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How to Grow Beans

How to Grow Beans
Growing beans
How to Grow Beans: Snap beans are tender annuals that grow best in temperatures between 60° and 85°F.

Green beans–also called snap beans–are tender annuals best planted shortly after the last frost in spring. Snap beans are grown for fresh eating or for canning.

The color of snap beans can vary. Green beans are green but other snap beans can be yellow, purple, or speckled depending on the variety. Yellow snap beans are sometimes called wax beans.

The pod size of snap beans can vary as well; some are just 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) long others are 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) long or longer, and pods can be round or flat.

  • Sow snap beans in the garden just after the average date of the last frost in spring.
  • To get an early start on the season, sow snap beans indoors as early as 3 or 4 weeks before the average last frost date for transplanting into the garden a week or two after the last frost.
  • Bush snap beans are compact growers, about 24 inches (61cm) wide and tall.
  • Pole snap beans are tall growers, as tall as 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3m) growing on a trellis or support.
  • Pods on bush beans come to harvest over a two week period; pole bean plants will produce pods for a month or more.
  • For continuous fresh harvest through the growing season, sow a succession crop of bush snap beans every two weeks.
  • Snap beans can continue in the garden until the first frost in fall.
  • Beans will not set pods in temperatures above 80°F (26.7°C).

Where to Plant Beans

  • Grow beans in full sun, 8 hours of sun or more each day. Beans will grow in partial shade but the harvest will not be full.
  • Grow beans in well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
  • Prepare planting beds in advance by working 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) of aged compost into the soil.
  • Avoid planting beans where soil nitrogen is high or where green manure crops have just grown; these beans will produce green foliage but few beans.
  • Beans prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.

More on planting at Preparing to Plant Beans.

Snap bean seedlings
Sow snap beans in the garden after the last frost in spring.

Beans Planting Time

  • Beans grow best in temperatures between 50° and 85°F (10-29°C).
  • The optimal growing soil temperature for beans is 60° to 85°F (15-
  • 29°C).
  • Start beans indoors as early as 3 or 4 weeks before the average last frost to get a head start on the season.
  • Start beans indoors in biodegradable peat or paper pots that can be set whole into the garden so as not to disturb plant roots. Beans may not survive transplanting if their roots are disturbed.
  • Set transplants in the garden two weeks after the last frost.
  • Start beans from seed in the garden two weeks after the last frost.
  • Sow bush beans every two weeks for a continuous harvest or follow bush beans with longer-maturing pole beans.
  • Beans will not set pods in temperatures above 80°F (26.7°C). Time your plantings to avoid hot weather.
  • Beans can continue in the garden until the first frost in fall.
  • In mild-winter regions, beans can be sown in autumn for winter harvest.

More tips: Beans Seed Starting Tips.

Planting and Spacing Beans

  • Plant bean seeds 1 to 1½ inch (2.5-3.8cm) deep, a bit deeper in loose, sandy soil.
  • The minimum soil temperature for starting bean seeds in the garden is 50°F (10°C).
  • Plant bush beans 3 to 4 inches apart; set rows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.
  • Plant pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart; set rows 30 to 36 inches (76-91cm)apart.
  • Pole beans also can be planted on small hills or mounds–5 or 6 seeds to a hill; space hills 40 inches (101cm) apart.
  • Set a trellis, teepee poles or stakes, or other supports in place at planting time.
  • Bean seeds will germinate in 8 to 10 days at 70°F (21°C).
  • Thin to the strongest seedlings from 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) apart. Remove weaker seedlings by cutting them off at soil level with scissors being careful not to disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings.
  • Beans can be crowded at planting time; they will use each other for support.
  • Grow 4 to 8 bean plants per each household member.

