Plant bush beans every 10 days or so for a continuous harvest throughout the season, or plant bush beans early in the season for a harvest before pole beans are ready or late in the season to claim one more heavy harvest ahead of frost.
Snap beans—bush and pole varieties–are harvested young and tender; you eat them pod and all. Bush snap beans are mild flavored; pole snap beans have a more pronounced bean flavor. Both will be tender if harvested young when the pod tips are still soft, both will be tougher if left on the plant too long.
Bush beans are determinate—meaning they grow to a certain size (about 2 feet tall), blossom, turn out a single flush or harvest of beans and then die. Bush beans come to harvest almost all at once then pickings quickly dwindle. Pole beans are indeterminate—meaning they continue growing through the season, require support as they vine, and flower and produce pods through the season spreading bean production out over the length of the season.
Bush beans are a good choice if you want your crop to be ready almost all at once for canning or freezing. A succession of bush beans plantings will give you a higher yield continuously through the season. But one pole bean plant will yield more pods than one bush bean plant.
Snap beans demand warm air and soil to grow. Sow beans in spring after the soil has warmed to at least 60°F. To get off to the quickest start, start bean seeds indoors two to four weeks before the last frost. While the seeds are germinating indoors, place black plastic sheeting over the growing bed to warm the soil in advance of transplanting out starts. Bean seeds will rot in cold, wet soil, and frost will kill seedlings; there is little advantage to putting beans in the garden until the weather has warmed.
Recommended Bush Snap Bean Varieties:
- Black Valentine: black pods to 6 inches long, heirloom (from 1897), does well in cool soil; 50 to 70 days to harvest.
- Blue Lagoon: sweet, tender, dark green pods to 6 inches; 56 days to harvest.
- Blue Lake 274: long round, dark green pods, 5 to 6 inches long, 18-inch tall plants; 52-60 days to harvest.
- Contender: plump, curved pods, 5 to 7 inches, bushy plant, tolerates heat; 40 to 58 days to harvest.
- Derby: AAS Selection, tender, 7-inch green pods; 55 days to harvest.
- Earli-Serve: straight, tender, 4 inch pods, pick when young; 45 days to harvest.
- Florence: straight, tender, 6 ½ inch pods, disease resistant; 50 days to harvest.
- Goldcrop: shiny, yellow 5 to 6 inches, stringless pods; 45 days to harvest.
- Goldkist: long slender, golden-yellow pods, harvest when young; 59 days to harvest.
- Nickel: dark green, stringless pod to 4½ inches; 52 days to harvest.
- Provider: medium green, fleshy pods to 5 inches, dependable early; 50 days to harvest.
- Roc d’Or: yellow wax bean, long, straight round pods, buttery flavor; 57 days to harvest.
- Roma II: Italian green bean produces flat, flavorful 4 ½ inch pods, big yields; 59 days to harvest.
- Royal Burgundy: curved, round purple pods, 12 to 15 inches, bush, turns green when cooked; 50-60 days to harvest.
- Royalty Purple Pod: tolerates cool soil and partial shade, 4 to 6 inch pods; 52 days to harvest.
- Slenderette: dark green, slender, 5 inch pods, erect bushes; 53 days to harvest.
- Venture: long green, curve, lumpy pods, 5 to 6 ½ inches, easy to grow; 48 days to harvest.
Bush beans that produce over an extended period: Royal Burgundy, Bush Blue Lake, Cherokee Wax, Eagle, Black Valentine, Contender.
Bean Growing Tips:
- Soil. Plant in loose well drained soil; raised beds are ideal for growing beans.
- Feed. Add aged compost to the soil twice a year; you will not need to feed beans if the soil is rich.
- Planting prep. Water the seed bed before planting; this will aid germination.
- Sow. Plant seeds bush beans 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in all directions; or thin plants to 6 inches apart. Plant bush beans 3 inches apart in containers.
- Water. Water beans lightly after they emerge from the ground; increase watering when beans flower and give them the most water as harvest nears; let the soil just dry out between waterings.
- Protect. Cover plants with floating row covers if nighttime temperatures dip below 40°F; row covers will also exclude insects.
- Harvest. Pick snap beans when the pods are immature—the tip will be soft; eat snap beans very soon after harvest for best flavor.