fresh green beans in a basket
Updated: June 10, 2021

Planting bean facts

  • Hardiness: Tender annual, frost will damage plant tissue. Except fava beans, a semi-hardy annual, that can withstand light frosts, but not heavy frosts or freezing.
  • 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. Inoculating seeds with nitrogen-fixing bacteria may increase yields on land newly planted in beans. Full sun requires at least 6 hours direct light/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day. 
  • Days to maturity: (from direct garden sowing)
    Snap beans 50 - 60 days
    Pole beans 60 - 110 days
    Bush limas 65 - 75 days
    Pole limas 85 - 110 days
  • Spacing: 
    Bush snap 2” - 4" in-row x 24” - 30” between rows
    Bush limas 4” in-row x 18” - 30” between rows
    Pole beans 4” - 8” in-row x 24” - 36” between rows
  • Fertilizer needs: Medium requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Beans are legumes and will fix nitrogen once a good root system is established; inoculation will speed the process. Excess nitrogen will delay flowering; side-dressing is usually not necessary. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
  • Approximate yield (per 10-foot row): Snap beans, 5 to 10 lbs; lima beans, 5 to 10 lbs.

Bean problems

Bacterial blight
Cercospora leaf spot
Mexican bean beetle
Spider mites
Powdery mildew
Air pollution
Fertilizer or Pesticide burn
Herbicide damage
Poor blossom and fruit set

Types of beans

Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae. 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 and purple-pod types. Many types are available, including flat-pod Romano and French filet, 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 the 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 summer storms.  
  • 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 a 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 degrees 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 unnoticed. 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. Bush limas tend to produce more reliably with the increasing night temperatures caused by climate change.  
  • Southern peas are not actually beans or peas but are in a separate genus, Vigna. However, they are used in the same ways. There are three commonly grown types: black-eyed pea, cream pea, and crowder pea. They are available in both pole and bush forms. Southern peas may be harvested in the green shell or dried pea stage. They are also planted as a summer cover crop to protect and improve the soil.
  • Asparagus beans or “yard-long” beans are related to the black-eyed pea and have a similar flavor, but the pod may be 1½- to 2-feet long. Asparagus beans need warm temperatures and a long growing season to grow well.
  • Fava beans or broad beans are quite hardy. In cool climates, they are often substituted for limas. Favas are sown early in spring and do not grow well in warm weather. Some gardeners have success planting favas in the fall for a spring harvest.

Growing and care of beans

  • 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.
  • Succession Planting - 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. Cover newly planted seeds with row covers if birds pull out germinating seeds and seedlings.

Harvesting beans

  • 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.
  • Green shelling beans (Lima beans), seeds will be full size and pods will be bright green. The end of the pod will be spongy.  
  • For dry beans (of all types), pods should remain on the bush until dry and brown. Keep maturing beans picked to prolong the life of the vines.

Storage and preservation 

  • In a perforated plastic bag in the 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.