Fresh green beans are a real treat. Okay, I know I always say this, but the beans you can pull from your vegetable garden really do taste so much better than beans from the store.
Plus, beans are great for beginner gardeners. They grow super fast, they don’t need much tending, and they’ll give you lots of yummy pods to harvest. You can even grow them in a container on a sunny balcony or patio.
By the way, green beans are really just the fruits of common bean plants that are harvested before they’re fully ripe. You can call them green beans, snap beans, or string beans—they’re all the same thing!
Before we look at how to grow your own green beans in this detailed guide, let’s look at the two different growing habits of beans and how to pick the one that’s right for your garden space.
POLE BEANS VS BUSH BEANS
A common question I see is: Do green beans need a trellis? It actually depends on which type you’re growing. Green bean plants have two different and distinct growth habits: pole and bush.
Pole beans are climbers. They can grow between 5 and 10 feet tall, so you need to give them some type of trellis or structure to support all that vertical growth. Pole beans will produce a slow and continuous supply of pods until the end of the season (basically the arrival of heat or frost). There are lots of fun heirloom pole bean varieties you can grow.
This type only grows a couple feet tall, so they don’t need anything to climb, just some space to spread out from side to side. Bush varieties produce an abundant harvest quickly, making them ideal for shorter growing seasons.
I love growing both types. You can often only find bush beans at the store, so the flavor of pole beans might be something you only get to experience by picking them off the vine yourself.
But ultimately, your decision which to grow should come down to the space you have available. If you have an open trellis or some cattle panel, I’d give pole beans a try! They’ll quickly cover your trellis in beautiful green foliage.
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OUR FAVORITE TYPES OF BEANS TO GROW
There are many different varieties of green bean plants that you can choose for your garden.
Some of my favorite types to grow in this area include:
Pole green bean varieties
- Kentucky Wonder has become the crème de la crème of green beans for home gardeners.
- Rich Purple Pods are green beans that are, as you probably guessed, a dark purple color. They’re also really tasty and packed with antioxidants thanks to their pretty color. If you have picky toddlers, these might be a fun way to encourage them to eat more veggies.
- Yard Long Noodle King needs to be grown for the name alone! But seriously, this type produces 12- to 18-inch-long green beans and does really well in the heat. This is the one variety you could grow over our Austin summers.
Bush green bean varieties
- Tricolor Bush Beans are a variety pack that will give you beans in green, yellow, and purple! The green bean seeds in this variety pack are Blue Lake, which have long been a standard for green beans. (You can grow their pole counterparts here.)
- French Mascotte produces beautiful cream-colored blossoms followed by crispy green beans. This is a container bush bean that’s ideal for small spaces.
- Provider Heirloom Bush Beans are so called because they will provide abundant harvests of long and meaty green beans for you!
WHERE TO GROW GREEN BEANS
Beans can be grown in raised beds or containers. Raised-bed vegetable gardens are ideal to give the somewhat-fragile roots of your bean plants plenty of room to dig down deep for water and nutrients. You don’t really need to worry about the soil all that much since beans aren’t very picky, but a well-draining soil will get you the best results.
Your top priority is to choose a site that gets full sun. Green beans require at least 6 hours of sun but will be much more productive with 8 or more hours a day.
Green bean pro tip:
The leaves of your green bean plants can burn in the hot afternoon sun from the west, so morning sunlight is ideal. If your plants can receive their 6 to 8 hours earlier in the day, they’ll appreciate a little shade in the last few hours of the day. (If you notice your plants are getting scorched by late afternoon sun, cover them with a shade cloth to filter some of the harsh light.)
How to grow green beans in a pot
If you’d like to try growing them in a container, look for a pot that’s at least 18 inches across and 12 inches deep. If you’re growing vining string beans, make sure your container can fit some kind of support structure.
Mix some compost in with your potting soil. Then, set your pot in your sunniest spot.
WHEN TO PLANT GREEN BEANS
Beans grow really well here in Central Texas during our spring and fall thanks to our relatively warm climate. Beans love warm, not hot, weather (when temperatures range from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit).
The best time to plant beans for spring is once all chance of frost has passed. For those of us in the Austin area, our last frost date is around mid-March. If you plant any earlier than that, even if you’re certain we won’t experience more frost, you risk the soil temperature being a little too cool for beans to sprout well.
Beans planted in early spring will thrive in our warm weather until late spring or early summer, when our blazing Texas temps arrive. The only beans that typically do well in our hot season over the summer are rattlesnake beans and edamame. Other bean varieties might continue to grow, but it’ll be too hot for them to even think about flowering and fruiting. They’ll most likely feel really stressed out and just attract pests to your garden—and you don’t want that!
We have a second opportunity to grow beans in the fall, from about September to our first frost. Bean plants germinate really well in the warm soil of late summer and then bask in the sunny autumn days. Remove beans from your garden before our first freeze. Trust us, they won’t survive.
HOW TO GROW GREEN BEANS FROM SEEDS
Green bean seedlings are delicate little things that don’t like being moved, so it’s best to sow seed directly in the garden space.
Green beans seeds are nice and large, which makes them super easy to handle and place in the soil. Before sowing green bean seeds though, I recommend soaking them in room-temp water overnight to soften their seed coat a bit and ease sprouting. Once they’re in your garden, they’ll germinate fast and burst from the soil. It’s always really exciting to see them poke their way through!
