Green beans, string beans, snap beans or haricot vert — no matter what you call these legumes, they are easy to grow and a delight to eat fresh from the garden. If you want to grow green beans in your garden, here’s everything you need to know.
You can also download my How Do I Grow Green Beans? one-sheet and keep the free resource handy for your reference.
Green beans, unlike shelling beans, are eaten pod and all. For kids and adults alike, the crunch of biting on a raw green bean is quite satisfying. They can also be steamed, blanched, sauteed or roasted and enjoyed with butter, salt and pepper, or added to soup and stews. With cream of mushroom soup and onions, green beans can be made into a casserole. Green beans are also a favorite of canners because a summer abundance can be enjoyed for months to come.
Though the name “string beans” has largely stuck, most modern beans lack the fibrous “string” down the seam of the pod. “Green beans” can also be a misnomer because there are yellow, purple and multi-color (green and purple) snap beans as well.
When, Where and How to Plant Green Beans
The first thing to note when planting green beans is whether they are bush beans or pole beans. Bush beans don’t climb or twine the way pole beans do. Instead, bush beans grow to a certain height, produce their fruit, then stop growing.
If planting bush beans, plan to spread out plantings 10 days about, which will spread out the harvest. Pole beans, on the other hand, will just keep climbing upward and producing until killed by heat or frost, so staggering the planting times is not necessary.
Regardless of what type you are planting, sow seeds outdoors 1 inch deep in fertile, well-worked soil after the last frost date in spring. Green beans grow best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, which is a range of slightly acidic to precisely neutral. A soil test will tell you if the soil is where it needs to be and what adjustments to make, if any. Green beans also require full sun — a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily.
Green beans may also be purchased as seedlings or you can start them yourself indoors. Three weeks before transplanting outdoors, sow seeds in sterile seed-starting mix kept at a temperature between 60° and 85° Fahrenheit, and they will germinate in 5 to 10 days. Keep the seedlings under grow lights so they don’t get leggy, and once the soil outdoors reaches 70°, plant them out.
In the days leading up to planting out seedlings, prepare them for the sun and wind by “hardening off.” Put the seedlings out for a short time on the first day — a half-hour — and increase the time spent outdoors each day for a week to 10 days. By the end of this period, the plants will be ready to receive a full day of direct sun.
If growing pole beans, provide a trellis for them to climb. There are many garden trellises for sale, but make one yourself rather easily with three to four bamboo stakes tied into a teepee. Plant about three seeds or seedlings around each pole, and the trellis will be covered in no time.
For bush beans, space seedlings or seeds about every 4-6 inches in rows of two, 12 inches apart, for an efficient method of growing and harvesting.
Water immediately upon planting and cover the ground with a layer of 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch. Mulch will retain moisture between rainfall and watering and will keep the soil warm on cool nights. Organic mulch provides nutrients as it breaks down and also has the benefit of creating a barrier between the plant foliage and pathogens in the soil.
In warm climates, sow more seeds in the garden at least 10 to 12 weeks before the first frost for a fall crop.
Varieties of Green Beans
Generally, when you see a seed labeled “green bean” it’s a cultivar of Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean or French bean. The scarlet runner bean is another species, Phaseolus coccineus, which can be enjoyed like a green bean when picked young, and it has the added benefit of attractive red flowers.
Antigua is a bush bean with 5-inch, uniform, dark green pods and good disease resistance. The plants grow 18 inches upright and mature in 55 days.
Blue Lake Pole is a popular Pacific Northwest variety that grows 7 feet tall with 6-7-inch pods that are popular for canning. plants mature in 75 days. There is also a bush-type Blue Lake with shorter pods.
Borsalino is a French bean with bright yellow pods that are at peak flavor when between 4 and 4 and a half inches long. It is a bush-type bean with vigorous, productive plants that grow up to 20 inches tall with good disease resistance. They mature at 60 days.
Carminat is a pole bean with slender purple pods harvested when they are 8-9 inches, though the slightly sweet pods turn green when cooked. Plants mature in 62 days
Celine has lilac-colored 5-inch pods on 20-inch bush-type plants. They mature in 55 days.
Dragon Tongue is a bush-type bean with green pods with flecks of purple. The pods can be enjoyed as a snap bean when young or can be picked when ripe and shelled. The plants grow 24–30 inches tall and mature in 60 days.
