Bush bean plants are usually ready to harvest in roughly a month after planting whereas pole bean plants produce beans over a longer period of time but are slower to get started. By the mid- to late summer, bean plants will start to look tired. However, as you head into the fall, it's not too late to try for another bean crop. Fall-grown beans can actually be more tender and flavorful than beans grown in the heat of the summer. You just have to know the right way to grow them to ensure that you get your bean harvest before the first frost of fall arrives.
Here are some tips for growing a fall crop of beans.
Growing Tips for Fall Beans
- Grow a bush bean variety that matures in around 45 days. That should give you enough time to plant them in the late summer and harvest before your area's first frost.
- If you have bean seeds left over from the spring, they are still good to use. There are also probably still seed packs available at garden centers. And at this time of year, they should be on sale.
- Amend the soil with compost or composted manure, even if you already did so in the spring. This will give your fall bean plants a good, quick start. A half-inch layer of compost worked into the soil should do it.
- Water the soil before planting the beans. Be sure to soak it thoroughly. Having the bean seeds on a moist bed will not only speed germination, but it will also help to cool the soil from the summer heat. This is key because many seeds will not germinate if they think growing conditions are too hot.
- If you're planting in growing zone 8 or above, add a layer of loose mulch or about an inch of shredded straw over the soil. This will help to keep the soil cool but still allow the bean seedlings to emerge.
- Initially the temperatures will be hotter than bean plants prefer. Compensate with regular waterings. Let the soil dry out between waterings, so the seeds don't rot. But don't allow the soil to remain dry for more than a day.
- Keep a vigilant eye out for pests and diseases. There are generally more garden pests out in the fall, and they are finding fewer succulent new plants to feast on. So your bean plants will be a prime target.
- If the weather turns cold before your plants are ready to harvest, protect your beans at night with a row cover. You can also use woven fabric, plastic, newspapers, or old sheets draped over the plants. Just be sure to remove the covering in the morning, so your beans don't overheat when the temperature warms up.
- Pick your beans young and tender. If the weather cooperates, your bean plants will keep producing until frost kills them.
Best Bean Varieties for Fall Gardens
- Top crop
- Early bush Italian (or anything with "early" in the name)