How To Grow Beans – The Best Ways To Grow Beans At Home

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The bean has always had a special nostalgia for me. Some of my best childhood memories include standing in front of the kitchen sink helping my grandmother crack the beans after an afternoon of climbing apple trees in her backyard. There is something about that repetitive motion and popping sound that still gives me comfort in my kitchen as an adult, which is why it’s a vegetable I always have in my summer garden.

Regardless of your food memories, I’m here to encourage you to grow them in your garden too! They are simple to grow and are feverish producers, and you don’t even need a full-fledged farm (small space dwellers, I’m looking at you). If you have a pot, there is a bean ready to reward you.

There are many varieties of beans out there to explore and the hardest part of growing them can be deciding which ones to choose from the seed catalog. So, get ready to start dreaming of spicy green bean salads, smooth bean dips, homemade edamame snacks … heck, you might as well try some wonderful Greek giant beans and save them for fall stews!

Since there are so many varieties of beans, it can be difficult to know which type might work best for your growing conditions. The most important things to know are the differences between the two basic bean groups, the polo and the wild bean. From there, you can explore the flavors, textures and colors that excite you the most.

Polar Beans:

These climbing vine varieties can reach 10 to 15 feet tall, which means they will need some sort of support as they grow. They offer a longer harvest window, producing pods as they climb (usually 6 to 8 weeks), so if you have the vertical space for this, this is a great bean to grow all summer.

Beans:

Much more compact (at around 2 feet tall), these varieties are great for smaller spaces and patio gardens, as they don’t need any support when growing. Usually planted in double rows and perfect for both raised beds and containers, they produce during a shorter window of 3 to 4 weeks, making sequential sowing a consideration for longer harvest windows during the season.

Snap, Shell and Dry Beans:

The most commonly grown beans are snap varieties, which are eaten whole, tender, and young while the beans are still small. Beans in shells such as edamame and fava beans are removed from their pods and enjoyed fresh or steamed. Finally, dried beans are allowed to dry on the plant before harvest and can have an incredible shelf life when stored properly.

Green, waxed and purple beans:

These pod varieties can also be divided into color categories. The “green” in green beans (most commonly grown) actually refers to its immature, soft texture rather than its color, while wax beans have a more waxy texture and, in some cases, yellow pods. Purple beans are gorgeous hanging from the vine, but it’s worth noting that they lose their color once cooked.

No matter what type of bean you choose, they all have the same basic needs (outside of spacing and trellis support): full sun and rich, warm, loamy soil with good drainage. Beans generally dislike being transplanted, so sowing in place well after the last frost is recommended. I personally like to soak my bean seeds overnight before planting them to start germinating, but that’s not necessary. If you happen to buy a lively packet of bean seedlings at the nursery on impulse, don’t worry – just be very careful not to disturb the sod when you put them in the ground.

The amazing thing about beans is that they don’t need much else, including fertilization, and, in fact, they are amazing for the overall health of your garden soil. They improve the soil with bacteria creating nodules in their roots by converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium nitrogen, which is released into the soil to be shared by neighboring plants. This is why many gardeners plant legumes as a rotational crop to revitalize overburdened soil. Plants are amazing, my friends, and the humble bean is no exception!

If you are growing in a container, make sure you have a pot that is at least 12 inches deep and with excellent drainage. Unglazed pots and wine barrels are ideal as they allow excess moisture to evaporate, avoiding overly moist soil and root rot. As long as you plant in full sun and keep up with your watering routine, you shouldn’t have any problems. If you happen to have vertical space, I encourage you to experiment with some varieties of green beans as well. I know people who like to grow them as privacy screens and shade barriers for summer patios.

Perhaps the most important part of growing beans (particularly for pole varieties) is having a trellis ready on planting day. Most people underestimate the need for early support – what looks like a tiny seedling one day may be a limp vine in distress the next. Here are some ideas for support you can find or even DIY.

A frame:

These collapsible trellis are a great option if you need to store them flat over the winter. I love them because you can adjust the width of the frame easily enough to fit a number of climbing veggies or to use them in different places as needed.

Pyramid:

For those of you experimenting with containerized trellis, pyramid trusses are simple enough for smaller spaces. They are great for breezy areas as their circular structure can withstand gusts better than others.

Tower:

Essentially a tomato cage for beans, these can work on the more expensive side but are a pretty straightforward plug-and-play option. Most also fold up for storage, which is a plus. If you’re in the mood for a DIY, you could make your own version with some twine and wooden posts.

T-post:

The simplest and most used trellis due to its ease of customization, this one consists of two poles placed inside the edges of your grow area with pig wire or twine stretched between them to provide support.

Arch:

If you are looking for a trellis that doubles as a design accent, the garden arch is your friend! These can be made by purchasing a sheet of pork board from your local staple shop. For more visual interest, try growing a flowering vine or another climbing vegetable like squash on the other side, or double the beans to double the yield.

Whether it’s the Mexican beetle, the Japanese beetle, or the bean leaf beetle, your plant’s biggest nemesis will likely be … the beetle. The best way to deal with this is to detect them early and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Be sure to check your plants every morning, when the beetles are a little less active, until the problem is resolved. Protecting young plants with garden fabric is also a great way to prevent early infestations from occurring.

Other common ailments are Alternaria leaf spot, white mold, bean rust, and mosaic virus, which can be avoided by keeping the leaves dry and trimming or pruning to allow maximum airflow between the vines.

Pet plants

Speaking of beetles, why not try some companion plants that will help keep those pests away? Adding catnip, calendula, nasturtium, or rosemary to your bean patch will deter flea and bean beetles. Another interesting bean best friend is the potato, which keeps Mexican bean beetles away. In turn, the bean plants protect the potato sprouts from the Colorado potato beetle. A win for everyone!

There are a few ways to properly harvest your crop for best results. The key to a bounty of beans is to harvest frequently to stimulate production. It is also advisable to pluck the pods in the afternoon instead of damp, dewy mornings because dry leaves limit the spread of potential pathogens and bacteria.

For green beans, wait until you can see the individual seeds swell through the pod. When it comes to shelling beans, hold out until the pods are hard, but not dry. Finally, for your dry varieties, the beans should vibrate inside the pod before removing them from the plant.

Bushy varieties have a much smaller production window, so remove and compost the entire plant once it stops producing. Green beans, however, will continue to grow and produce until the first frost, so build those tall trellises and make your own bean baskets!



Do you feel inspired to put some bean seeds in the ground? Tell us which ones you are excited about growing (or how you plan to cook your crops) below.


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Photo by Angelyn Cabrales

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