Kentucky Wonder is a popular heirloom pole bean. The plants reach 6-8 feet tall with flat, straight silvery-green pods that grow 6-8 inches long. Maturity in 70 days.
Purple Queen Improved is a bush-type with uniformly straight, purple 6-inch pods that turn green when cooked. The plants grow 20-24 inches and are cold tolerant.
Velour is a disease-resistant bush-type bean with striking, deep purple, smooth, round pods that grow 5 and a half inches long. Plants mature in 55 days.
Wyatt is a bush-type bean with productive, uniform plants and deep emerald green, tender pods that grow up to 6 and a half inches. Matures in 54 days.
Watering Green Beans
Green beans are shallow rooted, so staying on top of watering is imperative. They require 1 inch of water a week, or more during the hottest days of summer. Whenever there is less than an inch of rain in the forecast for a week, apply additional water.
Soaker hoses or drip irrigation next to the base of plants and set on automatic timers will ensure green beans always have the water they need. Just be sure to avoid overhead watering because getting plants wet will invite disease, especially if soil splashes on leaves. Always apply water at the base of plants, under the foliage.
Fertilizing Green Beans
As legumes, green beans work with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to provide their own fertilizer. All they really need from you is to be planted in soil that’s been generously amended with compost.
Green Bean Pests & Diseases
Though beans have few needs, vigilance is needed to stay on top of pest and disease issues.
The Mexican bean beetle, the most common pest of bean plants, is a cousin of the beneficial lady beetle. It has a pale orange back with small black spots and lays yellow egg clusters under the bean leaves that hatch into yellow larvae that look like tiny alligators. Check plants often for eggs and larvae and remove them by hand or try neem oil. Once established, they are hard to control organically. Floating row cover is a useful physical barrier between beetles and plants, but hard to use on pole beans.
Aphids are soft-bodied sucking insects that are vectors for plant diseases. As they eat plant leaves they excrete honeydew, which attracts ants and other insects. Check for aphids on the underside leaves. They are easily controlled by knocking them off plants with a sharp stream of water.
Thrips damage green bean leafs, flowers and pods, but they are so small, you likely won’t see them. A good defense is to keep your garden well maintained since thrips overwinter in weeds and plant debris.
Leafhoppers are small, light green or gray wedge-shaped insects that may show up in warm weather and damage bean foliage by sucking out plant juices, spreading diseases in the process. PyGanic 5.0, an organic, broad-spectrum contact insecticide made from pyrethrin, which is derived from Chrysanthemum, is a leafhopper control option. It should only be used in a targeted manner to avoid killing beneficial garden insects.
Bean common mosaic virus creates a mosaic pattern on leaves, and it stunts or kills plants. Affected plants should be removed from the garden and thrown away — not added to compost. Look for resistant varieties if mosaic virus has become an issue in your garden, and keep insects at bay to reduce transmission of the virus.
Bean rust is the most common fungal disease of beans. Avoid overhead watering and don’t touch the foliage or harvest the pods when the leaves are wet, to reduce spreading the fungus. And once the harvest is over, remove and destroy infected plants so the spores don’t overwinter and return next season.
Harvesting Green Beans
It’s important to pick pods before they get tough and stringy, which can happen if they are left on the plant for too long.
If you pick the pods of bush beans when they are young and tender, you may get a second or even third flush of pods. For pole beans, harvest at least twice a week to keep the plants productive.
The ideal size for harvesting pods is different from one variety to the next, so take note of what variety you’re growing and when the pods will be ready to pick.
Harvest with two hands to keep the vines from breaking as you pull the pods away.
Once harvested, enjoy green beans fresh or store them in the crisper drawer in a ban or container whole and unwashed for up to a week. They can also be frozen or canned.
What are your secrets to successfully growing green beans? Let us know in the comments below.
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Links & Resources
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joegardener Online Gardening Academy™: Popular courses on gardening fundamentals; managing pests, diseases & weeds; seed starting and more.
joegardener Online Gardening Academy Perfect Soil Recipe Master Class: Learn how to create the perfect soil environment for thriving plants.
joegardener Online Gardening Academy Beginning Gardener Fundamentals: Essential principles to know to create a thriving garden.
joegardener Online Gardening Academy Growing Epic Tomatoes: Tomato expert Craig LeHoullier joins me in leading this course on how to grow healthier, productive tomato plants and how to overcome tomato-growing challenges.
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