Beans come in two different varieties that grow in very distinct ways. Bush beans form clumps or bushes close to the ground and won’t need any support as they mature. Pole beans, on the other hand, will grow in a vine form that needs the structure of a trellis, fence or pole to be healthy. Pole beans take a little longer to mature, but they will produce fruit over a longer period of time.
There are green and lima beans in both bush and pole varieties, but yellow beans are only available in the bush variety. Tastes range from slightly bitter to sweet and crisp. And beans can be eaten on their own or in soups and stews, baked, boiled or steamed, among other cooking methods.
Best Soil for Growing Beans
Beans thrive in full sun and love a well drained soil rich in organics. Be sure to mix compost into the garden before planting out and plan to apply fertilizer on a regular basis for the best harvest.
When to Plant Beans
Beans of all sorts are not especially hardy and don’t like the cold. Keep them protected and warm until two weeks after the last threat of frost has disappeared. If you want to start bean seeds in the greenhouse, plant them in a seed pot about six to eight weeks before the last frost date for your area.
How to Plant Beans
Your bean plant spacing will depend on the particular variety chosen. Bush beans need to be about 3” to 10” apart in the row (closer to 3” for yellow beans and 10” for bush lima varieties), while pole beans should be between 18” and 36” apart (closer to 18” for pole limas and up to 36” for other pole varieties like green).
Rows should be about 3 feet apart, although double rows are commonly planted as well. Double rows allow bean plants to support each other a bit. Remember to include a sturdy trellis, fence or stake for the pole bean variety and gently wrap or tie the vine to the support as it grows. Make sure the structure is tall enough for a mature bean plant.
Proper Care of Beans
Keep your bean plants well watered, but try not to get the leaves wet. Whenever possible, water directly onto the soil. Weed often and keep your pole beans well supported and secure. This will make sure air flow around the foliage is adequate, keeping bugs and disease away.
Feed your beans regularly, at least once a month throughout the growing season. Side dress once the first flowers are visible by lightly turning fertilizer into the soil along side the rows.
When to Harvest Beans
Most bean seeds take between 60 to 90 days to mature. In warmer climates, bean seeds can be planted early and a second batch can be sown for a fall harvest. Watch for the bean to reach full size and harvest before the pod becomes too large or thick, otherwise it will lose its sweetness. If you’ve planted dry beans, like navy, black or fava, you can let the pods dry right on the vine and pick when they are finished drying.
How to Harvest Beans
Snip, pinch or pluck pods off of the vine while they are still tender. Kids love to pick beans since they are so plentiful on the plant and removed easily. For dried beans you’ll need to shell the beans out of the pod. But for green and yellow beans, simply pluck and use as you want to - the pod is the food.
Common Bean Pests and Diseases
Beetles are big fans of beans in the garden. They can be discouraged using an organic insecticidal soap spray or fine netting over the plant. Sometimes netting can be hung from the stakes or support fencing. For bush beans, simply lay the netting right over the plants.
Rabbits are another pest that has the potential to destroy your bean plants. Use a raised, fenced off garden bed or heavy duty netting to deter rabbits. Deer are another potential problem and will be discouraged mainly through netting, although it may require something heavy and staked down.
Beans are susceptible to bacterial issues and mildew build up, especially if the leaves remain wet. Keep a good amount of air flow through the plant and watch for the condition to clear up naturally.
Gardening Tips and Tricks for Growing Beans
Most importantly, when you’re growing beans of any variety you need to keep the air flowing freely around the plant. This may mean more supports so that they do not need to share, avoiding the crowded, dirty conditions of some bean patches. Keep your support secure and thin out the weeds often. Feed and water well for a good harvest.
You will enjoy the fruit of your labors with a pot full of beans to boil for dinner. A longtime favorite across the globe, beans are fairly straightforward to grow. They produce a nutritious snack that also compliments many meals, from modern cuisine to traditional fare and everything in between.