Green beans are delicious legumes that come in many varieties. Between the white, the purple, the green, the red, the yellow, and streaked varieties, it seems our appetite for beans is only limited by our color choices. Whether you like the snap varieties, the shell ones, or the dry beans, there’s more to the humble beans than meets the eye.
If you’re not a fan of growing vegetables in your garden, maybe reading more about these awesome legumes will help persuade you to give it a try. After all, there’s nothing about growing and harvesting green beans to put you out or get you out of your gardening comfort zone. The plant is easy to grow, doesn’t need much care, and when harvested fresh, you can experiment with it in various dishes and delicious meals. Read on to judge for yourself if the green beans are a worthy addition to your garden.
All about Green Beans
Green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) were some of the first legumes to find their way to the still-growing cuisine of early civilizations. What set it apart from other veggies was that you could eat it fresh off the plant where it offered a delicious and nutritious snack. You could also dry it and store it for a rainy day. This was quite common back in the day when people stored food for the winter.
A native of Latin America, green beans were a staple of the daily culinary intake of the Andes and Mayan civilizations. Some attribute their rise to prominence to their reliance on a diverse diet that had included beans along with other types of food known for their long shelf life.
Green beans could be classified as either determinate or indeterminate types. Similar to tomatoes, determinate beans grow as a bush and all the crops will mature in one go. Indeterminate beans are vines that crawl and climb spreading themselves all over the place. You’ll need to have a trellis or some sort of support to train the vines of this type and keep them off the ground. When you harvest the crops, it will develop new beans until the weather turns cold.
If you’re new to green beans, you might choose the determinate types since they’re easy to grow and don’t require pruning, installing trellises, or worrying about the vines becoming unmanageable. The downside is you’ll have a limited crop compared to the indeterminate types.
Green Beans Varieties
You might have noticed that green beans are not made equal. Some varieties are best eaten fresh, others need to be shelled, while yet some cultivars are best kept to dry. Some grow upright and tall while other climb and crawl their way to the top. Here are some popular cultivars to consider in your garden.
- Mascotte: In the world of beans, this cultivar is considered a gourmet bean. It belongs to the bush type. It grows up to 16 inches high and produces slender beans at the top of the dense foliage. The green pods are juicy and succulent. You can use it in a vegetable salad or cook it to create a sumptuous dish.
- Emerite: This cultivar belongs to the pole beans type. It’s a climber that is distinguished by its fast growth rate. The beans produce crops earlier than other varieties. Since the beans are slow to grow, the pods are easy to snap. You can harvest it before the beans grow and use it in a salad mix.
- Contender: As one of the highest producing varieties, this cultivar produces slightly curved pods that are a little thick but quite sweet and full of flavors. The plant grows in a bush and doesn’t require much maintenance since all the beans grow and mature at the same time.
- Provider: Another bush type that has a high tolerance for cold weather. You can grow this variety if you live in a temperate region. It also resists diseases which saves you the trouble of fending off pests and fungal infections left and right. The green pods are smooth, grow to about 5 inches long, and are quite tasty.
- Fortex: A long variety that produces pods as long as 10 inches. Known as French beans, the slender pods are stringless and easy to chew. You should start to harvest them when the pods are about 5 inches long. The more you harvest, the more crops you get out of it per season.
How to Grow Green Beans
Whether you’re growing bush or pole beans, it all comes down to how much work you’re willing to put in. As we mentioned, pole beans require more work and equipment to keep the vines off the ground. Bush beans are usually easy to grow and they keep their pods at the top for easy picking. Here are the common steps to grow green beans of both types. When possible we’ll mention the extra steps required for either type.
- Use chemically treated seeds to avoid the common fungal infections that come with uncured beans.
- Start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last frost to get a good start.
- If you live in a warm part of the country, you can start the seeds in the garden directly after the last frost.
- The temperature of the soil should be between 60 degrees and 85 degrees Fahrenheit for best germination results.
- For bush beans, prepare the bed in rows 3 feet apart and space the beans about two and a half inches apart after thinning.
- For pole beans, plant the beans on small mounds and place a stake about 6 feet high near each bean for support.
- Use about a quarter pound of treated seeds for every 100 square feet of soil.
- Plant the seeds about one inch deep into the soil and cover them lightly.
- Water the beds immediately and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
- When the seedlings are about two inches tall, thin them out. Pull out the sickly or unhealthy seedlings.
Green Beans Care
Before you can harvest the delicious fresh beans, you’ll need to put in some little work to keep the green beans growing successfully. Since they’re annual plants, you’ll need to start new beans every spring.
Even though you’ll be planting green beans in raised rows or on mounds, soil drainage still matters a lot for the growth and productivity of these legumes. Ensure that the soil is well-drained and that water dissipates quickly. Beans thrive in slightly acidic soil. So mix in plenty of organic matter and perlite to improve the acidity of the soil. For best results, you should get the pH levels up to 6.0 but not above 6.2. If the soil is heavy or there’s more clay than silt in giving your garden soil a dense texture, you can work in one portion of coarse sand for every two portions of the soil.
Your green beans grow well under the full sun. You’ll need to give it about 6 hours of sun on a daily basis. However, watch out for the harsh sun in the summer. Green beans will not flower if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you have excessively hot summer months, consider growing the beans in partial shade to protect them against the heat. Some green beans varieties have a high tolerance for cold temperatures but they still need enough sun every day. Lack of sunlight could have an impact on the flowering and productivity of the beans.
The watering needs of green beans are on the moderate side. You won’t need to give it more than one inch of water a week. However, if the soil dries out fast in the summer you might have to water the plants twice a week. Usually, you’d irrigate them early in the morning to give the plants enough time to absorb the moisture in the soil before it evaporates. Avoid sprinkling water on the leaves or the stems to prevent fungal infections. If the plants still display signs of distress as a result of drought such as drooping leaves, spread a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plants to improve water retention.
Green beans tend to enrich the soil with nitrogen. They process the nitrogen in the air and deposit it in the soil. So you won’t need to use a fertilizer high in nitrogen since that could have adverse effects on the roots of the plants. Use a custom 10-20-10 fertilizer high in phosphorus to improve the productivity of the beans. Phosphorus increases the flowering of the plants which in turn results in a larger crop. You can also use aged manure and organic compost in addition to the custom fertilizer.
Pests and Diseases
Green beans are on the menu of many pests. The most vicious pests to look out for are Mexican bean beetles. They feed on practically every part of the plant from the leaves to the flowers and pods. Pick them off one by one and drown them in a bucket full of water and some detergent. Spider mites, Japanese beetles, and bean leaf beetles are a possible threat to the plants. So check on the plants regularly and remove the pests either by hand or using a swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.
The list of diseases that target the green beans is by no means less impressive. You have Alternaria leaf spot, bacterial blight, bean rust, Anthracnose, mosaic virus, and white mold to fight off. The sooner you discover the infestation and remove the infected parts the better your chances of saving the crop that year.
Harvesting Green Beans
If you’re growing bush beans, you will only have to harvest the crop just once. Pole beans on the other hand keep producing more pods the more your harvest the ripe ones. It’s up to you when you start harvesting the beans. Unless you’re growing dry beans, you should harvest the pods before they reach maturity. That way they’ll be succulent, juicy, and full of flavors.
Use your hands to pull the pods by the stem and snap them off. You can keep the fresh green beans in the fridge for up to 10 days.