Growing Snap Beans

Nothing says summer quite like a handful of crisp beans freshly picked from the garden.  Whether they’re sauteed in olive oil for a quick side dish or added raw to a salad for a splash of color and texture, fresh beans are versatile and tasty.  Even better?  They are super easy to grow in your home garden if you just follow a few simple steps.

Fresh eating beans come in two main varieties: pole beans and bush beans.  Pole beans grow as climbing vines and require trellising to support them.  Bush beans, however, grow more compactly (often reaching about 2 feet in height) and do not require any extra support.  Because bush beans are fast growing, easy to harvest and dependable, they are considered one of the easiest plants to grow and are great for beginning gardeners.

Though you may be impatient to get planting at the first signs of spring, when it comes to beans, it’s best to wait.  Beans are not frost hardy, so don’t plant them until all dangers of frost have passed.  For the best germination rates, it is recommended to wait until the daytime soil temperatures average 60°F.

When it’s time to plant, the first step to growing bush beans is to choose where to grow them.  Beans do best in full sun and in well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8, so choose a location accordingly.  To ensure your plants are healthy and produce lots of beans, amend your soil with compost or other rich organic matter prior to planting.  When you’re ready to sow your bush bean crop, plant seeds 1-2” deep and space plants 2-3” apart.  For higher yields, plant your beans in rows spaced at least 18” apart.  If you really want to boost your bean production, inoculate your soil with a natural nitrogen-fixing bacteria, known as Rhizobium leguminosarum, by adding a bit of inoculant to each hole when planting your beans.  Expect your plants to germinate within one to two weeks of sowing.  For continual harvest throughout the growing season, sow beans successively every two to three weeks through midsummer.

Growing happy bush beans plants is as easy as maintaining a regular watering and weeding schedule.  Bean plants do not benefit from frequent, light waterings.  Instead, encourage root growth by thoroughly watering your plants only when the top 1” of soil feels dry to the touch.  If you’re using a sprinkler system, water your beans only in the morning to discourage mold and mildew growth, while evening waterings work well with drip irrigation or hand watering.  Adding 3” of mulch to your garden can help suppress weeds naturally while keeping your beans dirt free.  If you amended your soil with compost when you planted your beans, additional fertilizer is rarely needed throughout the growing season.

Beans can be harvested when they are small or you can allow them to mature to several inches in length before picking them.  The most important thing is that you harvest your bush beans frequently in order to maximize production and encourage your plants to grow more pods.  Ideally, beans should be harvested every other day.  Because your bean pods are delicate, use two hands when harvesting, holding the stem, rather than the pod, to reduce the chance of damaging your produce.  Fresh beans taste great, but if you harvest more than you can eat, bush beans do well when canned or frozen.  If you opt to freeze your extra beans, blanch them first in order to preserve color and texture.

Saving seeds from your bush beans is incredibly easy.  Allow any beans you would like to save for next year to fully ripen on their vines until their pods are dry and beginning to turn brown.  When harvested, your dried beans should produce a rattling sound.  Let your beans dry indoors for an additional two weeks before shelling out your beans.  Store your beans in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant again next year.

If you’re looking to start your own bush beans next season, check out some of our favorite varieties.  Our royal purple burgundy bean produces stunning, stringless purple beans that add color to salads when used raw.  Our provider bush bean, one of the most prolific beans around, is a high-yielding, early producer of crisp, green beans that are ideal for canning and freezing.