s more, they are a low-maintenance crop and even beginners can grow them with ease.
Choosing Soybeans Seeds
This is a highly nutritious variety that has a sweeter flavor than other options. They are also called Black Pearl soybeans because when you cook them, they will actually turn a shade of black.
For those who are impatient, this is a great variety as it will mature early. The plants are short and stocky so you don’t have to worry about staking them.
This variety needs a bit more room in the garden as it grows to be quite bushy. It has a very high yield and soybeans are best when eaten fresh.
With a slightly nutty taste, this is a great variety if you like a bit more sweetness to your soybeans. Just be sure to pick the pods quickly as if you leave them on the plant for too long, the soybeans will start to dry out.
This is a fan favorite because the soybeans are nice and plump. The plants can be quite tall, so you may need to offer some support, but they are lean so won’t take up too much space in your garden.
How to Plant Soybeans Seeds
As a frost-tender crop, soybeans should go into the ground after your last frost date. Depending on where you live, this is usually late spring, around the middle to end of May.
Ideally, you want the air temperature to be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the soil to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plant too early, the soybeans can rot so don’t rush the process.
Prepare the soil
A month before you want to plant your soybeans, you can start to prepare the soil. This involves digging it up and adding an inch or two of compost.
The more nutrients you can get into the soil before planting, the healthier your soybeans will be.
For the best soil conditions, you want a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8, which translates to neutral soil that can be a little acidic. Furthermore, you can grow soybeans in the late spring in just about any area including planting zones 2 through 11.
Unlike other crops, it’s best to just direct sow your soybeans. Plant them shallowly, about ½ an inch deep, and then leave a space of two to four inches between each plant.
The pods on a soybean plant will mature at the same time and unless you want a massive feast in one night, it’s best to stagger the planting times. You can get two or three harvests of soybeans by planting batches a week apart.
Pick an area that has full sun. Soybeans like warmth and will need the sun to grow.
How to Water Soybeans
While overall soybeans don’t need a lot of maintenance, they do need a regular watering schedule. While some plants can withstand a bit of drought, you will find that your yield of soybeans will suffer.
As the temperatures start to increase in the summer, you may find you need to water your soybeans every day or two. Water the ground and not the leaves to prevent funguses from growing.
How to Grow Soybeans
After one or two weeks, your soybeans will start to germinate and pop up through the soil. Once they have been growing for a few weeks, you can then thin the plants so that there are six inches between each plant.
Weeds may pop up around your soybeans but be careful as soybean roots are rather shallow. Pull the weeds but do your best not to disturb your crop.
After your soybeans start to grow, you can apply a layer of mulch. Not only will this help keep moisture in the soil but it will help with weed prevention.
The key to success with soybeans is to properly prepare the planting area first. Add some compost to your garden before you plant your seeds.
As your soybeans grow, you shouldn’t have to add any fertilizer. This is especially true of nitrogen-based fertilizer as soybeans will naturally release this as they grow.
Midway through the growing season, you can add more compost around the plants so that you have extra nutrients in the soil.
When planning your garden, you want to group crops together that won’t compete for nutrients. The best companions for soybeans include corn, cucumbers, potatoes, and strawberries.
Try to avoid planting anything in the allium family, such as onions and garlic.
Pests and Diseases
Soybeans can attract some types of beetles. If you see holes in your soybean leaves, check the plant for insects.
You can remove beetles by hand or you can also try to spray them off with a hose to get any hidden larvae.
As for diseases, powdery mildew can be a common occurrence. Look for signs of white spots on the leaves or yellow leaves and smaller flowers.
Planting in full sun can prevent powdery mildew from forming, as can watering the base of the plant. If you have this fungus growth, remove the infected leaves and place them in the garbage.
How long do soybeans take to grow?
Soybeans take one or two weeks to germinate. After you plant them, you will have a crop in 10 to 12 weeks.
Each plant will have quite a few pods on them, as soybeans are high-yield plants. However, the pods are usually ripe all at the same time.
Staggering to the start date of your soybeans means you can have a more continuous harvest.
What is crop rotation?
You may see the term crop rotation come up when talking about soybeans. This might seem like a more advanced gardening practice but with a little bit of research, you can indeed start trying it out in your garden.
As plants grow, they use nutrients in the soil, which is why adding compost and fertilizer is important. You need to replenish the nutrients in order to grow more crops.
One of the most important minerals your garden needs is nitrogen but there are some plants, such as soybeans, that will actually release nitrogen back into the soil.
This is where crop rotation comes into play. Some plants, like tomatoes, leach tons of nutrients from the soil. You can then plant other crops, like soybeans, which will help re-balance the soil.
While soybeans are native to Asia, they can be grown in North America. Plant them in late spring for a summer harvest.