Growing Crops: Beans (Bush and Vine)

…as opposed to growing shelling beans. These are the green (or yellow, or purple) beans you steam or sauté as a nice side dish, or put in that holiday green bean/mushroom soup/fried onion casserole every year.

There are a number of bean varieties to choose from. We are partial to the purple ones – which, incidentally, turn green upon cooking. They’re just so pretty to grow. A few of the bean varieties you can choose from:

Bush Beans: Annabel (dwarf), Astral, Blue Lake Bush, Brittle Wax, Cherokee, Derby, Dorabel, Farba RZ, Finaud, Fin de Bagnols, Golden Rocky, Goldenrod, Greencrop, Harvester, Jade, Mantra RZ, Pencil Pod Wax, Provider, Roc d’Or, Roma Gold, Slenderette, Stringless Greenpod, Tavera, Tendercrop, Tendergreen, The Prince (dwarf), Triumph de Farcy, Wax Romano…

Vine Beans: Arosa RZ (dwarf), Blue Lake, Butler, Czar-Larg, Desiree, Deuil Fin Precoc (dwarf), Emerite, Kelvedon Marvel, Kentucky Wonder, Kwintus, Maxi (dwarf), Merchant of Venice, Painted Lady, Royal Burgundy, Royalty, Scarlet Emperor, Scarlet Runner, Sequoia, Trionfo Violetto…

Yardlong Vine Beans (aka Asparagus Beans): Green-Pod Yardlong, Orient Wonder, Purple-Pod Yardlong… Yes, these bean pods grow as long as 3 feet. Very dramatic if trained over a decorative arch or doorway-style trellis that marks the entrance to your garden. We don’t recommend trying to grow them in containers, or indoors at all. They just take up too much space.

If you are looking for a specific bean variety, click on the Gardens Alive or Nature Hills Nursery banners at the top of this page. Both companies have many to choose from. If you’re not sure what you’d like to grow first, why not try this colorful trio of bush beans below:

Best Climate to Grow: Warm and relatively dry, with protection from the wind. They will not thrive in exceptionally cold, wet climates.

Light Requirements: Lots of sun. Grow lights if growing indoors without benefit of a sunny window.

Soil Requirements: Beans grow best in moist, fertile soil that has a neutral pH (as close to 7.0 as possible), so compost is the ideal soil amendment, if needed.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Compost will do great double-duty as fertilizer and moisture-saving mulch. Keep your beans watered; drip irrigation is highly recommended.

When to Plant: Sow directly into your garden outside once the temperature of the soil has reached at least 65 degrees F and there is no longer a danger of frost. Do not sow them all at once; plant a portion of them once a week for a period of four weeks so that you are not stuck with a glut of beans to harvest all at once and then none later.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Directions for planting will vary with each variety, so check your seed packet. Generally you should plant the seeds, whether they are bush or vine beans, 1–1½ inches deep, two seeds per planting hole. You will keep the stronger seedling and remove the weaker to the compost pile once they have sprouted. Plant them 12 inches apart (6 inches if growing a dwarf variety), with at least 18 inches between the rows for bush beans and 3 feet between the rows for vine beans – you have to be able to get in there to harvest them! For the vine beans, have your trellises in place before you plant the seeds.

Container Requirements: Both bush and regular vine beans (not yardlong varieties) will do just fine in containers, though the vine varieties tend to be more productive outside in the ground. Dwarf varieties are ideal for container growing. A medium-sized container about 1 foot deep on a sunny deck or in a sunny window should be sufficient. Make sure the soil is rich with compost and kept moist at all times.

Harvesting and Storage: Don’t wait for the pods to harden – they should be slightly immature when you harvest them, otherwise you will have tough beans. Snip regularly with garden shears (a few days a week) in order to encourage more beans to grow. Beans are best eaten fresh, but they do freeze and can very well. To freeze, rinse them off to remove any soil or bugs and pat them dry or let them air dry before placing them in containers for freezing. They can go straight from the freezer to the steamer, though it will take longer to steam them if steaming from frozen.

Harvesting Seeds: In order to save seeds to plant next season, allow a portion of your beans to harden on the vine. When the pods have a tough, leathery texture and have shrunk somewhat around the beans inside, go ahead and harvest them. Split open the pods and remove the beans, allowing them to dry completely to the point of being as hard as small pebbles before storing them in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place.

Pests to Monitor: Blackfly, Greenfly, Mice, Slugs, Snails. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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