Get to Know & Grow Green Beans

Green beans are very easy to grow from seed and thrive in almost every area of the U.S. You can also find seedlings at nurseries, but there will be fewer varieties to choose from. Regardless of which strain you choose, it’s best to be aware of which of the two types you buy.

Pole beans – These are vines, with some varieties reaching ten feet. Plan on providing a sturdy pole or trellis for them to climb. They take longer to mature than the bush variety (up to 70 days), but once they do, they will produce beans all summer. Because they grow straight up, they can be a good choice for small spaces.

Bush beans – Plants are small, compact (in the two-feet range), and mature more quickly, some within 50 days – so you can start them from seed for much of the summer. They produce most of their crop at once, though the plants will keep producing if you keep them well-harvested.

Care and Feeding

  • Green beans need lots of sun and are tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions. They don’t really need fertilizer because of their ability to draw nitrogen into the soil, but like most vegetables they benefit from some compost.
  • If you’re planting from seed, make sure all danger of frost has passed. Keep the soil moist until seedlings appear; then you can let them dry out a bit between waterings. Once flowers and pods begin to grow, soak them when it’s sunny to prevent mildew.
  • Pick pods when they are on the small side and you can’t see the beans inside – larger beans will be tough. Be careful and use two hands so you don’t damage the plant when picking. Harvesting every few days will keep new flowers and beans coming, so keep a close eye on your plants.

Five Fun Facts:

  1. There are more than 500 cultivars of green beans, and some of them aren’t even green – you can grow purple, red or streaked beans if that’s what strikes your fancy. (The beans inside the pod will always be green, though.)
  1. Some farmers grow green beans to replenish their soil because they’re nitrogen fixers, meaning the plants draw nitrogen into the ground. This eliminates the need to fertilize before planting the next crop.
  1. 60% of commercially grown green beans are produced in the U.S., many in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois.
  1. Green beans contain carotenoids usually associated with orange and red veggies – lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin. They’re also rich in Vitamin C and full of fiber and protein.
  1. With all due respect to Peter and his pumpkin-bound wife, no other vegetable has inspired a children’s classic. Jack and the Beanstalk was a British folk tale in the oral tradition for a long time before it first appeared as a chapter in Round About Our Coal Fire in 1734.

Five Historical Facts:

  1. The green bean originated in the Andes, in what is now Peru, thousands of years ago. Columbus brought them back from his second voyage to the New World in 1493.
  1. In 1542, Leonhart Fuchs made the first drawing of bush beans. Fuchs was a German doctor and botanist interested in the medicinal properties of plants. Later, the fuchsia genus of flowering plants was named for him.
  1. Native Americans planted beans with corn and squash, a botanical trinity called the three sisters. Beans were planted when corn stalks were tall enough to support bean bushes, which in turn provided nitrogen for the corn. (Squash was planted later to provide shade and help retain water.)
  1. The strings were bred out of string beans in 1894 – today, almost all varieties are stringless.
  1. The green bean casserole was invented in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working at the Campbell Soup Company kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Today, according to company estimates, 40% of all Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup is destined for the classic dish.