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Green beans

Article by: Nadia Hassani  |  Picture by: Ted Rosen
Green beans
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Green beans are easy to grow, whether you plant bush beans or pole beans. By staggering the planting times, you can harvest beans into early autumn. This article tells you how to select, plant, maintain and harvest green beans.
Beans at a glance
As with other types of beans, green beans are an annual vegetable that is directly sown into the garden in spring when the soil has warmed (with the exception of broad beans, which require cooler temperatures). Beans need full sun and well-drained soil mixed with moderate amounts of compost. Beans are available in a wide range of sizes, colours and tastes.

Green beans are especially popular among home gardeners because they are a short-season crop that grows nearly everywhere. Green beans are grown for the pod, which can be round or flat. Most varieties mature in 75 to 85 days.

There are two types of bean plants. Bush-types are self-supporting and grow 45 to 60cm tall. Pole-types have vines that need poles or a trellis for support. Pole beans bear over a longer period of time than bush beans. They also yield about three times as much as bush beans. As they are grown vertically, they require less space than bush beans, and when it comes to picking they are easy on the back.

Because beans enrich the soil by adding nitrogen, you should grow beans in a different location in your garden every year to distribute that benefit evenly. As a member of the bean family, beans should not be grown where alfalfa, other beans, including edamame beans and broad beans, or peas were grown the year before.

Planting green beans
Green beans step picture 2
Beans are directly sown outdoors after the last frost date when the soil has warmed. Bean seeds will rot in soil that is too cold or too wet. Sow about 25% more beans than you actually need because not all seeds will germinate. You can remove excess seedlings later.
Bush beans are planted in rows. Sow them 5cm apart with 60 to 80cm space between the rows. Plant several crops of bush beans 2 to 3 weeks apart until August to give yourself a continuous harvest until early fall.
Before sowing pole beans, have your support system ready. A tripod support is easy to construct using three or four poles lashed together at the top and the poles pushed firmly into the soil. You can also grow pole beans along a fence or a sturdy trellis at least 1.80 metre tall. Pole beans are planted 10 to 20cm apart, four seeds around each pole with 60 to 90cm between poles. Place seeds with the narrow side down for best germination. Because pole beans produce over a longer period of time, a second sowing 4 to 6 weeks after the first is usually sufficient to supply you with beans until the end of the summer. See also details about outdoor sowing.
Caring for beans
Green beans step picture 4
As the seedlings reach a height of about 6 to 8cm, remove all extra seedlings and leave a bush bean plant every 10 to 15cm, or one to two bean vines growing up each pole if using the trellis system. Densely planted bush beans are less prone to be knocked over by wind or rain, as they support each other.
Only after blooming and the bean pods have set should you put down a very light sprinkling of a balanced fertiliser. Fertilising earlier will delay flowering.
Mulch to suppress weeds and to slow evaporation. Water beans regularly in the absence of rain. During bloom time it is crucial to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Water preferably at the base of the plant in order to keep the leaves dry. Wet leaves, especially overnight, can encourage diseases.
Blossoms but no beans
Heat stress can cause beans to stop developing bean pods although they have bloomed before. Once the hot weather subsides, they will continue to produce, provided they receive sufficient moisture.
Training pole beans
Green beans step picture 6
As pole beans grow taller, gently direct them to their support system until their coils cling to the support by themselves. Adding vertical string between the poles gives the plants more room to spread out. You should direct the vines to grow counterclockwise in an upward spiral.
Growing beans in containers
In view of their space requirements and extended root system, green beans are not suitable for container growing.
Harvesting beans
Harvest green beans when they are still young and too small to fill out the pod. Cut the beans from the vine with sharp, stout scissors. Be careful not to damage the plants or knock off blossoms while harvesting.
Check the plants at least every other day. Keep the beans picked to encourage further production.
Beans are very suitable for freezing. Blanching them before freezing maintains their colour and quality.
Good and bad companions for beans
Because beans fix valuable nitrogen in the soil, beans are great companions for many vegetables, and also for strawberries. However, beans should not be planted next to members of the onion family (garlic, leek, onions), as they stunt the growth of beans.
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