When planning your vegetable garden, there are several types of green bean plants to choose from, but what all share in common is a prolific crop of tasty and healthy green bean pods, ready to eat right off the vine or cook up as a family-pleasing side dish vegetable, add to soups, or mix into casseroles. As a bonus, green beans—also commonly called string beans—are one of the easiest vegetables to grow at home. You can even choose bean types that are purple or yellow instead of green for extra color in your garden and in the kitchen
The green bean growing season is a long one. Start planting your green beans any time after the threat of frost is passed and the soil starts to warm. Add a few more green bean plants every two weeks to stagger the harvest, and you’ll be able to pick fresh green beans through the fall. In mild-winter areas, you can even plant a few more green beans in the early fall to extend your harvest even longer.
Plant green beans in fertile, well-drained soil in a location that gets at least eight hours of sun per day. The spacing depends on what type of beans you plant: as a general rule, leave 4 to 6 inches between bush beans, and 6 to 8 inches between vining or pole beans. There are dozens of good bean varieties, so read the seed packages carefully to determine which grow best in your area.
Once your green beans produce flowers, it's a matter of days before beans are formed, as green bean plant stages cycle quickly. Harvest the green beans when the pods feel firm, but the inside seeds are not yet bulging through the pods’ sides. If you wait too long, the exterior of the bean will be tough and stringy. Another reason to keep the green beans harvested is because waiting reduces your yields. The more beans you pick, the more the vine will produce.
Green beans need regular water during the growing season—approximately 1 to 2 inches per week in the form of rain or supplemental watering. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot.
Pole beans are a very popular type of green bean vine. They get their moniker because they grow on long vines that reach 6 to 7 feet, which means they need support from a green bean cage, trellis, or—as the name suggests—pole to keep them off the ground. This vertically trained growing habit means you can save space in your vegetable garden.
Pole beans tend to produce green beans pods a little later than bush beans do, but continue to supply a harvest for up to six weeks. You can stretch the harvest time by planting a few more pole bean plants every two weeks for the first month or so of the growing period.
Construct the support system first, then plant below it. Below a trellis, plant green bean seeds 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart. Below tripod poles, plant four to six seeds about 4 inches from each pole. When the seeds emerge, remove the weakest ones, leaving the best three or four seeds to grow. You’ll first want to set up your green bean cage or trellis, and then plant the seeds below their support. If using a trellis, plant green bean seeds 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart. Below a cage or tripod, plant four to six seeds about 4 inches from each pole. When the seeds emerge, remove the weakest ones, leaving the best three or four seedlings in place.
You can get creative with pole bean structures, even forming them into teepees for kids to play in.
Bush green beans are shorter and bushier than pole beans, reaching 1 to 2 feet tall. Plant bush bean seeds about 1 to 1-1/2 inches deep and 1 to 2 inches apart. When seedlings emerge, thin to the best plants spaced 3 to 4 inches apart. Bush beans planted at the same time grow and produce a harvest over a two- or three-week period. For an extended harvest of bush beans, plant a few bean seeds every week until late summer.
Early varieties of green beans usually grew tough membranes or "strings" that ran down the center of the pods' seams. Many of today's green bean varieties have been bred to be stringless. You’ll see this indicated on the seed package or growing information with nursery seedlings.
As to whether they snap, yes, green beans should be crisp and filled with enough moisture so that when the pods are broken apart by hand you hear a little snapping sound.
If you only have room for a planter or pot, grow 'Mascotte', the 2014 All-America Selections winner. These green bean plants reach only about 16 to 18 inches tall and 8 to 10 inches wide. Plant these beans in a window box, sowing three to four seeds in each hole and spacing about a foot apart, or in a round container with three to four seeds in each hole 4 inches apart. In the garden, plant seeds individually 2 to 3 inches apart in rows a foot apart. Stagger the harvest by planting seeds every two weeks until midsummer.
No matter what you call them, they are easy to plant and enjoy. In spring after all threat of frost is passed, sow the seeds about 1 to 2 inches deep in rows 4 to 6 feet apart. At planting time, install a 6-foot trellis for the long vines, which can reach 9 to 12 feet, to climb upon.
Harvest the beans before the bean pods are entirely filled unless you are growing the beans in order to harvest seeds for the following year. The texture of long beans is different from that of green beans. Try them sautéed but not boiled.
You’ll need to keep a watchful eye out for green bean pests in your garden. Common signs of trouble include holes in the green bean leaves, damage to green bean stalks or vines, and nibbled or entirely devoured pods.
Common insect green bean plant pests include aphids, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetles, thrips, and spider mites. You can control these pests with organic insecticides, or pick larger beetles off your plants by hand.
Green beans are veggie powerhouses! One serving—3/4 cup—is only 20 calories but provides 10 percent of your daily amount of Vitamin C, plus Vitamin A, calcium, and iron.
Green beans retain their best quality and nutrition when used shortly after harvest, but they can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.