How to Grow Green Beans from Seed to Harvest

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Growing green beans is one of those things you don’t understand until you have tasted real green beans.  The things that come in a can at the grocery store don’t compare to the flavor of fresh homegrown green beans.  So when I started gardening, growing green beans was on top of the list when making garden plans for the season.

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Beans in a raised bed   Hidden Springs Homestead

Learning how to grow green beans from seed is not hard.  Just a few simple steps and you’ll be eating fresh green beans in no time.

Varieties of Green Beans

Before we begin planting green beans, I feel like we need to talk about varieties first.  There are several varieties of green beans that can be grown on the homestead or in the backyard vegetable garden. I’m not sure of the exact number of varieties, I do know there are well over 50.

Several green beans can be stringless.  Meaning they don’t require removing the string during preparation.  They can also vary in different sizes, textures and even colors.

Green beans fit into two categories:  Bush Beans and Pole Beans.  So what is the difference in bush and pole beans? The main difference between the two is support.

Bush Beans:

Green Bean Bush varieties will grow to 2-3 feet tall.  These are great for small spaces and even raised beds.  Bush beans produce all at once – usually in 5-7 weeks.  So if you want to can green beans or freeze them, bush beans are a great choice.

Bush beans prefer to be planted in dual or linear rows to support each other.  Trellising is not necessary for them.  Blue Lake bush beans are my choice for my raised beds.

Since the rows grow together to support each other, the green beans are a bit difficult to find on the vine.

Pole Beans: 

Pole bean varieties grow to about 5-6 feet tall.  They have tiny tendrils that reach out and cling to a trellis, fence post or whatever they can grab and climb. Therefore, pole beans do have to be trellised in some way.

Since they are trellised, pole beans produce more than bush beans in less space.  They are the perfect variety for vertical gardening.

Pole beans varieties don’t produce all at once though.  Instead, they will continue to produce up until frost as long as you keep them picked.  They are probably easier to pick than bush beans as well.

With vertical gardening you don’t have to bend over to pick and they are much easier to see on the vine than bush beans.   So how do you know if you have pole beans or bush beans?  A couple of ways to tell the difference.  The seed packet will identify if the seed are a bush or pole bean.

If you don’t have a seed packet another way is to plant them and watch for the little tendrils that appear really early in the growing phase.  If tendrils appear, add a trellis.

Last season I planted heirloom Blue Lake Bush beans and apparently had a couple pole beans mixed in the seed.  In a section of my dual rows, I notice tendrils start wrapping around the Blue Lakes.  Realizing what it was, I fixed up a trellis over these couple of bean plants problem solved.

How to Grow Green Beans From Seed to Harvest

Fortunately, it’s not necessary to start seeds indoors when you grow green beans.  They prefer to be planted directly into garden soil since they don’t transplant well.

Do you need to soak green beans overnight?  It is also not necessary to soak green beans overnight, but it will help to speed germination.

Depending on the variety, bush or pole – they are planted just a bit different.

How to Plant Green Beans

Both pole beans and bush beans are planted pretty much the same.  Green beans are light feeders and don’t require a fertilizer. 

Prepare soil ahead of time.  When planting, add a mature or aged compost and this should be all the fertilizer you need if your are starting with a healthy soil.  I would highly recommend a soil test.  You can go here to find your local extension office to help you with the process.

If your soil does need some organic amendments, one very good one is compost tea, you can learn how to make in this article.

If you need to know more about growing vegetables, here’s a great place to learn how start a garden.  Once you have your soil ready, the work will be easier using just a couple simple tools needed for gardening, you’ll be all ready to put beans in the ground!

How to Plant Bush Beans

  • Bush beans should be planted in linear rows to support each other. 
  • Place seed 1 inch deep into soil and spaced about 4 inches apart. 
  • They will germinate in 7-10 days. You can speed this germination time up by soaking seeds overnight. 
  • Since bush beans produce all at once, they are great for succession planting about 2 weeks apart.  This will help to extend your growing season. 

