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Beans - Fresh - (Phaseolus vulgaris)

Including: green, string, snap, pole, scarlet runner, lima, wax, fava, butterbean


Zones 3 and warmer

Use quick-maturing cultivars in colder areas

Climate Zones Maps


Full sun

Not fussy, grow in almost any type of soil. For best results, beans like light, well-drained soil with pH 6.0 to 7.5

Regular water will increase yield, keep soil evenly moist

Bush beans: 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) apart

Pole beans: 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) apart


Pick at any size, but before seeds have begun to swell noticeably inside the pod

Comments: Fresh beans are classified into a couple of basic categories:

Edible pod beans and Shell beans and Bush Beans and Pole Beans.

Green beans, otherwise known as snap or string beans, are the most popular edible pod bean. The lima bean is the most common shell bean sold. Edamame, a shell bean, is also called an immature green soybean. The popularity of this bean has grown in the past decade and is now easily found frozen in most major supermarkets.

Pole beans are what you'd think of as green beans - it just means the plants tend to climb and continue to grow, which means they keep producing beans over a long harvest period. There are also bush beans, which are the same type of bean growing on a bushy plant - these tend to produce beans all at once, and then stop. Most of the "green beans" you buy at the store are from bush plants because they can be mechanically harvested, but both bush and pole "green beans" are the same species Phaseolus vulgaris.

Planting Site: Full sun with good air circulation.

Planting & Growing Guidelines: Plant cultivars that are resistant to or tolerate bean mosaic, curly top virus, anthracnose, rust, powdery mildew, and other common bean diseases. Sow seed after any danger of frost has passed, and when the soil has warmed to at least 60° F (16° C). When soil temperatures are lower than that, seeds may rot. Keep well weeded, or use mulch to help deter weeds. Regular watering will increase yield and thorough watering is critical when beans are in flower. Bush beans bear heavily, but only for a few weeks. To assure a steady supply of bush beans, make several small plantings 3 to 4 weeks apart, ending 2 months before the first fall frost date. Pole beans will produce beans up unitl the first frost.

  • Sow Bush Beans: About 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep and 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) apart in rows that are 1.5 to 3 feet (.45 to 1 m) apart.

  • Sow Pole Beans: About 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep and 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) apart in rows that are 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) apart.

  • Helpful Articles: Get A Better Bean Harvest

                                10 Tips For Growing The Best Bush Beans

                                 The Wonders of Mulch - A Complete How To Use Mulch Guide

                                Mulching - How Much And How Deep?

    Fertilizing: All legumes, such as beans and peas, are self-fertilizing. In fact, they leave more nitrogen in the soil than they use up. So they really don't need to be fertilized, but what you can do is give them a boost with some "innoculant" (available at any garden center) which helps the plants fix nitrogen in their roots.

    Pest and Disease Prevention: Mexican bean beetles can be serious pests from midseason and onward. Earlier plantings usually have fewer problems. Row covers help exclude these pests. Stay out of the bean patch when the plants are wet to avoid spreading bean rust.

  • Helpful Articles: Heavyweight Row Covers

    Common Problems:

    Poor Germination: If beans are sown too early in cold, wet soil, the seeds may rot before germinating. A small planting for early harvest may be worth the risk, but larger plantings that are to be used for freezing or canning should be delayed until the weather is warmer and air temperature is around 70° to 80° F (21° to 27° C) and the soil temperature is at or above 60° F (16° C).

    Flower Drop: Normally the reason beans set flowers and then drop them is excessive temperature fluctuations. If there is a great difference between day and night temperatures the flowers will drop off. They can also drop off if you get a sudden spike in heat which will kill the pollen. Also, beans need to be watered evenly, but watering should always be at the roots, because overhead watering can cause flowers to drop. Where temperature in concerned, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it, other than adding some additional mulch to try and keep the soil temperature and moisture even.

  • Helpful Articles: Use Soil Temperature For Remarkable Vegetable Planting Results

    Days to Maturity: A minimum of 42 to 55 frost-free days, depending upon the species and cultivar.

    Harvest and Storage: When picking beans, use two hands, one to hold the stem, and one to pinch the base of the beans. Sounds silly, but if you pull and tug, sometimes you can damage the plant. Pick at any size, but before seeds have begun to swell noticeably in the pod. You can harvest beans until frost. Pick snap (pole, bush, string, green) beans when they are tender and about as thick as a pencil. They should snap when you break one in half (hence the name). Keep fresh picked beans dry in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. They should stay fresh for 4 to 5 days. Beans can also be frozen, canned or pickled.

