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Top 10 Tips For Growing Bush Beans

Plus 22 favorite bush bean varieties!

Bush beans, also called snap beans because they "snap" when ripe, are by far the most popular homegrown beans.

They're easy to plant, they don't need any time consuming staking, trellising, or poling because they grow on compact, sturdy plants, they grow well even in poor soil, and have ready-to-eat pods in only seven or eight weeks.

They used to be called "string" beans because of the fibrous string that ran the length of the pods, but now with improved varieties, they are really "stringless " beans!

The reason most gardeners prefer growing bush beans to pole beans is because although they take up more space, they require less work planting, staking, weeding and watering, and bush beans produce most of their crop all at once.

This makes harvesting very fast and convenient because by getting all your beans at once it's helpful for freezing or canning. Also, by staggering planting times by a few weeks you can have continuous bean production all summer long.

So, because green beans are the fourth most popular summer vegetable grown by home gardeners (tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers beating them out) we are going to give you 10 tips that are guaranteed to bring you the best, tastiest, and most productive bush bean crop ever.

Plus, at the end of this article, we have a chart of bush beans giving you 22 of the most favorite varieties grown by professional and home gardeners alike.


Basic Bush Bean Care

This story is about honing in on the top 10 things to do to get the best bush beans ever.

If however, you need some basic bean planting & growing guidelines for all types of beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) including bush and pole beans please read: Fresh Beans Growing Guidelines

Types Of Bush Beans

Basically there are two types of bush beans:

  • Green-podded
  • Yellow-podded or wax beans

And they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes:

  • Long
  • Short
  • Flat
  • Round
  • Broad

This is great because you can grow just about any kind of green bean you want, and most popular pole bean varieties such as 'Blue Lake' or Kentucky Wonder' also come as a bush bean varieties.

This means you can still grow your favorite beans; you just won't have to work so hard to enjoy the end product. Nice!



'Kentucky Wonder' Bush





'Rocdor' Yellow Wax

TOP 10 BUSH BEAN GROWING TIPS

1. Wait For Warm Weather

Beans like warm soil, so for best germination when sowing your seeds, wait until the soil temperatures are warmer than 60° F (16° C).

If you plant the seeds in cold soil, the beans will germinate very slowly leaving them vulnerable to rot and soil-borne diseases.

Beans planted in cold soil just won't grow very quickly, and you won't save any time or get a faster harvest because beans planted in warm soil will grow very quickly and catch up to early sown beans within a few weeks.

There are some varieties that are mentioned below in the Bush Bean Chart that grow OK in cool soil such as 'Provider', but overall you are better off waiting for warm soil.

Also, by waiting for warmer weather, you will avoid any danger of a late frost that can damage the growing tips of young bean plants and kill them.

Note: If you have a very short growing season and you need to sow as soon as possible, then you will want to warm your soil artificially by covering it with plastic for a few weeks before you sow your seed.

Once the seedlings emerge, make sure to protect them from the cold with a floating row cover until all danger of frost has passed. More Information About Floating Row Covers



2. Prepare Bean Seeds For Planting

  • Soak Them

    For extra fast germination, soak the seeds in water for 30 minutes before planting, or put the seeds between two damp paper towels the night before planting.

    By the next day, the seeds will be swollen and ready to germinate. Do this only if you are positive that you can plant the next day! If you get them primed, then they need to be planted.

  • Inoculate Them

    Take a few minutes before you plant your seeds and inoculate them by coating them with a powdered form of "inoculant." Inoculant is available from online bean seed suppliers as well as local garden and home improvement centers.

    Beans are like peas and other "nitrogen-fixing" legumes in that beans can pull nitrogen right out of the air because soil-dwelling bacteria forms nodules on their roots.

    But this can happen only if the soil naturally has this helpful bacteria. If the soil has no such bacteria, your beans won't do as well.

    And even if your soil already has plenty of the nitrogn-fixing bacteria needed by your beans, adding some incoulant is never going to hurt anything. Just make sure you buy inoculant recommended for snap beans.

    Since inoculant is super inexpensive, it is good insurance to give your seeds a quick dusting before planting to ensure they grow the best they can.



3. Water Properly

Bush beans like a regular supply of water, especially during sprouting, flowering, and pod producing. That said however, beans don't like wet, or poorly drained soil.

In order to make sure the soil drains well, and your beans don't rot, add plenty of organic matter such as compost before planting.

Give beans regular water, and allow the plants to dry out a bit in between waterings. The only time you want the soil to be constantly damp is right after you have sown the seeds.

Watering the Seeds

When sowing in the spring, sow the seeds 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep; in the hot weather of summer, sow the seeds 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Then soak the seed bed thoroughly with water, and try not to water again until the beans sprout so that the soil doesn't become soggy or waterlogged.

If your soil tends dry out quickly, or to form a crust, cover the seed bed with a very thin layer of mulch or compost after you plant to keep the soil surface moist and soft. This helps the bean's growing tip from breaking off as it pushes though the soil.