If you use the Square Foot Gardening method, you can get 9 plants per square foot.  

Growing green beans in vegetable garden  Hidden Springs Homestead

How to Plant Pole Beans

  • Soil for pole beans should be well drained
  • Plant seeds 1 inch deep about 4 inches apart
  • Depending how you will be trellising, will depend on how to plant.  They can be planted in rows with a trellis down the middle. Or, they can be planted in a teepee style.

To learn more bout teepee style planting, The Old Farmers Almanac has this great video.  And of course, if you use the Square Foot Gardening method, you can get 8 plants per square foot.  

RELATED: Take the guesswork out! Use the easy formula worksheets in The Canning Garden Workbook (printable) to figure out how much to plant, for canning, to feed your family for a full year!

When to Plant Green Beans

Green beans are not frost tolerant.  So they need to be planted after threat of frost has passed. To find the last frost date in your area, take a look at the In most areas this is from late April to mid June.  

Soil temperatures need to be at lease 60-65°F.  If not, germination will be slower.  Another way to speed germination of seeds is to wait until soil is at least 70°F.  

How Long Does it Take For Green Beans To Grow?

There are so many different varieties of green beans to choose from, but for the most part it take they take 50-65 days to produce fruit.  

A good reminder I didn’t think of early, is the days to harvest on the seed packet.  This is from the day you plant them into the garden soil.  This is if you waited until the soil conditions were warmed to about 60-65°F.  If soils were cooler, it could take a bit longer for beans to be grow and be ready for harvest. 

How Much Sunlight Do Green Beans Need? 

You should grow your green beans in a place that gets at least 6-8 hours of full sun a day, 10 is even better.  They don’t do well or may not grow at all in the shade.  They are heating loving plant that enjoys full sun.

 How to Water Green Beans

How much water does a green plant need per day?  Beans develop fruit through a process called photosynthesis which takes a lot of both sunlight and energy gotten through water.  Prior to blossoming, bean plants need 1 inch of water per week.  

But once they start blossoming, they use about a 1/2 inch of water each day.  This is for bean pod growth from the blooms.  As a result, bean plants need or should be watered daily during this period.  If beans become too dry during this time, they could experience blossom drop.  

When watering green beans, try to avoid getting the leaves wet.  This will prevent disease.  Instead, focus the water to the root system and allow to soak deep into the soil.   Here in Tennessee, we tend to have very dry summers and watering is completely necessary.

Harvesting Green Beans

What is the best time to of day to pick green beans?  Early morning is best.  I like to have my green beans harvested and back inside before 9 am.   This will ensure the pod is crisp and not wilted from the summer temperature.  

A plant normally produces a 120:1 ratio.  Meaning that for every one plant, it will produce about 120 beans.  They normally grow in “pods.”  So you’ll have about 20 pods per plant.  

How can you tell when they are ready to pick?

There is a couple ways to do this. First look at the seed packet and see how many days from planting does your variety mature. How many days does it say or how long should your beans grow? This is the first way.

A second way is to look at the thickness of the bean pod itself. You’ll want to pick them when they are a bit thick but before they begin to swell. If you bend one in-half, and it “snaps” this is a good indication they are ready for harvest.

How do you pick green beans off the plant?

Since bush beans produce all at once, you can easily grasp hold of the entire pod with one hand, and hold the plant with the other.  Gently pull the whole pod at once since it will not be producing more beans.  

For harvesting pole beans, it is just a bit different.  As I mentioned earlier, they will continue to produce right up until frost. So they need to be harvested in a more gentle manner. With a pair of sharp scissors or sharp point pruning shears , hold beans with one hand and cut them individually from the vine.  This helps to ensure you don’t injure the vine and it can continue to produce until frost. 

By the way, did you know that you can save seeds to plant next year?  Take a look at this seed saving article from Lesa at Better Hens and Gardens.  Saving seeds makes complete sense.  You’ll not have to buy seeds next season.