Watering Beans

  • Grow beans in soil that is evenly moist. Give bean plants 1 to 1½ inches (2.5-3.8cm) of water each week.
  • Do not soak seeds in advance of planting and do not over-water after sowing. Bean seeds may crack and germinate poorly if the soil moisture is too high at sowing.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist during flowering and pod formation. Beans in dry soil will not flower or set pods.
  • Rain or overhead irrigation during flowering can cause flowers and small pods to fall off. Overhead watering also will leave beans susceptible to disease.
  • Mulch to conserve moisture once the soil temperature is greater than 60°F (15.6°C).

Feeding Beans

  • Beans are best fertilized with aged garden compost or commercial organic planting mix. Both are rich in plant nutrients.
  • Beans fix their own nitrogen; they set up a mutual exchange with soil nitrogen-fixing bacteria which produces the soil nitrogen beans require.
  • Fertilizing beans with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer will result in green leafy growth and few pods.
  • Avoid using green manures or nitrogen-rich fertilizers in advance of planting beans.

More tips: Bean Growing Tips.

Companion Plants

  • Plant bush beans alongside celery, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, rosemary, strawberries, summer savory.
  • Plant pole beans with corn, rosemary, summer savory, scarlet runner beans, sunflowers.
  • Do not plant beans with onions, beets, or kohlrabi.
Set tripods in place before planting pole beans. Select supports that are tall enough for the variety being grown.

Caring for Beans

  • Set poles, stakes, or trellises in place before planting pole beans. Select supports that are tall enough for the variety being grown.
  • Keep weeds away from beans; weeds compete for soil moisture and harbor pests and diseases.
  • Cultivate around beans carefully to avoid disturbing the shallow root system.
  • Do not handle beans when they are wet; this may spread fungus spores.
  • Do not grow beans in the same spot every year. Rotate beans to plots where lettuce, squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, or collards have grown in the past year or two.

Growing Beans in Containers

  • Bush beans can be grown in containers, but you may need several containers for a practical harvest.
  • Beans will grow in 8-inch (20cm) wide and deep containers or larger.

Bean Pests

  • Beans can be attacked by aphids, Mexican bean beetles, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, mites, and slugs.
  • Aphids, leafhoppers, and mites can be sprayed away with a blast of water from the hose or controlled with insecticidal soap. Look for eggs and infestations and crush them between your fingers and thumb. Pinch out and remove large infestations.
  • Mexican bean beetles, cucumber beetles, and flea beetles can skeletonize leaves. Hand-pick adults, larvae, and egg masses. Spray large populations with insecticidal soap, canola oil, or kaolin.
  • Control slugs with diatomaceous earth spread around the base of plants.

More tips: Bean Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Bean Diseases

  • Beans are susceptible to powdery mildew, anthracnose, blight, and mosaic virus.
  • Plant disease-resistant varieties.
  • Keep the garden clean and free of debris. Weeds and debris can host insects that carry disease.
  • Avoid handling plants when they are wet so as not to spread fungal spores.
  • Remove diseased plants; put them in a paper bag and put them in the trash.
  • Beans are susceptible to many soil-borne diseases; rotating beans so that they do not grow in the same location more than every three years will reduce soil-borne diseases.
  • Spray-mist beans with compost tea or a mix of 1 part skim milk to 9 parts water; both are anti-fungal solutions.
Beans ready for harvest
Pick green or snap beans when pods are young and tender, about 3 inches long or just before seeds begin to bulge and grow plump.

Harvesting Beans

  • Bush beans will be ready for harvest 50 to 60 after sowing.
  • Pole beans will be ready for harvest 60 to 90 days after harvest.
  • Pick green or snap beans when pods are young and tender, about 3 inches long or just before seeds begin to bulge and grow plump.
  • Bean pods that are bulging will be past their peak.
  • Cut or snap beans off of the plant; be careful not to tear pods from branches.
  • Continue to pick pods before they become mature so that the plant will continue flowering and producing new pods.
  • When seeds mature on the bush or vine, the plant will die.
  • Avoid harvesting beans when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Beans.