Note: Don't use so much mulch that you cool the soil.

Note: If your soil dries out even with the mulch, do water again. Always keep sown seed beds damp. If they dry out, the seeds will die.




4. Plant Bush Beans Very Close Together

Bush beans don't mind being crowded and will still produce a good crop. The best reason for planting them fairly close together is you want the leaves of the plants to grow into a shade canopy that will cool the soil and stop weeds from growing.

Plant bean seeds in "blocks" that are 2 feet (.61 m) by 2 feet (.61 m). Plant your seeds 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) apart and don't thin when they come up.


5. Make Sure To Rotate

Professionals and successful bean growers alike all rotate their bean planting area every year.

Try not to grow beans in the same garden bed two years in a row because they are susceptible to several soil-borne diseases, and rotating your crops will help prevent a build up of these diseases at each location.

If your beans are dying in the seedling stage, very often, diseases are killing the roots. Simply avoid this problem by moving your bean beds around to a different location each year. For more read: Proper Crop Rotation



6. Keep Bush Beans Weeded

Snap beans have very shallow roots that cannot compete with weeds for water and nutrients, so try and keep your beans well weeded.

Once the plants have grown large enough to shade out weeds, the problem isn't as dire, but when the seedlings are just getting started, carefully get rid of any weeds you see starting to grow.

Remember however, that bean roots grow very close to the soil surface, so be careful when weeding that you don't pull the bean plants out along with the weeds if you have allowed the weeds to get too large.


7. Bush Beans Like Mulch

If you live where summers are hot and dry, mulch your beans to help keep the moisture in the soil. Many people like to use shredded newspaper mixed with grass clippings, or compost.

Mulch is an entire other story, so for more about mulch read: The Wonders of Mulch - A Complete How To Use Mulch Guide

8. Keep Bush Beans Picked

Regular harvesting is the number one way to guarantee a prolonged bean harvest. You should pick your beans at least every other day, and you should pick you beans before their pods swell and fill up with seeds.

When the seeds finish forming inside the pods, it sends a signal to the plant to stop growing, which is something you don't want, so keep those beans picked.

Also, when beans pods get too big, they are not as tender and tasty as when they are young bean pods.


9. Bush Beans Don't Like Super High Heat

String beans will stop producing about a week after any hot spell that is over 90° F (32° C). When bean flowers get too hot to pollinate themselves, the pollen just gives out.

So if you live in an area that regularly gets summer heat over 90° F (32° C), either:

  • Cover your bush beans with shade cloth structures to help them weather through

  • Plant early in the spring, or plant towards the end of summer to miss most of the high heat days




10. Stagger Your Planting

Don't plant all your snap beans at the same time. Plant blocks of beans every 10 to 14 days.

Because bush beans tend to produce their beans all at once, harvest will only last about 2 weeks. By staggering your planting, it will help keep a steady supply of beans throughout the summer.



22 FAVORITE BUSH BEAN VARIETIES

VARIETYDESCRIPTIONDAYS TO HARVEST
AramisFrench filet type; high yield, flavorful55
Bush Blue LakeGreat taste; productive60
Black ValentineMeaty pods; very productive70
DerbyHigh yield; easy to harvest57
Dragon's LangerieWax bean with purple streaks57
Full MeasureGood taste; good for canning80
Golden RockyTender; great tasting wax bean60
GoldkistVery prolific; pods stays tender on the plant55
JadeBright green color55
Kentucky Wonder BushHigh quality large pods; strong vines hold pods off ground57
Label (Labelle)Good taste; must be picked regularly48
Little White Bunch BeanSmaller, better tasting than 'White Half Runner'75
MarbelProductive; purple streaked filet type63
Oregon Bush Blue LakeLong, straight beans60
Oregon TrailDelicate taste; disease resistant60
ProviderTolerates cool, wet soil50
RocdorWax bean; delicate, buttery taste50
Roma IIRich taste; takes high heat52
RoyaltyPurple pods turn green when cooked55
TendercropCrisp, stringless pods grow high above ground56
VentureTender and crisp pods50
White Half RunnerTender heirloom; self-supporting vines60

Conclusion

Whether you call them string beans, snap beans, green beans, or bush beans, they are one of the most favored vegetables for gardeners to grow during the summer months.

They have high quality flavor, and last a long time once harvested, making them easy to handle and cook with.

By following the above tips and trying some of the suggested varieties, you will have even more success with your green beans and that simply means more for you to eat and enjoy!



'Blue Lake' Bush Beans






Hilary Rinaldi is a member of the National Garden Writers Association, a nationally published writer, and a certified organic grower. She regularly speaks and writes about all gardening related topics, with an emphasis on making gardening a successful and enjoyable process for anyone who wants to learn. Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine concentrates of giving detailed gardening tips and gardening advice to all levels of gardeners.

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