University of Maryland Extension

Beans

beans 

Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae (alternately Leguminosae) used for human or animal food. The whole young pods of bean plants, if picked before the pods ripen and dry, are very tender and may be eaten cooked or raw. Thus "green beans" describes the unripe fruits (many are, in fact, not green in color), as the “beans” (seeds) inside the pods of green beans are too small to comprise a significant part of the cooked fruit.

  • Bush beans or snap beans are popular because of their early maturity and bush growth habit. Varieties include standard green, yellow wax, and purple-pod types. Many gardeners prefer flat-pod (Romano) green snap beans because of their distinct flavor and texture. These are available in both bush and pole types.  Approximately 50 to 60 days to maturity.
  • Half-runner beans are a snap bean with a growth habit between that of bush and pole beans. Though they have runners about 3 feet long, half-runners are generally grown like bush beans. Trellising, however, may increase production of these heavy yielders.
  • Pole beans generally produce higher yields over a longer period in less space than bush types. Pole beans are natural climbers but will not interweave themselves through horizontal wires. Many types of homemade trellises, including tripods, work well as long as they provide the needed support. Trellises should be 6- to 8-feet tall and sturdy enough to withstand strong winds and rain.  Approximately 60 to 110 days to maturity.
  • Scarlet runner beans are a type of pole bean that grows rapidly, producing delicious beans and beautiful red flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds. Harvests are larger when pollinating bees are plentiful and more than one cultivar is planted. They may be harvested as snap beans when young and as green shell beans later. Beans, several pounds per plant, are ready to pick in 75 to 85 days.  The lush 6- to 15-foot vines can be used to cover arbors, trellises, or fences. Scarlet runner bean grows best in cooler weather. Prolonged high temperatures will reduce yield and pod quality.
  • Lima beans are available in bush or pole types.  Bush limas mature about 10 to 15 days earlier than pole limas, but pole limas are more productive over a longer period.  Soil temperature must be 65F for five days in order for the beans to germinate well.  Because the large seeds store considerable amounts of carbohydrates, limas are quite susceptible to attack by soil fungi and bacteria. They are also susceptible to stink bug damage which causes small puncture wounds that are very small and may go un-noticed. These wounds can allow entry by disease organisms, especially a yeast, Hematospora coryli. Infected seeds developing inside lima bean pods may discolor, shrivel and rot. These symptoms may not be observed until after seeds are blanched in preparation for freezing. Cold, wet spells and excessively hot, dry periods can cause lima flowers to drop, reducing yields.  Harvests are larger when pollinating bees are plentiful.  Bush limas mature in 65 to 75 days, pole limas in 85 to 110 days.

Planting

Seed after danger of frost is past. Pre-germinating seed before planting in cool, spring soil may help prevent soil rot and seed maggot problems. Spacing: Bush snap 2” spacing in the row with rows spaced 24” to 30” apart; bush limas 4” spacing in the row with rows spaced 18” to 30” apart; pole beans 4” to 8” spacing in the row with rows spaced 24” to 36” apart.

Cultivation

  • Weeding − Remove all young weed seedlings by hand or with a hoe and use mulch on each side of row to keep weed seeds from germinating.
  • Watering - Keep the root zone moist by watering deeply and regularly during dry periods.  Water more frequently when pods begin to develop.
  • Fertilizing - Medium feeder. Since beans are legumes they will fix nitrogen once they establish a good root system; inoculation will speed the process. Excess nitrogen will delay flowering, so side-dress only after heavy bloom and set of pods, using 3 tablespoons of 10-10-10 or equivalent per 10 feet of row.
  • Special directions - For a continuous harvest, plant snap beans every 2 to 3 weeks from the frost-free date through mid- to late July. Pick snap beans regularly to keep plants producing heavily. Cover seed with 1/4 to 1/2 in. of soil or compost. Keep soil moist, but not soaking wet, until seedlings emerge.

Common Problems

Harvesting

  • Snap beans – Seeds will be ¼ of full size; seed should not cause pods to bulge. Pods should be tender and break easily with a snap when ready.   Approximately yield per 10 foot row is 3 to 5 lbs.
  • Green shelling beans (Lima beans) – Seeds will be full size and pods will be bright green. End of pod will be spongy.  Approximately yield per 10 foot row is 4 to 6 lbs.

Storage and Preservation 

In perforated plastic bag in refrigerator for up to one week.  Beans freeze well.  Clean, trim ends, and snap beans; blanch for one minute in boiling water; plunge into ice water for a minute.  Drain thoroughly prior to freezing.

Additional Resources

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