Green beans — also called string beans or snap beans. Tomatoes might head the list as the all time favorite vegetable, but green beans certainly come in second.
Since there is nothing much on Tending My Garden about growing green beans, one of my readers wrote to me and asked why I didn’t grow them. Well – I do grow them. But my planting schedule for green beans is a bit different than what most folks follow.
Here’s Why –
At the beginning of the growing season most of my garden space is taken up with onions, lettuces and other greens, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cukes, squash, and potatoes.
Most of my allotted gardening time is taken up with planting, putting straw in the garden, checking for and killing squash bugs and potato beetles. And then there’s harvesting.
I couldn’t handle one more thing at the beginning of the season.
Over the years I’ve found green beans are much easier for me to deal with in late summer and fall.
Why I Plant in Mid-Summer
- Most of the Mexican bean beetles seem to have gone back to Mexico. (Just kidding – I don’t know where they go.)
- I have more space available in the garden.
- Time-consuming crops like blueberries and strawberries and peas are finished, so I have time to harvest green beans.
Planting – Risks
I plant in the last half of June. And yes, of course I always run the risk of green beans not doing well because of drought, but when you plant any garden or any crops it’s all about risk and variables. Even this year we had a period of drought that lasted about 5 weeks and I thought the beans weren’t going to make it. Fortunately the rain came just in time to save them. Bottom line with planting is — if I don’t sow, I won’t harvest — so I plant.
Bush Beans or Pole Beans
Bush beans are my favorites. One year I planted pole beans and didn’t find them to my liking in any way. I have a friend who plants only pole beans and loves them. He would never plant bush beans. So it’s a matter of personal preference.
My Favorite Varieties
And by the way – in case you’re wondering – the varieties I grow are Provider Bush Bean, Bush Blue Lake, Contender Bush Bean, and/or Masai Green Bush Beans. Masai is my very favorite. But June, July and early August plantings of Masai don’t do well for me, so I plant them at the end of August. Sometimes I miss planting in August and will take a chance on planting as late as September 1st, like I did this year. If the weather holds, I’ll be fine. If I have to I’ll use row covers if a frost is expected. Still a good chance of getting beans to maturity.
Masai bean plants are a bit shorter, bushier, and can have a dozen long, straight, and tender green beans hanging at one time. They are the most beautiful and delicious bean I’ve ever had.
You can get the Masai green beans from Pine Tree Garden Seeds if you want to try them.
Strategy to Reduce Risks and Increase Chances of Success
To increase my chances of success and bounty, I put in 4 or 5 small plantings – about 3′ x 5′ every two weeks. This year the first planting was June 23, so I had a nice picking of beans towards the end of August.
By September, two rows were producing lots of beans for us to enjoy with every meal. The other earlier plantings have lots of blossoms and promises of many beans to come. Each planting should produce for about 3 weeks. If all goes as it appears, I’ll have beans until a freeze hits.
When are They Ready for Harvest
I usually start harvesting when the beans are about 3 to 4 inches. I missed checking them for a few days this year and by the time I got out there to pick they were a bit larger than I like.
Beans can become overgrown almost overnight. So it’s advantageous to harvest daily or at least every other day for best quality and taste. Also, the more you pick the more the plants will produce.
If they do begin to bulge and get plump before you get to them, use them for soups. I blanched and froze a pint from my first picking that were like that. But they’ll be great this winter in soups.
Best Time to Harvest
Pick your green beans either after the dew dries in the AM or after the sun is low in the late afternoon.
It’s stressful for the beans (or any vegetable) when you pick in the heat of the day — especially in high humidity and if temperatures are above 85 degrees or so.
Stay out of your beans when the leaves are wet from rain or dew. Pathogens that cause disease can stick to your hands, clothing and tools and you can carry them from plant to plant. Pick your green beans when leaves are dry.
Great for Your Soil
Green beans are legumes and can pull nitrogen out of the atmosphere and “fix” it in the soil. Your next crop in the same garden bed will enjoy the benefits of having nitrogen available for use.
When your beans are finished, cut off the foliage and compost. Leave the roots in the ground until next season for more benefit to your soil. You can also turn the entire plant under if you want. (This will not apply to any planting of beans that is infested with Mexican bean beetles or any disease.)
Two More Tips
- If you’ve planted peas or green beans in a garden bed, use different beds for peas or green beans for the next two years.
- If one of your plantings of green beans becomes diseased or heavily invested with Mexican bean beetles, take them up and out of the garden to help prevent future infestations. (Do not compost. Bag and throw away.)
If you have more to do at the beginning of the season than you can handle, but love green beans like I do ——- try my planting schedule. I thinking you’ll really enjoy having this taste of summer to spice up your fall meals and garden.
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