Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Beans
Green beans are a staple of every vegetable garden because they are easy to grow—even in limited space—and incredible productive! Here is useful information on how to plant, grow, and harvest green beans—both the pole bean type and bush bean type.
All green beans are tender annuals. The main difference between bush and pole beans is the plants’ growing styles.
- Bush beans tend to grow more compactly (about two-feet tall) and do not require support.
- Pole beans will grow as a climbing vine that will grow 10 to 15 feet tall. Therefore, pole beans require a trellis or staking. Watch this video to learn how to support beans properly.
- Bush beans generally require less maintenance and are easier to grow, but pole beans typically yield more beans and are mostly disease-resistant.
- Bush beans produce before pole beans in about 50 to 55 days; pole beans will take 55 to 65 days.
- Bush beans often come in all at once, so stagger your planting every two weeks. Pole beans need their vines to grow and will produce for a month or two if you keep harvesting.
Though most green beans are indeed green, they also come in purple, red, yellow and streaked varieties.
- Beans are best grow in soil with normal fertility. Beans don’t need supplemental fertilizer as they fix their own nitrogen. However, poor soil should still be amended with aged manure or compost in the fall prior to planting.
- Seeds are best down directly in the ground anytime after the last spring frost; minimum soil temperature is 48 degrees F. Don’t plant too early or the cool soil will delay germination and the seeds could also rot.
- Do not start green bean seeds indoors; they may not survive transplanting.
- Sow bush bean seeds 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Plant a little deeper in sandy soils (but not too deep).
- For pole beans, set up trellises or tepees first for support. For a tepee: Tie 3 or 4 (or more) 7-foot-long bamboo poles or long, straight branches together at the top and splay the legs in a circle. Then plant 3 or 4 seeds around each pole (about 1 inch deep). As vines appear, train them to wind up the poles. For more stability, wrap string/wire around the poles about halfway up, encircling the tepee; this gives the vines something to grab. Plant pole seeds 3 inches apart.
- If you like pole beans, another easy support for them is a “cattle panel”—a portable section of wire fence—16 feet long and 5 feet tall. The beans will climb with ease and you won’t have to get into contorted positions to pick them.
- For a harvest that lasts all summer, sow beans every 2 weeks. If you’re going to be away, skip a planting. Beans do not wait for anyone!
- Rotate crops each year.
- Mulch soil to retain moisture; make sure that it is well-drained. Beans have shallow roots so mulch keep them cool.
- Water regularly, from start of pod to set, about 2 inches per week. If you do not keep beans well watered, they will stop flowering. Water on sunny days so foliage will not remain soaked.
- If necessary, fertlize after heavy bloom and the set of pods. Butavoid a high-nitrogen fertilizer or you will get lush foliage and few beans. Just add a side dressing of compost or composted mature halfway through their growing season.
- Weed diligently and use shallow cultivation to prevent disturbing the root systems.
- Pinch ou tthe tops of pole beans when they reach the top of the support to force them to put energy into producing more pods.
- In high heat, use row covers; hot weather can cause blossoms to drop from plants, reducing harvest.
- Cucumber Beetles
- Japanese Beetles
- Mexican Bean Beetles (These beetles eat the flowers, beans and especially leaves of beans.)
- Powdery Mildew
- Mosaic Viruses (Try to keep vines dry by not crowding plants and providing ample air circulation)
- Slugs/Snail (These pests are attracted to damp conditions.)
- White Mold (Avoid damp conditions)
- Harvest beans in the morning when their sugar level is highest.
- Green beans are picked young and tender before the seeds inside have fully developed.
- Pick green beans every day; the more you pick, the more beans grow.
- Look for firm, sizable that are firm and can be snapped, generally as thick as a pencil.
- Snap or cut off the plant, do not tear the plant. Fresh beans should snap easily when broken.
- Once you see the seeds inside bulging, green beans are past their peak and will taste tough.
- Store beans in a moisture-proof, airtight container in the refrigerator. Beans will toughen over time even when stored properly.
- Beans can be kept fresh for about 4 days, or blanched and frozen immediately after harvesting.
- Beans can also be canned or pickled.
The options are endless; here are some varieties to consider:
- Chinese (aka Asian) long beans: slender 1- to 2-foot pods. Try ‘Orient Wonder’, ‘Red Noodle’, or ‘Yardlong.’ All pole.
- French green beans (aka haricot verts): thin, tender, 3- to 5-inch pods. Try ‘Calima’, ‘Masai’, or ‘Maxibel’; in a container, plant ‘Mascotte’. All bush.
- Italian/Romano: wide, flat 6- to 8-inch pods even in the hottest summers. Try ‘Early Bush Italian’, extra-large-pod ‘Jumbo’, or ‘Roma II’. All bush.
- Purple beans: 5- to 6-inch pods are deep purpose when raw and turn green when cooked. Try ‘Amethyst’, ‘Royal Burgandy’, or ‘Velour’. All bush.
- Snap beans (aka string beans or stringless): slender, 5- to 7-inch pods. Try ‘Blue Lake 274’ (bush), heirloom ‘Kentucky Wonder’ (bush or pole), or ‘Provider’ (bush).
- Yellow wax beans: 5- to 7-inch pods with a milder flavor than green varieties. Try stringless ‘Cherokee’ (bush), classic ‘Golden Wax’ (bush), or ‘Monte Gusto’ (pole).
- ‘Bean Mascotte’ (bush): Compact, ideal for container gardens.
Wit & Wisdom
Beans are commonly used in everyday expressions to indicate something of little value. Consequently, someone who isn’t worth a hill of beans is seen as being worth very little, although one could argue that today a hill of beans actually costs a pretty penny.