Beans, beans, the wonderful fruit! If you’re wondering how to plant beans, this guide is for you.
Beans have been grown around the world for centuries. They’re inexpensive, hearty, and nutritious. What’s more, beans are easy to grow! They’re prolific garden plants that produce well all throughout the season.
Whether you want to learn how to grow beans — green beans, kidney beans, lima beans, or another variety — this guide has you covered. I’ll go over what type of soil you need, how much to water, how to start beans indoors, and more. Let’s jump right in.
Different Types of Beans
Beans come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and flavors (as you’ll see on our Bean Plants page). All of these interesting beans fall into two main categories: snap beans and dry beans.
Snap beans get their name from the way they easily snap in two when you bend them. These types of beans are typically eaten whole, the pods and seeds together. They’re harvested when the seeds are young and tender. They’re eaten cooked or raw.
You may have heard of string beans, wax beans, or green beans. Though they have different names, these are all basically the same type of bean.
Aren’t Green Beans Green?
Sometimes, but not always! Green beans come in all kinds of colors, including, red, purple, yellow, white, and pink. Wax beans are green beans that are yellow. Haricot Verts are French green beans. They’re smaller and more tender than other varieties.
Other Snap Beans
Romano beans, yard-long beans, and runner beans are also snap beans, though they have some slight differences from other green beans. Romano beans are flat rather than round. Yard-long beans grow very long.
Runner beans are often harvested young and eaten fresh, like green beans, but they can also be harvested later and used as dry beans.
Dry beans don’t have as many names as snap beans. They’re sometimes called shell beans since they’re almost always shelled. These types of beans are grown for their seeds, rather than the whole pod.
The Pods are left to mature fully on the plant. They’re harvested when dry and the shells are discarded. Dry beans are typically soaked and cooked before eating.
Lima Beans, Black Beans, Edamame, and Kidney Beans are all examples of dry beans.
Pole vs Bush
Another way to categorize beans is by the way they grow.
Pole beans are vining plants that continue growing all through the season.
Bush beans grow on rounded bushes low to the ground.
How to Plant Beans
Whatever type you decide to grow, the process for how to plant beans is similar. All bean plants have the same basic requirements. There are some differences when it comes to things like ideal temperature and when to harvest, so check your seed packet to find out the specifics for your variety.
Select a Planting Site
Choose a sunny location with rich soil for planting beans. Beans can be planted in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. The soil should be well-draining with a pH between six and seven.
Beans work well as companion plants for tomatoes because they add nitrogen to the soil.
Prepare the Soil
The soil should be rich with plenty of organic matter. Adding compost when planting is a good way to increase organic matter in the soil.
Before planting, the soil should be warm. At least 60 degrees but 65 or higher is better. A soil thermometer is handy for checking soil temperature in your garden.
Use high-quality potting soil for planting beans in containers.
Choose a Support
If you’re growing pole beans, they’ll need something to grow on. A trellis or bamboo pole teepee both work well. Put your support in place before planting beans so you don’t disturb the roots of your plants later.
Bush beans grow closer to the ground and don’t need any added support.
How to Start Beans from Seed
Beans can be started from seed indoors or outdoors. Starting beans indoors is a good way to get an earlier harvest and start enjoying fresh beans as soon as possible!
Starting Beans Indoors
To start beans from seed, you’ll need some supplies.
There are many tools that make seed starting easier and more successful. To make things easy, we’ve provided a list of helpful items for starting seeds.
High-quality tools last for years and can be used over and over again.
If you’re only growing a few plants, you can get by without all of this equipment. At the very least, you need seed trays or small containers to plant seeds, seed starting mix, and of course, bean seeds. For quality and selection, we recommend the bean seeds sold through two of our favorite online retailers, Hoss Tools and True Leaf Market.
If you don’t have a window that gets lots of direct sunlight, you’ll also need a grow light. Adequate light is really important to help seedlings grow without getting leggy.
Set up your equipment and fill your seed trays or containers with seed starting mix. Poke a small hole in the mix and drop in your seeds. Plant 2-3 seeds per cell. Cover the seeds and water thoroughly. Sprouts will emerge in about 8-10 days.
Caring For Seedlings
When seedlings are about three inches tall, thin each cell or container to one plant. Choose the strongest plant and use scissors to cut away the weaker plants at the soil level.
Keep your seed trays moist and warm as they grow. Ensure the plants have enough light and good air circulation. For more information on caring for seedlings, check out How to Care for Seedlings.
Starting Beans Outdoors
Beans grow quickly, so starting them outdoors works well in many areas. If you started seeds indoors, you can also plant additional seeds outdoors when you transplant your seedlings to the garden. The plants will start producing at different times, giving you an extended harvest.
Start beans outdoors after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to around 65 degrees.
Poke several holes in your soil and drop a seed in each hole. Allow 4-6 inches between each seed and 18 inches between rows.
Cover the seeds gently and water thoroughly. If you’re planting a pole variety, remember to add your support when planting. Bean plants have fragile roots. They won’t like being disturbed later!
Caring for Bean Plants
Once they’re established, green bean plants are easy to care for. Keep the area free of weeds, provide plenty of water, and you’ll be rewarded with healthy, prolific plants!
Beans need plenty of water to produce. If they don’t get enough water, they may stop producing. Aim for 1-2 inches of water per week.
Water at the base of the plant and try to avoid soaking the leaves. Damp leaves can lead to fungal disease.
If you have rich soil, additional fertilizer may not be necessary. Good compost is often enough.
If your soil could use a boost, apply a 5-10-10 fertilizer when planting and again after the first beans appear.
Adding a layer of mulch around the base of your plants helps cut down on weeds, keeps the soil moist longer, and provides added nutrients for plants.
Use natural mulch like compost, wood chips, leaves, straw, or pine needles.
The final step for learning how to plant beans is knowing when to harvest! The best time to harvest beans depends on what type you’re growing. Snap beans are harvested young, while dry beans are left on the plants longer.
Harvest snap beans early and often. These types of beans have the best flavor and texture when the beans are young. Plus, harvesting early encourages the plant to produce more beans giving you a bigger harvest.
For many varieties, the ideal time to harvest is when the beans are about the width of a standard pencil.
Use garden shears or sharp scissors to cut beans away from the plant. You can also use your hands but be careful not to tear the plant. Hold the stem with one hand and use your other hand to gently pull the ripe beans off.
In warm weather, beans grow quickly, so check your plants regularly and harvest them as soon as they’re ready.
Harvest dry beans when the pods are mature and fully dry. You may be able to hear the seeds move around in the pod when you shake it a little.
Most of the time, the entire plant will be fully dry by this point. That makes it easy to harvest the entire plant, remove the bean pods, and compost the rest of the plant.
There are many ways to preserve your bean harvest so you can enjoy the flavor of homegrown beans all year round.
Snap beans can be frozen, canned, pickled, or dehydrated.
Dry beans don’t need any special methods to preserve them. Once they’re fully dry, simply put dry beans in an airtight container and store them in a cool, dry location. When properly stored, dried beans can easily last for a year or more.
Wrapping Up How to Plant Beans
Once you’ve learned how to plant beans, you won’t want to go back to store-bought! If you love beans as much as we do, make sure to visit the Bean Plants page. We have detailed profiles on many different types of beans, plus tips for growing your own.
To get more information on starting plants from seed, visit the Seed Starting page. We’ve compiled a ton of resources like how-to guides, tips and tricks, product recommendations, and more to help you get your garden off to a great start.
Hungry for more info on beans? Then check out my beans page to discover more varieties!