Knowing how to grow green beans is an essential skill for any vegetable gardener. With proper care, you can enjoy harvest after harvest of crisp, flavorful, nutritious green beans all summer long. It is perfect, especially for those who love green beans or fresh beans.
In this guide to growing green beans, we'll go over everything you need to know about planting, growing, and harvesting green beans. To ensure a successful harvest, we'll first need to take a closer look at the two types of green beans.
Types of Green Beans
There are two types of green beans you'll need to know about: pole and bush. Though the vegetables they produce will look and taste nearly identical, they require different growing conditions and care. Knowing what variety you're growing is key to a successful harvest.
As the name suggests, bush beans grow in a compact bush-like bunch. They require less maintenance and are easy to grow, as they are relatively disease-resistant and don't require a stake or trellis for support. Plus, bush beans typically produce greater yields come harvest time. They're an excellent choice for inexperienced gardeners and first-time green bean growers.
Unlike bush beans, pole beans require extra support from a stake or trellis. Pole beans grow as long, climbing vines that can grow upwards of 10 to 15 feet long. You'll need to provide proper support to keep the beans off the ground and away from pests and diseases. They're better-suited for experienced gardeners.
Popular Green Bean Varieties
Not sure what type of green beans to grow in your garden patch? Check your local garden center for these popular varieties:
- French green beans (haricot verts)— Calima, Masai, Maxibel, Mascotte are all easy-growing bush beans that grow well in containers.
- Snap beans or string beans— These long, slender pods grow as both bush and pole beans. Blue Lake 274, Kentucky Wonder, Provider are a few popular varieties for home gardeners.
- Purple beans— The deep purple pods of the Amethyst, Royal Burgundy, or Velour varieties (all bush beans) turn a lovely green color when cooked.
- Wax beans— These long, yellow beans have a milder flavor than most green pole beans. The stringless Cherokee or traditional Golden Wax is great bush beans for a low-maintenance garden.
How to Grow Green Beans
Thankfully, green beans are relatively easy to grow. Both bush and pole beans do well in a variety of soil types and growing zones. They're largely disease-resistant and typically produce a large volume of beans per plant. While many other vegetables need to be started indoors and transplanted as seedlings, green bean seeds can be sown right into the ground come spring. You can do this for both bush bean seeds or pole bean seeds.
And did we mention they're absolutely delicious? Saute them with olive oil, roast them in the oven, chop them up for a hearty soup, or bake them in a classic green bean casserole. If you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen, try canning or pickling a few jars for your pantry.
Planting Green Beans
If you're growing green bean plants from seed, you can sow them outside any time after the last spring frost has passed. Unlike other vegetable plants, green bean seeds shouldn't be started indoors. Their delicate roots don't do well when transplanted.
Plant seeds before the last frost date often lead to late germination and rot. Cover your garden beds with landscaping fabric until the weather warms up to reduce the danger of frost damage. Or be sure only to plant green beans after all danger of frost has passed. The soil temperature should be at least 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting beans.
For a continuous harvest all summer long, sow bean seeds continuously every two weeks throughout the growing season.
Green beans grow best in well-drained soil that is slightly acidic to neutral (with a pH level between 6 and 7). While they can grow in many types of soil, they thrive in loamy soil that's rich in organic matter. Be sure to mix plenty of compost or manure into your garden beds or pots before planting. Add mulch around the base of your green bean plants to help their shallow roots retain moisture during scorching hot weather.
The correct spacing for green bean plants depends on what type you're growing.
- Bush beans should be sown 2 inches apart, and 1 inch deep in rows spaced 18 inches apart. Press your seeds a bit deeper if you're planting in sandy soil.
- Pole beans should be spaced 3 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Each row should be two to three feet apart.
If you're growing pole beans, you'll need to provide proper support and keep their long vines off the ground. Your trellis or stakes need to be around 5 or 6 feet tall to give the vines plenty of room to grow without competing for space. A teepee trellis is a great option for small gardens.
Caring for Green Bean Plants
Well-watered green bean plants produce larger volumes of tender, juicy beans. To avoid drying out their shallow root system, you'll need to give them around 1/2 inch of water per day. Water close to the roots and avoid getting the vines damp, as wet leaves can encourage plant diseases.
On hot summer days, you may want to use row covers to prevent your plant's roots from overheating or drying out. High temperatures can also cause the plant to drop its blossom, decreasing harvest sizes later on.
Both bush beans and pole beans should be fertilized once a month during the growing season. The plants naturally produce nitrogen, so avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen. A 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 fertilizer should do just the trick. For an organic alternative, mix in rich compost or well-rotted manure.
Weeding and Pruning
Instead of letting your pole bean vines grow wild, pinch off the tops when they reach the top of your trellises. Proper pruning helps support speedy bean production and often leads to better harvests. Weed regularly to prevent pesky intruders from disturbing your plant's delicate roots.
Pests and Diseases
Like all garden vegetables, green beans are susceptible to a variety of common pests and diseases:
- Stem anthracnose
- Beetles: Mexican bean beetles and Japanese beetles
- Powdery mildew
- Common blight and halo blight
- Snails and slugs
- Mites and aphids
- Bean rust
- White mold
Harvesting Green Beans
Green beans are ready for harvest when they're young, tender, and the seeds are not fully developed. Beans with seeds bulging out have stayed on the vine too long. They'll be tougher and less flavorful than beans that are firm and slender.
The best part about growing green beans is that the more beans you pick, the more beans grow! Daily picking supports a continuous harvest and prevents beans from going past their peak. It's best to pick them during the morning, as that's when the pods' sugar levels are at their peak.
Once harvested, your fresh green beans will be good for about four days in the fridge. Blanch or freeze them immediately after harvest to lock in as much flavor and nutrients as possible. Any extras can be canned or picked and stored in the pantry for a later day.
Store your freshly harvested green beans in an airtight container in the fridge. To prevent moisture build-up, wrap them loosely in a damp paper towel. While it's tempting to snap the ends off before storing them, wait until right before cooking to keep them as fresh as possible.