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 long others are 6 to 8 inches 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 wide and tall.
- Pole snap beans are tall growers, as tall as 8 to 10 feet 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.
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 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.
Beans Planting Time
- Beans grow best in temperatures between 50° and 85°F.
- The optimal growing soil temperature for beans is 60° to 85°F.
- 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. 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 deep, a bit deeper in loose, sandy soil.
- The minimum soil temperature for starting bean seeds in the garden is 50°
- Plant bush beans 3 to 4 inches apart; set rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
- Plant pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart; set rows 30 to 36 inches apart.
- Pole beans also can be planted on small hills or mounds–5 or 6 seeds to a hill; space hills 40 inches 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°
- Thin to the strongest seedlings from 4 to 6 inches 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.
- Grow beans in soil that is evenly moist. Give bean plants 1 to 1½ inches 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 wide and deep containers or larger.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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 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.
- 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