How to grow bush beans

I have been growing bush beans in my home garden for years! They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and generally produce well from spring into fall. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and 1 plant will produce dozens of beans! Plus they don't take up a lot of space.

How to grow bush beans, a guide

A few years back I started growing more than just the standard Blue Lake bush beans. I love the color of purple bush beans and have recently started growing some of the yellow bush bean varieties! It's crazy how many different types of bush beans are out there! So lets talk about growing them.

From choosing the perfect variety to troubleshooting common issues, this comprehensive guide will equip you with all the knowledge and techniques you need to ensure a bountiful bean harvest. 

How to grow bush beans

The first thing you'll need to determine is if you have the right place to grow in. Bush beans need full sun, so at least 8 hours of sun a day. If your garden doesn't get enough sun you can always plant them in containers and place them where they will get full sun. Bush beans grow well in containers!

Choosing the Right Variety of Bush Beans

One of the most crucial decisions you'll make is choosing the right variety for your garden. With so many options available, it's important to select a variety that suits your preferences and growing conditions.

I have always grown the Blue Lake variety because it grows very well for me and has over many years and even location changes! A few years back I started growing the Purple Dove variety and they are doing well also.

Picture on Instagram of my purple and green beans from this year. 

There are numerous varieties of bush beans to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and flavor profiles. Some common options are Blue Lake, Provider, Contender, and Roma II plus the above mentioned Purple Dove, but I think lots of people just grow those for the pretty color!

Before selecting a variety, consider factors such as your climate, available space, and personal preferences. Some varieties are better suited for cooler climates, while others thrive in hot and humid conditions. 

Additionally, be sure to check the days to maturity listed on the seed packet, as this will give you an idea of when you can expect to start harvesting your beans and it's important to pick a bean that works well with the length of your growing season!

When it comes to personal preferences, consider the flavor, color, and texture of the beans. Do you prefer a crisp and crunchy bean, or a softer and creamier one? Are you looking for a specific color, such as green, yellow, or purple? 

Fun fact: Purple beans turn green when you cook them! 

Take the time to research the characteristics of each variety and choose the ones that align with your taste preferences and culinary needs. Or purchase (or trade for) seeds of a few different types and try growing them all to compare! Almost all bush beans have the same care requirements so its easy to grow multiple varieties in the same garden plot. 

Warning: Label ALL your plants if you're growing more than 1 type of bean! You'd be surprised how similar they all look when growing and you might not be able to tell which variety is which. 

This is actually good advice for any type of plant you grow! Somehow I mixed together garden peas and snow peas this year. *sigh* it's not going well. I keep cooking the wrong ones and the pods are tough and stringy. Definitely label everything!

Don't be afraid to experiment and try different varieties each season. If you want to try a bean that needs more time than your growing season allows, consider starting them indoors up to 2 months before your last frost date to give them the time they need.

A handful of freshly picked green and purple bush beans.

Preparing the Soil for Growing Bush Beans

Before you can start planting bush beans, it's important to prepare the soil. 

First you'll want to remove any weeds or grass from the area where you plan to plant your beans. Weeds can compete with your beans for nutrients and water, so it's essential to eliminate them before planting. 

Use a garden hoe or hand tools to carefully remove any unwanted vegetation, being sure to get rid of the roots as well. I like to till, but not everyone does it's completely up to you. 

Once the area is cleared of weeds, it's time to amend the soil with organic matter. This can help improve the soil structure, drainage, and fertility. You can add compost, well-rotted manure or other organic materials to enrich the soil. 

Spread a layer of the organic matter over the planting area and use a garden fork or spade to work it into the soil to a depth of about 6-8 inches.

At this point I like to let it set about a week and then till it again right before planting. This disturbs any weed seeds that have started to sprout and can help cut down on the weeds in your garden. Use a garden rake to break up any clumps and create a smooth, level surface for planting.

Planting and Spacing Bush Beans Correctly

To decide on your planting pattern, consider the spacing requirements for bush beans. These compact plants don't require much room, but they still need adequate space to grow up at out. Aim for spacing of about 18 to 24 inches, allowing sufficient air circulation between the plants. 

This separation is crucial in preventing the spread of diseases and provides ample light to each individual bean plant.

The sun moves across the sky in the same direction every day and bean plants that are too close together will block off the sun to the other plants next to them. This will cause them to grow more slowly. You want to give the plants enough room to spread out and develop without overcrowding.

As you place each seed or seedling into the soil, make sure to follow the recommended planting depth on your seed packet. Typically, bush beans should be planted about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. This depth allows the seeds to germinate effectively and emerge from the soil with ease. 

If you plant the seeds too shallow, they may struggle to establish strong roots, while planting them too deep can inhibit their emergence and delay growth.

