Planning your garden
How to store vegetables
Vegetable pests

Bean, green or snap



Common names: bean, green bean, snap bean, string bean, French bean, wax bean, pole bean, bush bean, stringless bean

Botanical name: Phaseolus vulgaris

Origin: South Mexico, Central America


The most commonly grown beans are the green or snap bean and the yellow or wax variety. Since 1894, when Burpee introduced the Stringless Green Pod, most of these beans have been stringless. The following are only a few of the varieties available. Ask your Cooperative Extension Service for specific recommendations for your area.

Green bush (green snap bean, bush): Astro (53 days); Blue Lake (56 days); Contender (53 days); Provider (53 days); Tendergreen (57 days); Tender Crop (53 days) ? all resistant to bean mosaic virus. Wax bush (yellow snap bean, bush): Cherokee Way (55 days); Early Wax (50 days) ? both resistant to bean mosaic virus. Green pole (green snap bean, pole): Blue Lake (65 days); McCaslan (65 days) ? both resistant to bean mosaic virus; Kentucky Wonder (65 days).


Beans are tender annuals that grow either as bushes or vines. Their leaves are usually composed of three leaflets; their flowers are pale yellow, lavender, orwhite . The size and color of the pods and seeds vary. Snap beans require a short growing season ? about 60 days of moderate temperatures from seed to the first crop. Theyll grow anywhere in the United States and are an encouraging vegetable for the inexperienced gardener. The immature pod is the part thats eaten. Beans grow as bushes or vines. Bushes are generally easier to handle; they grow only one to two feet tall, and they mature earlier. Pole beans require a trellis for support; they grow more slowly, but produce more beans per plant.

Where and when to grow

Because many varieties have a short growing season, beans do well in most areas, whatever the climate. They require warm soil to germinate and should be planted on the average date of last spring frost. You can plant bush beans every two weeks to extend the harvest, or you can start with bush beans and follow up with pole beans. In some parts of the country ? California, for example ? you can get two crops by planting in the spring and then planting again in early fall for a winter harvest. Use the length of your growing season and the number of days the variety takes to mature to figure your latest planting date. If you need to sow before your areas average last frost date, start the seed indoors in peat pots and transplant the seedlings when the soil has warmed up. Time your planting so the beans will mature before very hot weather; they will not set pods attemperatures over80?F.

How to plant

After the last frost is over, choose a bed in full sunlight; beans tolerate partial shade, but partial shade tends to mean a partial yield. Prepare the soil by mixing in a pound of 5-10-10 fertilizer ? dont use a high-nitrogen fertilizer, because too much nitrogen will promote growth of foliage but not of the beans. Work the fertilizer into the soil at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Bean seeds may crack and germinate poorly when the moisture content of the soil is too high. Dont soak the seeds before planting, and dont overwater immediately afterward.

Plant seeds of all varieties an inch deep. Ifyoure planting bush beans, plant the seeds two inches apart in rows at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Seeds of pole beans should be planted fourto six inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart. Or plant them in inverted hills, five or six seeds to a hill, with 30 inches of space around each hill. For pole varieties, set the supports or trellises at the time of planting.

When the seedlings are growing well, thin the plants to fourto six inches apart. Cut the seedlings with scissors at ground level; be careful not to disturb the others. Beans dont mind being a little crowded; in fact, theyll use each other for support.

Fertilizing and watering

Beans set up a mutual exchange with soil microorganisms called nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which help them produce their own fertilizer. Some gardeners recommend that if you havent grown beans in the plot the previous season, you should treat the bean seeds before planting with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria inoculantto help them convert organic nitrogen compounds into usable organic compounds. This is a perfectly acceptable practice but it isnt really necessary; the bacteria in the soil will multiply quickly enough once theyve got a growing bean plant to work with.

Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden.

Keep the soil moist until the beans have pushed through the ground. Water regularly if there is no rain, but remember that water on the flowers can cause the flowers and small pods to fall off. When the soil temperature reaches 60?F you can mulch to conserve moisture.

Special handling

Dont bother bean plants when theyre wet or covered with heavy dew; handling or brushing against them when theyre wet spreads fungus spores. Cultivatethoroughly butwith care, so that you dont disturb the bean plants shallow root systems. Ifyoure planting pole beans, set the trellis or support in position before you plant or at the same time. If you wait until the well to many spices, including basil, dill, marjoram, and mint. plants are established, you risk damaging the roots when you set the supports. Make sure the support will be tall enough for the variety of beans youre growing.


Beans may be attacked by aphids, bean beetles, flea beetles, leafhoppers, and mites. Aphids, leafhoppers, and mites can be controlled chemically by spraying with Malathion or Diazinon. Bean beetles and flea beetles can be controlled chemically by spraying with carbaryl. Beans are almost always attacked by large numbers of pests that cannot be controlled by organic methods. This does not mean the organic gardener cant growthem, but yields may be lower if only organic controls are used.


Beans are susceptible to blight, mosaic, and anthracnose. You can cut down on the incidence of disease by planting disease-resistant varieties when theyre available, maintaining the general health of your garden, and avoiding handlingthe plants when theyre wet. If a plant does become infected, remove and destroy it so it cannot spread disease to healthy plants.

When and how to harvest

Time from planting to harvest is 50 to 60 days for bush beans, 60 to 90 days for pole beans. Harvest the immature pods, and continue removing the pods before they become mature, orthe plant will stop producing. Once the seeds mature, the plant dies. Do not harvest when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Storing and preserving

Snap beans are a snap to store. Theyll keep upto one week in the refrigerator, but dont wash them until youre ready to cook them. You can also freeze, can, dry, or pickle them.

Serving suggestions

Really fresh, tender snap beans are delicious eaten raw; they make an unusual addition to a platter of crudites for dipping. Theyre also good lightly cooked and tossed with diced potatoes and a little onion and bacon for a delightful hot bean salad. Trythem on toast with a light cheese sauce for lunch. And vary everyones favorite bean dish by replacing the classic Amandine sauce with a Hollandaise or mushroom sauce. Ortry tossing them with a few thinly sliced mushrooms and onions that have been lightly sauteed in butter. You can also cut snap beans in lengths and saute them all together with diced potatoes, carrots, and onions for an interesting vegetable dish. Purists will object that this means cooking the beans too long, but you can always add them halfway through the cooking time to preserve their crispness. Well-seasoned, this is a good, filling, vegetable dish for a cold day. On their own, snap beans take