Storing and Preserving Beans

  • Unshelled green beans can be kept up to one week in the refrigerator.
  • Store beans in plastic bags or moisture-proof, airtight containers. Do not wash beans before refrigerating.
  • Shelled beans can be blanched and frozen for up to 3 months.
Snap beans harvested
Green beans are green but other snap beans can be yellow, purple, or speckled depending on the variety.

Bean Varieties To Grow

The most commonly grown beans are the green or snap bean and the yellow or wax variety. Most green or snap beans have been stringless since 1894 when Burpee introduced the stringless green pod bean.

Pods on bush beans come to harvest over a two week period. Stagger the planting of bush beans for a continuous harvest. Pole bean plants will produce for a month or more.

Here are four classic green beans to grow:

  • ‘Kentucky Wonder’:  an heirloom pole bean variety that produces 8-inch long pods on 6- to 8-foot (1.8-2.4m) long vines.
  • ‘Bountiful’: bush bean to plant for those extra early summer harvests and also late summer plantings for harvest before first fall frost.
  • ‘Bush Blue Lake’: bush plants with heavy yields of flavorful pods that are tender and crisp.
  • ‘Fortex’: “filet” beans with dark green, extra slender 7-inch (17cm) pods.

Here are several recommended varieties:

  • Green or snap bush beans: ‘Astro’ (53 days); ‘Blue Lake’ (56 days); ‘Contender’ (53 day); ‘Derby’ (55 days); ‘Gator Green’ (55 days); ‘Greensleeves’ (56 days); ‘Provider’ (53 days); ‘Slenderette’ (53 days); ‘Tendercrop’ (53 days); ‘Tendergreen’ (57 days); ‘Tendercrop’ (53 days); ‘Triumph’ (52 days); ‘White-Seeded Provider’ (50 days).
  • Yellow wax bush beans: ‘Brittle Wax’ (55 days); ‘Cherokee’ (55 days); ‘Earlywax Golden Yellow’ (50 days); ‘Goldcrop’ (50 days); ‘Gold Mine’ (47 days); ‘Gold Rush’ (54 days); ‘Kinghorn’ (50 days); ‘Pencil Rod’ (52 days); ‘Sunrae’ (55 days); ‘Wax Romano’ (59 days).
  • Purple bush beans: ‘Purple Queen’ (55 days).
  • Green pole green or snap beans: ‘Blue Lake Pole’ (65 days); ‘Kentucky Wonder’ (60 days); ‘McCaslan’ (65 days); ‘Northeaster’ (60 days); ‘Scarlet Emperor’ (100 days); ‘Scarlett Runner’ (65 days); ‘Yard Long Beans’ (80 days).
  • Yellow and purple pole snap beans: ‘Cascade Giant’ (60 days); ‘Kentucky Wonder Wax’ (65 days); ‘Purple Pole’ (65 days) ‘Yellow Annelino’ (60 days).

Beans you can grow: Bean Varieties: Best Bets and Easy-to-Grow.

About Beans

  • Common names for green beans include green bean, snap bean, string bean, French bean, wax bean, pole bean, bush bean, stringless bean
  • Botanical name: Phaseolus vulgaris
  • Origin: South Mexico, Central America

More tips: Beans: List of Varieties and Broad Classifications.

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30 Comments

  1. I just have a balcony I am going to put a wall up for snap beans to climb on and make a single row. Is there any way for me to organize a succession planting under these conditions or will I just have to be happy with a single harvest?

    • If you are growing pole snap beans, you will get a long and continuous harvest as long as you pick the beans regularly; the more you pick the more the plant will flower and produce new beans. You will likely not need a succession of plantings if you use pole beans. If you do want a succession, plant your first crop in one container, then wait 3 or 4 weeks and plant your second crop. An alternative is plant bush beans which will not require a trellis to grow up. Plant one or two bush beans per container and plant succession from every 10 to 15 days. Any container grown crop will benefit from an ample container; that is where the soil containing all of the plant nutrients for that crop is contained and “fruit” producing vegetables demand lots of nutrients. Choose a container as deep and as wide as is practical for your space. A container at least 12 to 18 inches deep and wide would be a good choice for beans.

