Unlike the magic beans of fairytales, planting your own green beans can only end happily ever after. Green beans are magically delicious, and the only giant you’ll battle is your craving for more.
Green beans are an extremely easy vegetable to grow. But there are ways to support your plants better and yield better harvests. Whether you’re an old pro or brand-new to the green bean gang, this all-encompassing growing guide offers background knowledge, pro tips, alternative methods, and foolproof ways to plant and harvest the best green beans.
Let’s get started!
What You Will Need
- Green Bean Seeds
- Soil Crust Deterrent
- Compost or a Similar Fertilizer
- Natural Pest Deterrent
- Common Gardening Tools
- Support Structure (Pole Beans)
- Mulch (Optional)
Types of Green Beans
Bush beans are the easiest green beans to grow. They are extremely low maintenance, easy to plant, require no support to grow, and are hardy throughout their maturation.
They grow in a bush formation that reaches heights between one and two feet, but otherwise grows horizontally.
The downside of bush beans is that harvesting them can be a hassle. Not only are they on the ground, but they also peak early; bush beans provide only one harvest per season, around 50 to 55 days.
Your back will hate you while you harvest, but be sure to remember while you spend a hot labor-intensive day in the sun picking every bean that you didn’t have to spend a similar day setting up a trellis.
Some popular bush bean varieties include Bush Blue Lake, Bountiful, Provider, and Tendergreen.
Meet the leggy, tall, gorgeous sister of the bush bean: the pole bean. Yes, she is high maintenance. Yes, she is a lot of work to plant. But boy, is she worth it.
Pole beans produce more—and longer!—than bush beans do. This is because they continually grow and produce beans, which means many harvests for you. It’s a nice exchange for the harder initial set-up and support maintenance.
Since they have more than one harvest and grow vertically, pole beans are also easier to pick than bush beans. You don’t have to harvest them all at once or spend a prolonged amount of time bent over.
Pole beans are a great option for people with limited garden space since they grow up not out, reaching heights between 8 and 15 feet.
The downside of pole beans is the work required to set up their support structure. Good support structure options include trellises, teepees, or towers. You also have to string the plant through the support structure, and in general, they take more work to successfully grow. That work will pay off though, five to 10 days after the bush beans are fully mature when you can easily harvest your delicious pole beans.
How to Grow Green Beans
Step One: Before the Beans
The best time to plant green beans is in the spring after the threat of another frost is a distant memory. If green beans are planted and then a frost occurs they will rot inside the soil, and then be soiled (I take full responsibility for that being terrible pun).
Make sure that the soil you are planting in is at least 50°F. Also, the soil that you use should be heavy with nutrients and organic matter. There should be a loamy quality or consistency to the soil. If your soil is very clay-heavy or lacks organic matter, it will help to add loam to the soil and either work it in by hand or use a small garden tiller to turn the soil.
The spot you plant the green beans needs to be sunny. This is important because not only is light necessary for green beans’ growth, it also keeps the soil dry which makes the green beans healthier. Green beans cannot thrive in soil that is too moist.
Pro Tip: If you are committed to getting an early-spring start to planting, put some black plastic (or lawn and leaf bags) over the top of your garden soil. This will help the soil trap and retain heat in cooler months, which allows you to plant earlier in the season.
Step Two: Plant the Green Beans
This is where two roads diverge; one down the pole bean path and the other down the bush bean path.
If you are planting pole beans, add the support structure before you put the beans in the soil. This way you will avoid damaging the green beans.
Whether you are planting pole or bush beans, add about one inch of compost or similar fertilizer to the soil before you plant the beans.
For bush beans: Plant the seeds at least one inch deep, every three to four inches in rows at least three feet apart.
For pole beans: Plant seeds about one in deep in mounds of soil several inches high. If you are planting multiple rows, space the mounds at least four feet apart.
Once the seeds are planted, cover the soil over the green beans with sand, peat, vermiculite or compost. This will prevent the soil from crusting over.
Water the seeds as soon as you plant them, not drenching the soil, but rather leaving it damp.
Pro Tip: If you are growing bush beans and want to spread out your harvest consider succession planting new bush beans every 2 weeks.
Step Three: Water the Beans
Your green beans need to be frequently watered. This is especially the case if you are growing them in a container. Aim to give your bean plants one to two inches of water per week if they are planted in your garden.
Once your beans have begun sprouting, consider lightly spreading mulch over the soil. This will help it conserve moisture.
Throughout the growing process, use natural pest deterrents like neem oil and horticulture soap.
Pro Tip: Water bean plants in the morning. This allows them to quickly dry which discourages fungal diseases.
Step Four: Harvest the Beans
In 50 to 60 days, your beans should be ready to harvest!
Bush beans will be ready to harvest in as little as 50 days while pole beans will be ready in at least 60 days. Your harvest will be spread out over the season if you grew pole beans, so pick those frequently. If you grew bush beans, you will need to harvest all the beans at once.
Harvest your beans when they reach an average size and have firm pods. The husks should be soft, not stringy. The seeds should not be bulging inside the beans; this means you waited too long to harvest. You can pick by snapping or cutting the beans.
Pro Tip: Harvest the beans in the morning because their sugar levels will be highest then.
Step Five: Enjoy!
Now that you have picked your green beans, get ready to enjoy them! They can be eaten raw, boiled, oven-roasted, stir-fried, tempura fried, or any other cooking methods your heart desires. The bounty of beans you will harvest will give you plenty of opportunities to try new recipes.
You can get some inspiration for how you should cook your green beans from these fresh green bean recipes!
Alternative Method: Green Beans Grown in a Container
You can use containers to plant your beans if you don’t have a garden, if you don’t have space in your garden, or if you want to start growing something before the temperature outside is suitable.
The only downside of containers is that vegetables grown in them require a lot more water than those planted in the ground. Make sure that your container has drainage holes. Excess water sitting in the pot will lead to the green beans rotting. Also, you should get a container that is not glazed. Glazed pots can hinder undrained water from evaporating.
Base the size of the pot on which kind of green bean you are growing.
If you are growing pole beans, your container will need at least 8 inches of soil. If you are growing bush beans your container needs upwards of 6 inches of soil.
I hope this advice was worth a hill of beans to you. Now you know how to plant, grow, and harvest bush and pole beans, in your garden or a container. If you are looking for even more advice on growing green beans, check out our green bean care and growing guide.
Did you enjoy this tutorial? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments, and be sure to share it if you liked it!