    Special Tips: Increase yield by using an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to help the plant make better use of the nitrogen from the air. Add inoculant to the seed or the soil at planting time.

    The Fresh Bean information above applies to the following beans:

    Asparagus Bean (Vigna unguiculata) - Also known as Chinese longbean, dow guak, snake bean, or yardlong bean. This is a relative of the southern cowpea and produces long, thin, crunchy pods that can range up to 3 feet (1 m) but are better eating at 10 to 12 inches (30 cm). This is a pole bean type that requires a trellis, likes warm weather, and needs a longer growing season than regular beans - at least 75 days of frost-free weather.

    Bush Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) - Also called green, string, or snap bean. These beans are often called string beans because years ago a fibrous string ran along the seam of the bean. The string was noticeable when you snapped off the ends. The snapping noise is the reason for its other nickname. Plant breeders have since reduced these fibers through selection and green beans are now commonly referred to as "snap beans." Bush beans stand erect without support, which is the only difference between them and pole beans. They yield well and require the least amount of work. A few favorites include: Blue Lake 274 (58 days to harvest; have plump, tender pods, slow-developing seeds; resistant to bean mosaic) - Bush Kentucky Wonder (57 days; long, flattened pods) - and Derby (57 days; slim, tender, prolific; excellent pods).

    Butterbean (Phaseolus lunatus) - Also called Carolina bean and incorrectly lima bean, butterbeans are grown and used like lima beans, but they are flat, thin, and much smaller that lima beans.

    Edamame / Soybean (Glycine max) - Edamame is a green vegetable more commonly known as a soybean, harvested at the peak of ripening right before it reaches the "hardening" time. Edamame is of Chinese origin and was developed in Japan especially for eating out of the pod. Edamame is a variation on the same yellow and black field soybean that is transformed into many popular soy products such as tofu, miso, and soymilk. However, because of its recent introduction into the U.S. market, only a small percentage of U.S. soybean fields are devoted to growing edamame.

    Fava Bean / Broad Bean (Vicia faba) - Also called broad bean, the fava bean is sometimes grown as a shell bean in place of limas in short-season areas. It is more frost-tolerant than other beans and may be planted with spring peas, 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost of spring. It is best grown in areas with long, cool springs because in areas where winter turns abrubtly into summer, the fava flowers will drop without setting pods.

    Horticultural Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) - Also called shell bean, shelly bean, or cranberry bean, these beans are red-steaked on an off-white background. These plants are grown specifically for their seeds, which are eaten at the immature stage. Harvest horticultural beans when the pods have started to turn rubbery, but before the seeds inside have begun to harden.

    Lima Bean - Bush (Phaseolus Limensis var. limenanus) - Sometimes called butter or sugar bean, the lima is a heat-loving bean that does best in Zones 7 and warmer. The seed, rather than the pod, is eaten either as a fresh vegetable or as a dried bean. The beans are ready to pick when the pods are plump.

    Lima Bean - Pole (Phaseolus Limensis) - Climbing or pole limas require plenty of warm weather and a sturdy trellis, but are condsidered superior to the bush types in flavor. Lima beans require a minimum 85-day growing season for the first beans to mature. To get a full harvest will take at least 100 days of favorable wather.

    Pole Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) - Also called green, string, snap beans, or runner beans because these beans require support as they produce long vines. These beans are easily harvested and are traditionally grown on a "tee-pee" framework of several long poles tied together at the peak with eight to ten seeds planted at the base of each pole. Pole beans can also be planted in a row and grown on a trellis or along a fence. Pole beans bear over a longer period of time than bush beans and are a good choice where space limitations prevent successive plantings. They do need slightly more time to mature, however, and some older cultivars will have strings that must be removed before eating. A few favorites include: Blue Lake(65 days to harvest; oval, straight, stringless, juicy and tender pods; resistant to bean mosaic) - Kentucky Blue (65 days; round; 7 inch (17 cm) pods) - Kentucky Wonder (65 days; fine flavor, 9 inch (22 cm) pods in clusters).

    Purple-Podded Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) - Striking purple beans that turn a dark green when cooked. Quick to mature.

    Romano Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) - Sometimes called Italian flat bean or runner bean. Tender, well flavored, early to mature.

    Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) - A climbing bean that can be grown as a perennial in warmer climates and as an annual in areas as cool at Zone 4. It has clustsers of brilliant red edible flowers, edible pods, and large seeds, which are used as fresh shelled beans. Breeders have created several cool-tolerant cultivars, including 'Prize Winner'.

    Wax Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) - Also called yellow snap bean. This bean produces slender, pale to golden yellow pods which are picked, prepared, and eaten just like green snap beans.

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