How To Grow Better Beans

There are basically two types of bean bushes. The bush variety that reaches a height of 12 to 18 inches or a pole bean that often grows to 8 feet or more in height. For home gardeners pole beans are preferred for their better flavor and because they produce beans over a long period often supplying fresh beans for several weeks during your growing season. Pole beans are rapid climbers and require some form of staking or trellising for support. Just about any sturdy structure will do but the tepee trellis is often your best bet because it requires relatively little space and can be an attractive garden feature.

 Bush beans.

Sow the seeds 1 inch deep, about 6 inches apart, in rows 18 inches apart.

Beans do not do well in a wide row planting.  They must have room on either side for maximum production.

Plant after all danger of frost has past. Do not plant too soon!   If the soil has not warmed sufficiently, the seeds will rot in the ground before they germinate.

For an earlier crop, place black plastic over the row one week before planting.  Slit the plastic with an X mark every 6 inches and plant 2 seeds in each opening.

Make sure the soil underneath the plastic is thoroughly tilled.

Use Rotenone or pyrethrum to control Mexican bean beetles.

Pole Beans.

CULTURE: Grow pole beans on trellises or large mesh fencing, 4-pole tepees, or single poles. Sow seeds 1″ deep, spaced 3″ apart in rows 4′ apart after soil temperature exceeds 60°F (16°C). If using poles, plant 5-7 seeds at the base of each pole.

Building a teepee trellis.

Outline the base of your trellis by drawing a circle that is roughly 4 feet in diameter. Build the teepee with 3 to 6, 6 or 8 ft. poles (depending on how high you can reach) you can use 1×2’s. 2×2’s, electrical conduit, steel/plastic pipe or even bamboo. Space the poles in even increments around the circle–you’ll need to bury the end of the pole a few inches to prevent shifting. Be sure to leave enough room between the poles for easy access to beans growing on the inside of the teepee.

Gather the poles together at the top and tie them together to form the teepee.

HINT: If you live in an area of high winds you’ll probably want to anchor your trellis. This is easy to do as your building your trellis by tying a loop of rope around the top of you poles and anchoring it in the center of the circle with a large tent stake or piece of pipe buried in the ground. Use synthetic rope so it won’t rot.      

Starting your seeds for a trellis.

Make a small mound of soil that is about 6 inches around and 3 inches tall at the base of each pole. Moisten the soil and plant 5-7 pole bean seeds in each mound. The seeds should germinate in 7 to 14 days. It’s important to keep the seeds moist (not soggy) during the germination time. When the seedlings reach about 3 inches high, thin out the 2 weakest seedlings by cutting them off at the soil line. Don’t pull out the weakest because this will probably disturb the roots of the remaining plants.

As the vines grow train them up the poles. Once started, they will probably grow on the poles without too much help. Spread grass clippings 2-3 inches deep around the base of each pole to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed problems. Beans tolerate some dry soil, but they’ll do a lot better if you give them a good soaking about once a week.


DO NOT use a spray method to water as this can encourage fungal disease to develop on the bean plants. Use something like a drip method or soaker hose at the base of the plants.

For the tastiest beans harvest before you can feel the bean seeds inside the pods. (you can always let a few of the pods develop to maturity to save seeds for next year) Prevent fungal disease by only harvesting when the foliage is dry. Pulling beans off the vine can damage the plant, so harvest by pinching or clipping off each bean. Pole beans grow fast, so harvest at least three times a week to ensure you get the tastiest pods and to signal the plant that it needs to keep producing.

Harvest and storage.

Beans taste best when eaten fresh, but they will keep for 7-10 days if you store them in a lettuce bag in the crisper drawer of a refrigerator. Long term storage dictates either freezing or canning and with some beans drying is a good alternative.


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