All bean varieties tolerate a wide range of weather conditions. As a result, they are a dependable crop that yield an abundance of pods in most backyard vegetable gardens.
Beans are one of the few crops that actually enrich the soil by adding nitrogen, making them perfect for organic gardens. Try planting leafy greens that need plenty of nitrogen like kale, spinach or cabbage in areas where beans were planted the year before.
Be aware that not all all bean plants are the same. Bush varieties typically get 2 ft. tall and require no staking. To harvest, just walk along the plants and pick. If you’re short on space and still want a bean harvest, pole varieties might be the perfect solution. These vining plants will climb a fence, trellis or a pole, leaving you with all of the space underneath to plant another low-growing crop like squash or a root vegetable. Check the seed descriptions to make sure you’re getting the right type.
Plant seeds directly into rich, fast draining soil in spring after the soil has warmed. Full sun and regular water are essential, so make sure they aren’t in a dry or shady location. In general, bush types mature faster and are less sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures than pole types.
How to Plant
Direct soe bean seeds one to two weeks after the last expected frost when the soil temperature has reached at least 60˚F. Plant seeds 3cm deep and 5-10 cm apart in rows 45-60 cm apart. Thin when the seedlings emerge so that bush varieties are 12cm apart; pole beans 20cm apart. In humid climates, increase the distance between plants to allow good air circulation. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole.
Beans grow well in moist — not wet — soils. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses can be used to direct water right to the plants’ roots. This will also keep the leaves dry, which helps prevent many fungal diseases.
Tip: Inter-planting beans with carrots may encourage predatory wasps. Read more about Companion Planting here.
Harvesting and Storage
Plants yield about 50 quarts per 100 feet of garden row. Pick often to keep plants productive; when harvesting immature pods, you encourage new blossoms to form. Pinch off bush beans with your thumbnail and fingers. Use scissors to harvest pole and runner beans. Allow 45-60 days for bush types to reach maturity. Pole types require more time — approximately 65 days.
Pods can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for up to 5 days for fresh use. They are also good for freezing or canning. If you want to use the beans in a dried form, not fresh, leave the pods on the vines or stalks until they are completely dry, and then follow the instructions under the Seed Saving Instructions heading below.
Insect & Disease Problems
Seedlings need protection from slugs and snails. Watch for irregular shaped holes on leaves and apply Sluggo Organic Bait or diatomaceous earth at first sign of damage. Other major pests to watch for include flea beetles, aphids and bean beetles. Rotate plants with other garden crops to prevent many pest problems. Learn about crop rotation here.
Common disease problems include mosaic virus, which causes plants to turn yellow-green and produce few or no pods. Infected leaves are usually irregularly shaped and puckered along the midrib. Bacterial blight could be a problem if yellow or brown spots are noticed on the leaves; water-soaked spots on the pods.
Tip: To avoid spreading fungal diseases, do NOT handle plants when foliage is wet.
Seed Saving Instructions
Flowers are self pollinating and almost never cross-pollinate. To ensure absolute purity separate by the length of the garden from other bean plants. It is always best to save garden seed from plants that ripen first and are free from disease. Harvest seed pods when completely dry, crush in a cloth or burlap sack and winnow the seeds from the chaff.