I’ve been growing green beans since I was just a kid. In fact, it was my love of green and yellow beans that inspired me to start gardening. Today, green beans remain one of my favorite crops to grow and eat. I grow both bush and pole types for the longest harvest season, planting them in my raised garden beds, but also in planters on my sunny back deck. Green beans are both easy and quick to grow, which also makes them the perfect vegetable for novice gardeners.
Growing green beans – types to grow
There are so many delicious types of beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) that can be grown in vegetable gardens and containers. Like peas, beans are legumes and build the soil. Beans can be grouped by their edible parts (pods versus seeds), how they’re eaten (fresh pods versus fresh seeds versus dried seeds), or by their growth habit (bush versus pole). And it’s this last group that makes the most sense for green beans.
- Bush beans – Bush beans are fast and easy to grow with most varieties growing between 12 to 24 inches tall. Once the seeds are sown in late spring, the harvest of fresh beans usually begins in seven to eight weeks and lasts for around three weeks.
- Pole beans – Pole beans can be runner beans or vining snap beans with plants that grow eight to ten feet tall. They need to be grown up a trellis, teepee, tower, netting, or stakes and begin to crop eleven to twelve weeks from seeding. The harvest season runs for a longer time than bush beans, lasting around six weeks.
When to plant green beans
Green beans are a warm weather vegetable and the ideal planting time is after the danger of frost has passed in late spring. Plant beans in a site with full sun. Before planting I amend the soil in my raised beds with an inch of compost and an application of a slow release organic vegetable fertilizer to provide nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
When growing green beans, don’t be in a rush to sow the seeds as planting when the soil is still cold and wet can lead to rot. Aim to seed when the soil temperature reaches 70 F (21 C). Most types of beans are direct seeded outdoors as they are quick to germinate and don’t respond well to transplanting.
Raised beds are ideal, but green beans can also be grown in pots and planters. For bush beans, choose a large window box or a pot that’s at least 15 inches in diameter. For pole beans, the container should be at least 18 inches in diameter. Fill pots with a mixture of high quality potting mix and compost, at a ratio of two-thirds potting mix and one-third compost.
How to plant bush beans
After the last frost date, sow the seeds of bush beans 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Once the plants are growing well, thin them to 6 inches. Beans don’t need a long growing season, but for the longest harvest, succession plant bush bean seeds every two to three weeks, or until about two months before the first expected fall frost.
How to plant pole beans
Pole beans need a sturdy structure to support their heavy vines and trellises or teepees should be erected before you plant the seeds. Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart for trellised pole beans, eventually thinning to 6 inches. For a teepee, use poles at least 7 feet tall and plant six to eight seeds around the base of each pole. My favorite way to grow pole beans is over a pole bean tunnel. It adds vertical interest to the garden and is a fun spot to hang out in summer – a living fort!
How to grow green beans
Bean plants are very low maintenance vegetables and once the seedlings are growing well, require little fussing. Keep an eye out for pests like slugs, taking action if necessary. Mexican bean beetles are another common bean pest with the adults resembling ladybugs. The orange-red beetles have sixteen black spots on their backs. Their eggs and larval stages are yellow in color. Use row covers to prevent damage and handpick and destroy any you spot.
When growing green beans, stay out of the bean patch when the weather is wet. This is because bean plants are susceptible to fungal diseases and wet foliage spreads disease.
Consistent moisture results in the highest quality harvest, so water weekly if there has been no rain, paying careful attention to irrigation when the plants are flowering and producing pods. Also aim to irrigate early in the day so the foliage has a chance to dry before night. Mulch plants with straw or shredded leaves to hold soil moisture and reduce weed growth.
Green bean harvesting tips
The rule for harvesting green beans is the more you pick the more you get. Stay on top of the bean harvest by picking every few days, especially when the plants are in peak production. Excess beans can be pickled, blanched and frozen, or shared with family and friends.
Pick pods at any size, but most are ready when they’re 4 to 6 inches long, smooth, and with interior beans that are still very small. Promptly remove over-mature pods from the plants as this will signal a switch from flower and pod production to seed production, decreasing the harvest.
The best green beans to grow
It’s a given that every summer I’m going to be growing green beans (and yellow and purple beans too!) There are a lot of outstanding heirloom and hybrid green beans to grow. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Mascotte – I am a huge fan of this award-winning, fast-growing gourmet French green bean. The compact plants yield a heavy crop of super slender green pods produced on top of the foliage – easy picking! I grow the 16 inch tall plants in raised beds, but they also do well when planted in pots and window boxes.
- Provider – Provider is a popular green bean tolerant of planting in cool soil. This allows northern gardeners to get a jump on the spring planting season. The smooth pods are about 5 inches long and the plants are resistant to several diseases including powdery mildew.
- Contender – Contender is a high-yielding variety that is also one of the earliest to produce. Each plant produces dozens of round, slightly curved pods.
- Emerite – I’ve been growing this green pole bean for over a decade and its tender, flavorful pods have made this a family favorite. It’s an early variety, but it’s the pod quality that makes this a must-grow. The interior beans grow very slowly which means the pods are snappy and delicious no matter the harvest stage – at just 4 inches long or when they’re a mature 8 inches in length.
- Fortex – Outstanding! This French-type pole bean is incredibly productive, yielding stringless, slender green pods that can grow up to 10 inches long! I generally start picking when the beans are 5 to 6 inches long, but they maintain their eating quality even when they’re 10 inches in length. Expect excellent flavor when eaten raw or cooked.
- Scarlet Runner – This runner bean is popular for its vigorous growth and bright red flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds. It’s often grown as an ornamental plant but the medium-green beans are also edible. Expect the plants to grow 6 to 8 feet tall.
In this video, I show you how to plant both bush and pole green beans.
For more on growing your own vegetables, check out these awesome articles:
- Growing beans – pole versus runner beans
- DIY simple tunnels for pole beans
- How to grow black beans
- The easiest vegetables to grow in your garden
Are you growing green beans in your garden this year?