    • There are a few things you can do to support bush beans: (1) plant them close together so that they support one another; (2) stake each plant to keep it upright; a bamboo stake and some horticultural tape should work; (3) plant bush beans close to a fence or trellis that will give them some support to lean on. Rather than use a fertilizer, amend the planting bed with aged compost or a commercial organic fertilizer ahead of planting; this should be enough to feed them through the season.

    • Yellow beans are also known as wax beans. You can freeze wax beans. Wash the beans in cold water, snip and cut into 2 to 4-inch lengths. Water blanch for 3 minutes. Cool promptly, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

    • Use a commercial seed starting mix. Seed starting mixes do not contain soil, but commonly perlite, vermiculite, and peat. These mixes will ensure that your seeds and seedlings are not attacked by soilborne diseases. When your seedlings are about 2 to 3 inches tall transplant them to a commercial potting soil and grow them on until the plants can be set outside.

    • Get in touch with the agronomists at the Cooperative Extension Service near you in the U.S. In other parts of the world, check with the agriculture service for your region; you can also inquire with agronomists at a nearby college or university or online. Farming is specific to the region where you live; consult local sources.

  2. Is there a way I can send you a picture of my plants leaves, and maybe you could give me a clue as to what’s wrong and a possible way to fix or cure the issue?? The leaves look as if they have bleach spots on them. No visible pests and they are still flowering and I see pods, however this is the first time growing so not sure how well the plant is producing. I would greatly appreciate any feedback. Thank you

    • If the weather is very hot, the bleach spots may be sunburn; this can easily happen to beans with very thin leaves. Be sure not to water the leaves; water can magnify the sunlight which burns leaf tissue. Other possible reasons are too little water (the soil going dry between waterings), too much nitrogen–use a 5-5-5 fertilizer, herbicide drift–if you sprayed nearby plants. Mottled leaves can be a sign of virus infection, a virus can slowly overtake the plant. For site security, we can not accept photographs. If the problem persists, you can take a couple of leaves to a garden center or contact the Master Gardener organization near you.

    • Get in touch with a nearby government agriculture office or university agriculture department to speak with bean farming experts in your region. Your first concerns will be soil pH and fertility and then secondly irrigation if necessary. There are expert agronomists near you who can offer specific instructions or advice.

  3. We are in northern Virginia and we planted pole beans over Memorial Day weekend, in a container on our deck. We got two rounds of flowers and beans – we just finished harvesting the second round. Our plant is looking a little run down and we’ve had some cold nights so I am assuming we are not going to get a third round. How do I care for it now that harvesting is done, and over the winter, so it will come back strong in the spring?

    • Pole beans are annual plants (in the Northern Hemisphere). Remove the plants and compost them or place them in the trash. Plant new seed in late spring.

  4. Steve, I notice you do not mention inoculants or use the verb “inoculate.” . I inoculated my first beans where I live now, then subsequently just took a shovelful or two of that soil to the planting bed where I intended to grow the next bean crop. And so on.

    I’d love to know your views on this. I have no idea if the inoculant I used was necessary or superfluous, as I did not establish a control bed for beans that had not been inoculated.

  5. My Blue Lake green bean plants are doing quite well, that is until two days ago. A pair of well fed bunnies ate the top of almost every plant!!! The plants look good, all of them have leaves intact. They are about 6” tall. The bean plants, that is. Not the bunnies. Will the beans continue to grow without their top?

    • The critters probably nibbled away quite a few of the growth tips–those are the tenderest and tastiest. The plants will certainly make their best effort to regrow, but they may not grow as full. You might want to start a few more bean plants for insurance.

  6. Good day, may you kindly help on where i can find a bean harvester for bushy beans. i plant beans in Botswana and so getting labour for harvesting is always a problem. people don’t want to do hard work. Thank you.

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