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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

KNOL: How to Grow Green Beans and Other Beans: The Basics

Transfered from Google Knols to be stored on my blog.

Beans are easy to grow. They are typically drought tolerant and create their own nitrogen. Disease can be an issue when they are over crowded. The green bean is packed full of vitamins and can be grown in small spaces. There are 100's of kinds of beans. Why not have some fun and plant something beside the standard green bean? Did you know eating raw (uncooked) kindney beans can be harmful?


How to Grow Green Beans and Other Beans: The Basics

By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
To learn more bout all aspects of gardening, visit my blog The Rusted Vegetable Garden


Green beans (and most beans) like well drained fertile soil. The key to growing healthy bean plants is well drained soil. Wet soggy soil can lead to disease and seed rotting. The also prefer warm soil. Cold soil and cold days also promote seed rotting and the plant grows more slowly. The bottom line is they like the heat and they like their soil to dry quickly.
I question saying any vegetable prefers fertile soil. Isn't that a given? The more fertile the better for most plants. But for beans, if you only have good or average soil, they will do fine.  They use a bacteria to fix nitrogen from the air to their roots. This process occurs in most legumes or beans. They can get nutrients even if you don't have fertile soil.
It is also recommended you rotate you bean plantings, if not yearly, every three years. My experience leans toward every three years. I haven't had issue from planting in the same spot for several consecutive years. Again the bottom line for healty bean plants is pretty good warm soil that isn't too soggy.


I have read two different themes around fertilizing. One is to use compost and 1-1-1 type ammendments and nothing more because they fix their own nitrogren. The other theme I have read is using a basic 10-10-10 fertilizer prior to planting.
My solution is a  small handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer lightly raked into the planting area when you plant the seeds. I also give them a drink of water soluble fertilizer at around 30 days of growth. I haven't had any issues or problems. If I have compost, I work it into my beds prior to planting anything. The key is to just plant them and give them a little something but don't over use a 10-10-10 fertilizer. A light sprinkle and rake is all they need around fertilizing.


A good soaking is needed when the seeds are first planted. Once the first leaves come through, a weekly watering is all they need when the day temperatures are in the 70' and low 80's. Water from the ground and thoroughly soak the garden bed. When the temperatures hit the high 80' and 90's, you will need to water them 2 times a week and maybe a third time if there hasn't been any rain. They are drought tolerant. Make sure you water them from the bottom and not top. Watering from the top, wetting leaves, and splashing soil around can lead to diseases.


 Planting Beans

There are basically two types of beans. There are bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans grow about knee high and stop. Bush beans do not need support. Pole beans can grow anywhere from 4 feet to 12 feet or longer. Many continue to grow until the die. They need support to manage the vine they produce. The varieties will vary but they are either bush type or pole type growers. 

Bush Beans

Plant bush bean seeds to 1 inch in depth and 2 inches apart. When the plants are 3-4 inches tall you should thin them to stand 4 inches apart. Plant bush beans in rows. Spacing between rows should be 1 1/2 to 2 feet. Most packages say 2 feet or a bit more but I haven't had a problem with rows that are 1 1/2 feet apart. Wider rows will give you more air circulation if disease is a problem in your area. I use raised beds and plant a lot of other vegetables more closely together then the package states. I have found with beans, that you really want to stay close to the planting guidelines. They really need the air circulation. Overcrowding (planting closer then recommended) not only promotes disease but promotes insect and pest damage. The spacing lets birds drop in for a bite to eat.

Pole Beans

Pole beans grow like vines. You will need some sort of support for them to grow up. You can plant them along a fence. You can create a wired mesh support that they can grow up. You can use 6 foot poles. You can create a stick tripod (tepee) for them to grow up. Anything will work.
 If you plant a row for climbing a fence or trellis, they should be planted 4 inches apart minimium. Some people suggest 10 inches depending on how vigorous the vine is.
If you are going to plant them to grow up a tripod of sticks (tepee) you should plant them in hills. You can form the tripod around the hill. The poles should be at least 6 feet high. You should  plant about 6 beans to a hill and thin to the 3 or 4 strongest plants. Hills should be spaced  2 1/2 to 3 feet apart.

Harvesting Beans

The key to harvesting beans is to harvest them frequently for the pods. If you are cooking the bean and not cooking the seeds, you want to harvest the beans before the seeds get large. You don't want the plant to direct it's energy to seed production. You want it to produce pods. The more you harvest the pods, the more pods will be produced.
If you are growing beans for the seeds, you want the pod to develop seeds. You can see the seeds swell in the pod. Pick them before the shell of the pod dries out if you are going to cook and eat the bean seeds fresh. If you are growing the beans for dried seeds let them dry on the plant. The pods will dry out and hold the dried beans for you. Pick them when fully dried. The pod will crumble when dry and you can collect and store the seeds.

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