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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Snap 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.

Snap beans–also called green 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.

There are two types of snap beans, bush types and pole types. Bush beans grow low as a free-standing bush. Bush snap beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. they are ready for picking in about 60 days and the harvest time lasts a week or two. Pole snap beans are a good choice when you have very little garden space; they grow up to 8 feet tall or more. Pole beans have a longer harvest season than bush beans and they produce more pods.

Here is your complete guide to growing snap beans.

Quick Snap Bean Growing Tips

  • Direct 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–when all danger of frost is past.
  • 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 Snap 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 or aged manure 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.

Good Products for Growing Your Garden

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

Snap Beans Planting Time

  • Beans grow best in warm weather. Beans will grow in temperatures as low as 50°F and as warm as 85°F (10-29°C), but the ideal temperature for sustained plant growth is about 72°F.
  • 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 date.
  • 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 Snap 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) or greater; warm soil is essential for bean growth.
  • 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.
  • Pole bean vines grow best with support. Set trellis support, teepee poles bamboo poles, 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 household member.

Planting Bush Snap Beans

  • Sow the first row of bush snap beans about a week after the last frost in spring.
  • Presoak bean seeds for 1 to 4 hours in just lukewarm water before you plant them.
  • Plant bush snap beans 1 inch deep and 3 to 5 inches apart. Space rows 12 to 24 inches apart.
  • A half pound of seeds will plant a 50-foot row.
  • Plant bush beans in containers at least 12 inches deep with 6 inches between plants; germination occurs in 7 to 14 days.
  • Sow succession crops of bush snap beans every 10 days through the spring.

Planting Pole Snap Beans

  • Plant pole snap beans in early summer, a few weeks after the last frost; pole snap beans are more sensitive to cold than bush snap beans.
  • Plant pole beans in a straight row at the base of a trellis or other support, or group a few seeds at every pole it planting a bean tripod or other supports.
  • Plant pole snap beans 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. Space rows 24 to 36 inches apart.
  • A half pound of seeds will plant a 50-foot row.
  • Pole beans grow well in containers; set a trellis or other support in place at sowing time. Use a container that can support a trellis and a large plant.

Watering Snap 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. Beans in constantly wet soil will suffer root rot.
  • 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 Snap 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 for Snap Beans

  • Plant bush beans alongside celery, corn, cucumbers, potatoes, rosemary, strawberries, and summer savory.
  • Plant pole beans with corn, rosemary, summer savory, scarlet runner beans, and 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 Snap 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 roots.
  • 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 Snap 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.
  • Set pole beans toward the back of your container garden so that they do not shade smaller plants.

Snap Bean Pests

  • Beans can be attacked by aphids, Mexican bean leaf beetles, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, bean weevils, leafhoppers, mites, and slugs.
  • Aphids, leafhoppers, and spider 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, kaolin, or soapy water. Spray the whole plant. Early in the season exclude these pests with row covers.
  • Protect bean seedlings from cutworms by placing open-bottom cans or containers around each seedling.
  • Control slugs with diatomaceous earth spread around the base of plants.

More tips: Bean Growing Problems: Troubleshooting.

Snap Bean Diseases

  • Beans are susceptible to powdery mildew, anthracnose, blight, black spot, 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 overhead watering of beans; wet conditions leave beans susceptible to fungal diseases. A common disease is downy mildew, a fungal disease that causes a white or purple downy growth on the undersides of leaves.
  • 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.
  • At the end of the season following harvest, it is best to remove each entire plant so that pests and diseases do not overwinter in the garden.
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 Snap 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 Snap Beans

  • Unshelled green beans can be kept for 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 can also be dried on the vine or off the vine in a dry place. Drying beans in the pod works best. Once dry, store both shelled and unshelled beans in a cool place.

Snap Beans in the Kitchen

  • Eat edible pod snap beans raw or lightly cooked.
  • Use snap beans in casseroles, braises, soups, and quiches.
  • Use fresh-shelled snap beans in soups, stews, salads, and vegetable side dishes.
  • Dried beans can be soaked overnight and served as a vegetable side dish or added to salads, soups, stews, and stir-fries, or used as a main dish.
Snap beans harvested
Green beans are green but other snap beans can be yellow, purple, or speckled depending on the variety.

Snap Bean Varieties To Grow

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

Heirloom snap bean varieties

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

  • ‘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 the 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.

More recommended snap bean 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).

Other bean varieties

There are other bean varieties that can be grown in your bean patch. Here are a few:

  • Shell beans: ‘Borlotto’. ‘Chevrier’, ‘French Horticulture Bean’.
  • Dry beans: ‘Great Northern White’, ‘Jacob’s Cattle’, ‘Vermont Cranberry’.
  • Lima beans: ‘Fordhook 242’, ‘Henderson Bush’, ‘King of the Garden’.
  • Fava bean: ‘Broad Windsor’, ‘Aguadulce’, ‘Con Amore’, ‘Loretta’, ‘Sweet Lorraine’, ‘Windsor Long Pod’.
  • Chickpea: ‘Chickpea’, ‘Garbanzo’, ‘Gram’, ‘Kabuli Black’.
  • Cowpea (Black-eyed pea): ‘California Blackeye #5’, ‘Dixie Lee’, ‘Elite’, ‘Mississippi Purple Crowder’.
  • Kidney bean (variety of common bean): ‘Borlotti’, ‘Caparron’, ‘Cranberry’, ‘Yin Yang’, red and white kidney beans are also called cannellini beans.
  • Runner bean: ‘Scarlet’, ‘Scarlet Emperor’, ‘Ousidepride’.
  • Soybean: ‘Early Hakucho’, ‘Envy’.

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

About Snap 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.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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