How to Grow Green Beans

Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
Photo: © Marie iannotti

Overview and Description

Often called green beans or string beans, the common garden bean can be both stringless and colors other than green. But it’s the "green" bean that everyone recognizes as one of the most frequently prepared vegetables. Hot, cold, even raw, string beans are versatile in the kitchen and very prolific plants in the garden. Green beans are also easy to grow, so read on for how to grow these tasty beans in your vegetable garden.

Green bean plants are either pole varieties, that grow long vines, or low-growing bush types. Most varieties are green, but you’ll also find purple, red, yellow and streaked varieties. Green beans are several inches long and either round or flattened in shape. They are picked young and tender, before the seeds inside have fully developed. Most popular varieties have been bred to have stringless pods, but many gardeners prefer the flavor of the old-fashioned ‘string’ types.

Botanical Name

Phaseolus vulgaris

Common Name

Green Bean, Snap Bean, String Bean

Hardiness Zone

Green beans, like most of the vegetables in our gardens, are grown as annuals, so they are not rated with a USDA Hardiness Zone.

Exposure

You will get the highest yield if you plant your beans in full sun. Beans tend to stop flowering in the extreme heat of summer and partial shade might seem like a good idea, but keeping them watered should be enough relief for them.

They will resume flowering soon. Full sun also helps keep the plants dry and less likely to be affected by disease.

Mature Size

Size will vary with variety. Bush beans generally get about 2 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide. Pole beans can grow upwards or across a trellis for a good 10 ft. The beans themselves will be about 3 - 4 inches long.

Days to Harvest

Again, this will vary with the variety of bean. In general: Bush Beans - 50 to 55 days. Pole Beans - 50 to 60 days. Check the packet, to be sure your choice will have time to mature in your growing season.

Harvesting Beans

Harvesting green beans is an ongoing task and the more you pick, the more beans the plants will set. You can start to harvest anytime after the beans form, however gardeners usually wait until the beans begin to firm up and can be snapped, but before you can see the seeds inside bulging. They are generally about as thick as a pencil, at that point.

Don’t wait too long, because beans can become overgrown and tough almost overnight. Harvest by gently pulling each bean from the vine or by snapping them off the vine end.

Green Bean Growing Tips

Pole vs. Bush Bean Plants: Bush beans begin producing before pole beans and often come in all at once. Succession planting, every 2 weeks, will keep your bush beans going longer.

Pole beans need time to grow their vines, before they start setting beans. They start producing later than bush beans, but continue to produce for a month or two. Keep harvesting or they will stop flowering and setting beans.

Soil: Beans like a moderately rich soil with a slightly acidic pH of about 6.0 to 6.2.

Because they are legumes, they can fix their own nitrogen and don't need supplemental fertilizer, but you should still amend the soil with organic matter.

Planting: Beans are generally direct sown in the garden, although you can transplant small bean plants. The most important point about growing green beans is not to plant the seeds too early. They will rot in cool, damp soil. To get an earlier start, you can put down black plastic, to warm the soil or use an inoculant. Plant after all danger of frost is past.

Plant the seeds 1-2 inches deep and be sure to water the soil immediately after planting and regularly, until they sprout.

  • Bush beans can be planted in single rows or by broadcasting seed in wide rows  with about a 4 - 6 in. spacing between plants.
  • Pole beans will need some type of support to grow on. Be sure the trellis, teepee, fence or other support, is in place before you seed. Plant seeds at a rate of about 6 - 8 seeds per teepee or every 6 inches apart.

    Maintenance: Pole beans may need some initial help in climbing. You can coax the vines around your trellis, until they are able to twine themselves.

    Keep the bean plants well watered, or they will stop flowering. Beans have shallow roots and mulching will help keep them cool and moist.

    Although beans can feed themselves, pole beans produce over such a long period that they will benefit from a feeding or a side dressing of compost or composted manure about half way through their growing season.

    Pests and Problems of Green Beans

    Lots of insects love beans as much as you do, including:

    • Mexican bean beetles - will east flowers, beans and especially leaves.
    • Slugs - will eat any part that comes near the ground.
    • Japanese beetles and aphids may also attack.

    Four-footed animals, like deer and groundhogs, will eat entire plants and fencing is necessary.

    Fungal diseases, such as Alternaria or Angular leaf spot can be a problem in damp conditions. Other diseases, like Anthracnose, bacterial blight and mosaic virus are less common, but can occur.

    Suggested Varieties

    • 'Kentucky Wonder' - It’s an old, string pole variety that still tastes great.
    • 'Bountiful' - An early producing, stringless heirloom bush bean.
    • 'Golden Wax Bean' - Easy producing, soft textured yellow, bush bean.
    • 'Royal Burgundy' - Purple pods that turn green when cooked. Early producing bush bean. Not popular with the bean beetle.
    • 'Lazy Housewife' - German heirloom pole bean, so named because it doesn’t require stringing.
    • 'Triomphe de Farcy' - A readily available French haricot vert heirloom bush bean.
    • 'Romano' - Classic broad, Italian style green bean with meaty flavor. Bush or pole.