Considered a staple of many vegetable gardens, beans are extremely easy to grow. All beans are tender annuals, and although most are green, beans also come in purple, streaked, red, and yellow varieties. There are two types of beans: pole and bush. Bush beans grow compactly (reaching about two-feet tall) and do not require additional support from a structure like a trellis. Pole beans grow as climbing vines that could reach 10 to 15 feet tall and require a trellis or staking. Conventionally, bush beans require less maintenance as a result of their size, but they generally yield more beans for longer and are mostly disease-resistant. Bush beans produce in about 50 to 55 days whereas pole beans will take 55 to 65 days. They also often come in all at once, so stagger your plants every two weeks to get a continuous harvest. Pole beans need their vines to grow and will produce for a month or two if you keep harvesting.
Planting and Growing Information:
Beans will grow the best in well-draining soil with normal fertility and an acidic to neutral pH (6.0-7.0). Particularly poor soil should be amended with aged manure or compost in the fall prior to planting (or about a week before planting in the spring). Make sure to set up any supports for pole beans prior to planting as beans don't like having their roots disturbed. Beans grow best when direct-seeded indoors. Sow any time after the last spring frost date when the soil has warmed to at least 48°F. Make sure to not plant too early because cold, moist soil will delay germination, resulting in the seeds rotting. Don't begin planting bean seeds indoors; as a result of their fragile roots, they may not survive transplanting. There's also no real advantage to growing them indoors given they're such rapid growers.
With bush beans, sow them 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart, and with pole beans, sow them 1 inch deep and place them around supports. For pole beans, set up trellises, stakes, or other supports prior to planting so that the plants' fragile roots will not be disturbed. To achieve a continued harvest that lasts all summer, make sure to sow seeds every 2 weeks. To avoid the buildup of pests and diseases in one spot, consider practicing crop rotation (planting crops in different areas each year).
To retain moisture, mulch soil around bean plants, and make sure that it's well-drained. If beans are not well-watered, they will stop flowering. Make sure to water on sunny days so that foliage won't remain soaked, which could encourage disease. Weed diligently but carefully so the beans' roots won't be disturbed. Pinch off the tops of the pole bean vines once they reach the top of the support, which will force them to put energy into producing more pods instead. During high heat, use row covers over young plants. Hot weather can cause blossoms to drop from plants, which will reduce the harvest.
Beans don't normally need supplemental fertilizer as they fix their own nitrogen in the soil. If it's necessary, begin fertilizing after heavy bloom and the set of pods. Avoid using high-nitrogen; otherwise, you will get lush foliage and less beans. A side dressing of compost or aged manure halfway through the growing season is a good alternative to liquid fertilizer.
Make sure to harvest beans in the morning when their sugar level is the highest. Beans are picked when they are young and tender before the seeds inside have fully developed. Look out for firm, sizable pods (as thick as a pencil) that can be snapped. Pick beans every day because more beans will grow the more you pick. Snap or cut the beans off the plant, making sure to not tear the plant (fresh beans should snap easily when broken). Once you notice the plants inside bulging, the beans are past their peak and will taste tough.