How To Grow Beans

Beans are an easy vegetable to grow in a summer garden. They are also fun for kids to grow.

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I have many fond memories of helping my dad sow seeds for beans and picking them in the summertime. The big seeds were easy for me to grasp in my small hands and always grew. I think every vegetable garden should include a row or two of beans. Here’s what you need to know to successfully grow beans in your garden this year.

Types of Beans to Grow

The first decision is whether to grow bush beans or pole beans.

Bush Beans

Bush beans stay short and generally don’t require any support. They produce most of their beans over a few weeks. Many gardeners plant a few short rows every few weeks to extend their harvest.

Pole Beans

Pole or climbing beans need a support to climb up. They usually take longer to produce beans than the bush type, but they bear beans for a longer period.

Once you’ve decided what you have room for in your garden, choose which variety of bush or pole beans you want to grow.

How to Grow and Care for Beans

Beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. The seeds are big, and the plants grow quickly. The planting instructions are basically the same for bush and pole beans.

  • Choose a sunny location: Like most vegetable-producing plants, beans grow best in a location with six-plus hours of sun a day.
  • Prepare the ground for planting: Beans like well-drained, loose soil with some organic matter mixed in. Avoid heavy clay soils that don’t drain well or sandy soils that drain quickly. For climbing beans, secure poles in the ground before planting. Many gardeners use bamboo poles tied together at the top to form a teepee. Because beans are legumes, they actually add nitrogen back to the soil, which helps other plants later on. So generally, you don’t need to fertilize them.
  • Sow bean seeds when your area is frost-free: Most beans prefer warmer soil temperatures, so wait until a week or two after your area’s last frost before sowing. If you live where summertime temperatures are hot and winters are mild, like the South and Southwestern U.S., sow in mid-to-late March to pick in June, and later in early August to pick in September. Why? Some beans stop producing flowers and beans when temperatures are consistently higher than 90 F.
  • Sow seeds approximately one inch deep: For bush beans, plant seeds about one inch deep and four inches apart, in rows. Leave about 18 inches between each row to give the beans room to grow and you room to harvest. For pole beans, plant several seeds evenly around the base of the climbing pole.
  • Water your beans when needed: Beans should be watered approximately once a week. If it rains, no need to water.
  • Protect your plants from rabbits and bean beetles: Rabbits love to eat newly emerged bean seedlings down to the ground. If you know there are wild rabbits around, fence off your bean patch or cover it with a floating row cover until the bean plants are taller and a nibble from a rabbit won’t bother them. Use this same row cover if your beans are attacked by bean beetles, which are yellowish-orange beetles with black spots.

How to Harvest Beans

Many bean varieties are ready to be picked 50 to 60 days after sowing. You can eat the beans as you pick them. If you find yourself with more than you can eat, consider sharing with your neighbors or freezing some to enjoy later.

  • Pick the beans when they “snap”: Beans eaten with the pod are ready to harvest when they easily snap in two. Depending on the variety, they may be three to eight inches long or longer at this point. Pick ripe beans every few days. This encourages the plants to keep flowering to produce more beans.
  • Avoid damaging the plants: When picking beans, support the plant with one hand and pick off the beans with the other to avoid breaking off stems. Removing just the beans will encourage the plant to keep flowering and produce more beans for a few weeks at least.

Once you start to grow your beans, you’ll discover there are many varieties to choose from, ranging from green beans to yellow wax beans to purple podded beans.

My personal favorite is a green bean called ‘Provider.‘ It never fails in my climate, produces lots of beans and tastes good, too, with no strings. Try it and other varieties, too. You never know which one will be your new favorite.

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Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.