Also decide how many plants you want to grow based on how you want to use your beans. If you're only eating them fresh then 3-4 plants should give you enough for a weekly harvest. If you want to share, can, freeze or otherwise preserve your beans then you'll want considerably more plants.  

Proper Care When Growing Bush Beans

Watering is a crucial aspect of caring for your bush beans. They prefer consistent moisture, so be sure to water them regularly, especially during dry periods. However, be cautious not to overwater, as excessively wet soil can lead to root rot and other issues. Aim for a balance, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Fertilizing your bush beans is another important aspect of their care. Prior to planting, you can incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to provide a nutrient-rich foundation. 

As the plants grow, you can continue to support their growth by applying a balanced fertilizer or organic plant food every few weeks. This will help ensure they have access to the necessary nutrients for healthy development.

In addition to watering and fertilizing, regular weeding is essential for maintaining the health and vitality of your bush beans. Weeds compete with the plants for nutrients, sunlight, and water, so it's important to stay on top of them. 

Take the time to remove weeds by hand or use a hoe or cultivator to gently loosen the soil and uproot them. This will help prevent them from overtaking your bean plants and negatively impacting their growth.

Finally, consider providing some support for your bush beans, even though they are typically grown as self-supporting plants. While they don't require elaborate trellises like pole beans, using stakes or small cages can help keep the plants more upright and prevent sprawling. 

This will make it easier for air to circulate around the plants, reducing the risk of diseases such as powdery mildew.

A simple stake and tie up will also keep dirt off the beans as the plant will not be bent over the soil. This also increases air circulation for the plant. 

Colander of bush beans picked fresh from the garden

Harvesting and Storing Your Bush Beans

Once your bush beans have reached maturity, it's time to start harvesting. The best time to pick them is when the pods are firm and crisp, but before the seeds inside have fully developed. 

This typically starts around 50-60 days after planting, but it's always a good idea to check the specific instructions for the particular variety you're growing.

To harvest your bush beans, simply grab the pod firmly but gently and snap it off the plant. If the pod doesn't easily snap off, it's a sign that the beans inside are too mature and may not be as tender. Leave that one on the plant for a few more days.

When harvesting, be sure to keep an eye out for any damaged or disease-infected pods. Remove them immediately to prevent the spread of diseases to other healthy plants. 

If insect damaged beans are ripe you can set them aside to dry out and save the beans for planting next year. Just make sure the pests have moved on before storing!

After harvesting, it's time to store your fresh bush beans. The best way to preserve their crispness and flavor is to keep them in a breathable container such as a perforated plastic bag or a container with ventilation holes. Place them in the refrigerator, where they can stay fresh for up to a week. 

I've left beans in a bowl on the counter before and they dry up within a few days, so refrigerator storage is best.

If you have a lot bush beans that you can't use right away, consider preserving them for later use. The easiest way is blanching and freezing. 

To do this, blanch the beans in boiling water for a few minutes, then transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, drain them and place them in freezer bags or containers before storing them in the freezer. 

Use frozen beans within 1 year for best flavor and texture!

Common Issues With Bush Beans

One common issue when growing bush beans is poor germination. If your seeds are not sprouting or only a few are coming up, it could be due to various factors. One possibility is that the soil temperature is too cold for germination. 

Bush beans prefer warmer soil, so make sure to wait until the soil has warmed up before sowing the seeds, or start them inside. A heat mat might help if your home is kept cool. 

You can also try pre-soaking the seeds overnight in water to help improve germination rates. The post How to pre-germinate seeds has all the information you need for pre sprouting seeds.

Sometimes bush beans experience yellowing of the leaves. This could indicate a nutrient deficiency, particularly a lack of nitrogen. To remedy this, you can add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil or side dress with compost. 

Additionally, yellowing leaves could also be a sign of overwatering, so make sure to adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

Pests can also be a nuisance when growing bush beans. One common pest that targets these plants is aphids. These tiny insects can suck the sap from your bean plants, causing stunted growth and curled leaves. 

To control aphids, you can try spraying a homemade insecticidal soap solution on the affected plants. Another option is to introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs or lacewings, which feed on aphids.

Related reading: Can I get a ladybug? Dealing with aphids on houseplants.

Another issue you may encounter is powdery mildew. This fungal disease appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves and stems of your bush bean plants. To prevent powdery mildew, it's important to provide adequate air circulation by spacing your plants properly and avoiding overcrowding. 

This includes pulling weeds near your bean plants as they can impede air circulation too! 

I hope that all helps you to grow a bumper crop of beans this year! Bush beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and just a few plants can provide for several people all season long, so they definitely have a place in my garden. I hope you find a place for them in your garden too!

Related reading: Want to learn more about growing food in containers? Check out all my 10 Ways to Attract bees to your Garden!


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