Common Types of Bush Green Beans

  • Blue Lake 274 – Ready to harvest in 60 days, a dark green heavy yield plant.  The pod grows to about 6 inches long
  • Cantare – Harvest in about 50-55 days.  Superior producer of a very straight slim 4-5 inch pod.
  • Contender – Ready to harvest in approximately 50 days.  Produces high yields of beans.
  • Empress – Ready to harvest in 55 days.  A snap bean for fresh eating, freezing and processing, 5-6 inch pods
  • Burpee’s Stringless – Harvest in 45-50 days.  A totally stringless bean that is about 5 inches long
  • Landreth Stringless – Ready to harvest in about 55 days.  Pods are medium size about 5 inches long, bean is a rich brown or chocolate color.
  • White Half Runner – Ready for harvest in 60 days average.  A heavy producer with pods about 4.5 inches long and a white seeds that have a sweet flavor.

Common Types Of Pole Beans

  • Kentucky Wonder – Grows in large clusters of 7-10 beans that are about 7 inches long.  Can be harvested in about 65 days.
  • Rattlesnake Snap -Dark green pods that are about 8 inches long and have a purple streak that grows in it.  They can be harvested in about 65-90 days.
  • Lazy Wife – Ready to harvest in 80-100 days.  Pods grow to about 7 inches long and are completely stringless.

I mentioned earlier there are over 50 varieties of green beans that grow in all different sizes and colors.   To learn what a great variety for your zone and area, I’d recommend requesting a few different free seed catalogs and read about all the different types. If there is a catalog that may cater to your specific region or area, I’d highly recommend you request it.

By the way, when you are ordering seeds, don’t get carried away and lose your budget. My first years of gardening, I want to order everything in the catalog. Take a look at these 5 Seed Ordering Tips to Save Time and Money will help a lot, I promise.

Growing Green Beans on a Trellis  Hidden Springs Homestead

What Are Good Companion Plants For Green Beans?

Keep green beans from Parsley and Lettuce.

Plant Markers I Use In My Raised Bed Garden

I thought this to be a good time share with you how I keep my plants marked in the garden. This helps to know what variety I have in each space. I’ve used paint sticks in the past, but they would rot and the name would fade before the season was over.

My friend introduced me to these waterproof markers and these simple little inexpensive T-type marker tags. They are nothing fancy, but work really well.

I have found these to be extremely helpful not only with vegetable gardening but also with flowers too.  I’m building a native plant garden to attract pollinators and since I’m still learning my native plants, these are super helpful.

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A collage of the pages from the eBook The Canning Garden Workbook  with text overlay that reads - No More Guessing-Grow Enough Food For a Full Year! Canning Garden Workbook with and red Instant Download button.

More Garden Growing Tips:

Enjoy your harvest!

Growing Green Beans on a Vine  Hidden Springs Homestead

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4 thoughts on “How to Grow Green Beans from Seed to Harvest”

  1. My green bean leaves look like they have sun scald. Do you know what causes this. I live in mIssouri. Usually they start to look like this at the end of the season. Thanks

    1. Hi Gail,

      This could very well be actual sun scald from the intense sun rays. But without seeing images, I’m not totally sure. BUT – if your garden is getting over 8 hours of intense sun a day – most likely it is this. Go ahead and remove those leaves, give your beans some extra water, more than the 1 inch per week to help them endure. And, if at all possible, can you figure out a way to maybe give them some shade?

      But since it really doesn’t start to the end of the season, it may be that they are just done. They are an annual and only live for so many weeks. IF they are producing well, I’d just keep watering until you are ready to pull them up. Here in Tennessee, August is really hard on the garden due to the heat and sun – so I always increase my watering. But mine are done by this time as well and it’s time to plant the fall garden too.

      Let me know if this helps,
      Dianne

  2. Hi Dianne, I think I’ve done every variety of bean you recommended at one point. For my raised beds, I have been sticking with Contender bush beans lately. They produce consistently, are hardy and pest-resistant and the beans are nearly stringless. My family loves them! Thank you for the very thorough article!

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