Growing Beans

BeansWhen it comes to variety and versatility, growing beans can’t be beat! Gardeners generally divide beans into three categories; shell beans, snap beans and dry beans. All varieties are easy to grow, and all need the same growing conditions – the prime one being plenty of warmth.

Site Preparation:

Plant heirloom bean seeds directly into rich, fast draining soil in spring after the soil has warmed. The plants require full sun and regular water. In general, bush beans mature faster and are less sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures than pole beans. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole.

How to Plant:

Begin planting one to two weeks after the last expected frost, when the soil temperature has reached at least 60 degrees F. Plant the seeds about one inch deep and 2-3 inches apart, in rows about 18-24 inches apart. Thin when the seedlings emerge so that bush varieties are five to six inches apart, pole beans six to eight inches. 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. Bean seedlings need protection from slugs and snails.

Note: Beans do 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.


Beans yield about 50 quarts per 100 feet of row. Pick beans often to keep plants productive; when you harvest 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 beans to reach maturity. Pole beans require more time (approximately 65 days).

Insects and Diseases:

To avoid spreading diseases, don’t touch plants when foliage is wet. Compost plants after harvest. Common problems include mosaic, which causes plants to turn yellowish-green and produce few or no pods. Infected leaves are usually irregularly shaped and puckered along the midrib. Bright yellow or brown spots on the leaves or water-soaked spots on the pods are signs of bacterial bean blight.

Seed Saving Instructions:

Bean flowers are self pollinating and almost never cross-pollinate. To ensure absolute purity, separate by the length of the garden from other beans. It is always best to save 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.

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