Growing Green Beans in your Home Garden
Growing green beans is one of the most productive of our garden activities. Green beans are reliably pest-free and can be counted upon to produce a bumper crop for eating fresh or freezing.
They don’t need rich soil to grow well; as members of the legume family, they help build up the soil where they are grown.
There are two basic kinds of green beans: bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans don’t require support and produce their crop over a fairly short period, while pole beans, which are “Viney” and need a pole or trellis to climb, will continue to produce all season long if they are kept picked.
Beans grown for the pod, such as green snap beans, are the most common type of bean growing in the home garden, though some green beans are grown primarily for the bean itself and not the pod. Lima beans and edible soybeans are also popular.
Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures and should not be planted until after the danger of frost is past in the spring. The bush type is the most popular of the snap beans because it matures earlier and requires less space. Most varieties of bush snap beans will have pods ready for harvest 50 to 60 days from seeding.
Pole-type snap beans require stakes, a trellis, a fence, or some other type of support. They also require a few more days to mature their pods and they continue to bear over a longer period than the bush-type varieties.
They require about 65 days from seed to harvest. Snap beans reach their best stage of edible maturity when the seed within the pod is about one‑third developed. Varieties of shell beans are more suitable for shelling than for use in the pod. Varieties such as “Dwarf Horticultural” and “French Horticultural” are examples of good shell beans. They mature in 65 to 70 days and have a bush habit.
There are both pole and bush-type lima beans, which are sometimes called “butterbeans.” Several types of pole lima beans exist. In general, the pole types take longer for the pods to mature than do bush types. Lima beans often drop their blossoms during excessively hot or rainy weather. Edible soybeans are grown like bush snap beans.
They require a longer growing season, usually 80 to 100 days. Pick them when the pods are nearly full‑grown but before they begin to turn yellow. Shelling is easier if you drop the pods in a pot of boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes.
The length of time they should be left in the boiling water depends on how tender you like them. After draining the water from the pods, sprinkle them with salt. You can then squeeze the beans from the pods and eat them. Soybeans also can be grown for dry beans.
Plant bush snap beans in rows 24 to 30 inches apart. Plant seeds 2 to 3 inches apart in the row and 1 to 1 1⁄2 inches deep in a well‑prepared seedbed. It will usually take 1 pound of bush snap bean seed to plant 100 feet of row. Seed li‑ma beans about 4 to 5 inches apart in the row.
They do not produce well when they are crowded. Plant soybeans the same as bush snap beans. Plant pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 36 to 48 inches apart. You can have a continuous supply of beans by planting every two weeks until mid-August.
Choosing Beans Varieties
You have many varieties to choose from, from long slender French types to meaty Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder. Explore the seed catalogs (Seed Savers’ Exchange), and you’ll surely find several you’ll like.
Starting Beans From Seeds
In Spring, plant seeds about 2 inches apart in rows about 18 inches apart in warm, well-cultivated soil. Bean seeds won’t germinate well in cold soil. While we can plant carrots and beets early, beans must wait until the soil is at least 70 degrees. Plant about one inch deep, firm but don’t pack the soil over them, and water well. Keep the seedbed moist until the beans germinate.
New bean seedlings are vulnerable to cutworms, which chew them off at ground level. You can protect the new plants by wrapping the stems with small patches of aluminum foil, or you can allow the cutworms to help you with thinning the seedlings.
You want to end up with your bean plants about 4 inches apart. We also protect our new beans from hungry birds until they are about 4 inches tall by using hardware cloth tents.
Harvesting Green Beans
Harvest your green beans when they are about the size of a pencil, before the seeds inside start to bulge. Keep picking, and your bean plants (especially pole beans) will continue to produce throughout the season.
If you want to enjoy shell beans, let the seeds grow nice and fat, but harvest before the pod starts to dry out. Then shell them and enjoy the tender beans inside by including them in soups.
Allowing the beans to mature and the pods to dry will give you protein-rich and long-storing dried beans. Harvest the pods when they are tan-colored and thin-skinned, but before they split open, and scatter the seeds. Let them dry completely and shell the dried beans for delicious stews and soups.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy green beans is to sauté them in a little olive oil until they’re tender, then saute them with a sweet/sour/spicy combination of soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, honey, and chili paste. Adjust the seasonings in the sauce to suit your taste, add some cubed tofu, and serve over steamed brown rice for a real treat.
Once you try growing green beans we’re sure you’ll be hooked on this simple and nourishing vegetable from the garden.
Read More: How to Grow Mustard Greens in a Container
Diseases (Snap and Lima Beans)
Pod spots are dark, sunken, circular, or oval areas with brown borders and salmon‑colored ooze in the center; disease also occurs on leaves and stems. Do not save seed from diseased beans; use disease‑free seed; rotate crops; plow under bean residue.
Apply chlorothalonil at seven‑ to ten‑day intervals starting at the first sign of disease. Sulfur spray or dust can be used for disease control. Guard against phytotoxicity under certain weather conditions. Do not work with wet plants.
Bacterial Blights (bacteria)
Brown or tan dead areas on the leaves as spots or blotches, often with a yellow border; pods may also show brick‑red or brown sunken blotch‑es. Use disease‑free seed; avoid saving seed from one growing season to the next since bacteria can be carried to the seed; in severe cases, fixed copper fungicides applied at seven‑day intervals at the first sign of disease will assist in control.
Damping-Off and Seed Decay (fungi)
Failure of seeds to grow; death of young plants; poor stands. Buy seed treated with fungicides; plant a seed in warm soil. PCNB may be applied to the soil immediately before planting to suppress diseases caused by Rhizoctonia solani.
Root and Stem Rots (fungi)
Brown, decayed areas on the lower stem and decayed roots, resulting in wilting, poor top growth, and death of plants. See “Damping‑Off ” above; rotate beans to another part of the garden from year to year so that root de‑cay fungi won’t build up in the soil. PCNB may be applied to the soil immediately before planting to suppress diseases caused by Rhizoctonia solani.
Small, rusty‑brown spots (pustules) on leaves; mainly a late‑season or fall garden problem. Use resistant varieties; chlorothalonil spray or sulfur dust will help prevent the disease; do not use chlorothalonil within seven days of harvest.
Bean Mosaic (virus: may include several different aphid-carried viruses)
Yellowing, crinkling, downward cupping of leaves; mo‑saic yellow and green patterns on leaves; dead areas along veins; on the vine and run‑ner types, dieback of the growing tip; dis‑ease carried to beans by aphids from clovers. Avoid planting beans near white or red clover or other legumes; plant bush beans or other resistant varieties; destroy legumes and other weeds near the garden; plant successive crops of beans; increased plant seeding density may also help.