You’ll also want to prepare your soil before planting. Add a fresh 2- to 3-inch layer of compost to the top of your bed. You have the option of also adding some mycorrhizae to the planting area to help your green beans grow nice, strong roots faster.
When you’re planting your green beans, make sure to leave enough space between the seeds for them to grow. This can be anywhere from 4 to 6 inches apart for bush beans and about 6 inches apart for vines. If you overcrowd your plants, they may become more susceptible to pests and diseases, plus they won’t have enough room to reach their full potential.
Paying attention when planting is key to a thriving green bean garden. Especially since you won’t have to do much afterwards but add water!
How deep to plant green beans
Plant your beans about one inch deep in your garden. Use a trowel to dig a shallow little trench and then place all your seeds before covering them with soil so you can see your spacing. I use what I call little Pac-Man hands to close the soil on either side of the trenches I dug over the seeds. Or you could think of pinching the soil with your crab claws.
If you’re growing pole beans, make sure your trellis is installed now so that the tiny tendrils of your beans will have something to grasp onto very soon. Plus, if you wait until later, you’ll risk damaging bean roots when you press the legs of your trellis into the soil.
Water the planting area. Keep the soil moist while you’re waiting on the bean seeds to germinate. Never let the soil completely dry out and form that hard crust before the seeds have sprouted. You should see their little seed coats bursting through the surface within a week.
If you’re growing bush green beans, then come back in a couple weeks and plant more seeds. This way, you’ll get a more continuous bean harvest in a couple months.
HOW TO GROW GREEN BEANS
Green beans love warmth, but they’re not cut out for summer heat. If temps are spiking over 95 degrees while you still have green beans in your garden, consider using a floating row cover or shade cloth to protect them and prevent them from dropping their blossoms.
Other than providing shade when needed, your tending tasks for green beans will include watering, adding compost, and pruning of damaged leaves.
Watering green beans
Green beans need to be watered regularly throughout the growing season to keep them healthy and full of flavor. Check the soil moisture frequently with your fingertips. If the top layer of soil feels dry, it’s time to water the planting area. You’ll know you’ve been lax in your watering duties if you notice the plants start wilting and their leaves turning yellow.
You’ll most likely need to water your green beans every day during our warmer, drier months. You can water by hand in the early morning. We recommend using a long watering wand so that you can get right to the base of the plants. Water deeply to encourage the roots to reach down, not stay shallow, to find water. Also, avoid splashing water on the leaves, as wet leaves can invite fungal disease and mildew growth.
Another watering method is to install drip irrigation prior to planting, with a timer at your spigot to give your plants a deep drink at regular intervals. Garden in Minutes is a great DIY kit for installing drip irrigation in your garden.
Once your beans are better established in you can ease up on watering a bit, but they’ll still need about an inch of water each week for high yields.
Supporting green beans
Green beans don’t need a ton of extra nutrients to be happy and productive plants. Honestly, the best fertilizer for green beans at any stage is just some organic matter like compost or worm castings added to the top of the garden bed.
Every week or so, just push some compost around the base of your plants to form a little mound. This is called hilling.
This will give a little nutrient boost to your plants, and it can also help keep bush green beans from flopping over when they’re holding heavy pods. (You definitely do not want the leaves of your green beans to touch the soil—that just creates a bridge for pests and soil-borne diseases.)
If bush beans need more support, use some garden stakes and twine to help hold them upright.
Help your pole beans find rungs on your trellis, and attach vines using twine if needed. You want them to feel secure so they’ll give you heavy yields.
Pruning green beans
Each week, remove any damaged or yellowed leaves from your plants. As pole beans grow up their garden trellis, prune away some of the older, lower leaves near the base to increase air circulation in the garden and give the plant more energy to focus on new leaves, flowers, and fruits.
WHEN TO HARVEST GREEN BEANS
Green beans are harvested fresh, before they’re technically fully ripe. It’s best to remove the pods when they’re still tender and the seeds inside are just beginning to form. Green beans get their other name, snap beans, from the way you can snap a pod and have it break cleanly in half. At least that’s the goal.
Waiting too long to harvest gives the beans time to grow woody and taste bitter. They also might develop lots of tough strings (thus their other name, string beans!).
Green beans are typically ready to harvest beginning about 60 or so days from planting. Check the seed packet for days to harvest when you’re planting and then mark your calendar.
A good indication of an upcoming harvest is the formation of pretty little blossoms. Pods are usually ready to be harvested about 1 to 2 weeks after the flowers form.
You can also see how long the pods are expected to be at maturity on the seed packet. Remove each bean pod when it’s reached the anticipated length. Make sure, though, that you base this on the specific type of green bean you’re growing because some pods will be tougher than others the longer they grow.
HOW TO HARVEST GREEN BEANS
Grab some scissors or a clean pair of pruners to help you harvest. Cut just above the pod so that a little bit of stem is attached.
If you’re growing pole beans, make sure to harvest every couple of days so that your plant will keep producing for you. Avoid letting the seeds inside any pod reach full maturity. If your plants keep going, you can get several pounds of green beans from one plant throughout the growing season.
Pro tip: Store harvested green beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you have enough for a meal.
We hope this guide helps you harvest pound after delicious pound of your own fresh green beans!
Let us know what questions you have about growing this warm weather vegetable here in Austin, TX. We love helping you set up your own kitchen gardens and become confident gardeners. If you’re ready to set up your garden for the next growing season, now is the perfect time. Click here to start growing with us!