From your garden to the kitchen

March 20. 2008

By Victoria County Master Gardener, Roy Cook

Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
POLE BEAN HARVEST PHOTO by Montgomery County Extension Agent Tom LeRoy
These green beans were harvested from vines that grew on poles or stakes placed 3 to 4 feet apart on hills.  At harvest, pods should be firm and crisp and the seeds inside should be undeveloped and very small.  All pods should be picked to keep the plant productive.
Beans, one of the most popular vegetables, take very little space, have few problems, and produce abundant crops. Snap beans, also known as garden beans, green beans, and string beans, are grown for their immature green pods.

Beans may be termed bush or pole, depending on growth habit. Bush beans grow 1 to 2 feet high and are planted in rows. Pole beans require the support of a trellis or stakes. Pole beans grow more slowly than bush beans but produce more beans per plant.

Green beans are a very popular, warm season, home garden vegetable crop. They grow well in most soils. Like most vegetables, green beans grow best in well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight.

Soil Preparation

Work the soil 8 to 10 inches deep before planting. Rake it several times to break up large clods of dirt. Remove all weeds and trash. Work the garden soil only when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools.  Mixing in 2 – 3 inches of well decomposed compost will greatly enhance yield and quality.


Beans grow best when the soil is well fertilized. If it is necessary to fertilize (properly determined by a soil test), use 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer such as 10-20-10 for a 10-foot long by 10-foot wide area. Spread the fertilizer evenly over the area and then mix it into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.

Plant beans in a sunny, well-drained location in the spring after all dangers of frost have passed and the soil has thoroughly warmed up. Bean seeds rot easily in cool, damp soil or if they live, they’ll grow 2 – 3 inches, wither and die due to cold soil allowing the damping-off fungus to kill the stem.  Make successive sowings of bush beans every two weeks to have an extended harvest. If disease has been a problem in past years, use fungicide treated seed to protect the seedling from disease until it is up and growing. See the attached list of the most recommended bush and pole bean varieties.


Bush Beans

Pole Beans
Kentucky Wonder
Blue Lake

Source: Victoria County Master Gardener Association
For bush beans, plant the seed about 1 inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart in the row. The rows should be 2 ˝ to 3 feet apart. After the beans are up, thin the beans to 3 to 4 inches apart. (See Figure 1 and 2).
For pole beans, plant the seed in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Plant the seed in hills about 3 feet apart in the row. Place a 6 to 8 foot stake in the center of each hill. Plant three to four seeds around each stake, about 1 inch deep in the soil. As the vines mature, they will grow up the stake. (See Figure 3).
Instead of watering after planting seeds, plant bean seeds when there is enough soil moisture to cause the seeds to germinate and emerge quickly.  Once growing, do not over water the plants. Water your plants about once a week in dry weather. While the plants are blooming, do not let the soil get dry or the blooms will drop and production will be decreased.

Care During the Season

The roots of beans are near the soil surface, so be careful when hoeing or weeding around the plants. Applying mulch around the plants will increase bean quality, decrease watering and minimize sand from freshly picked beans.  After the plants have begun to flower and set beans, apply ˝ cup fertilizer for every 10 feet of row. (1-2-1 ratio such as a 5-10-5 fertilizer)

Mistakes Made Growing Beans

• Planting too early:  Bean seed will not germinate in cold soil. Wait until the soil warms up.
• Spreading disease:  Work around bean plants only when the leaves are dry. Harvest only when dry. Beans are subject to diseases that survive in the soil; so rotate sites each season.
• Leaving over-mature pods:  To obtain a good full crop of snap beans, harvest them before large seeds develop in the pods. Old pods left on the plant will reduce the set of new pods and overall production.

Snap Beans: Pods should be firm and crisp at harvest and the seeds inside should be undeveloped or very small. Hold the plant stem in one hand and the pod in the other to avoid pulling off the branches that will produce later beans. Pick all pods to keep the plant productive.
Shell Beans: Pick these varieties when the seeds inside the pods are fully mature and the pods change color, but not dried out.
Dried Beans: Leave the pods on the plants until they are completely dry. Pods when completely dry will split easily, making the seeds easy to remove. Store dried beans in tightly sealed jars or cans in a cool dry place until ready to use.

Information on growing beans or other vegetables can be obtained from the County Extension office or found in an Easy Gardening series put out by Texas AgriLife Extension Service by logging on to the Google web site and typing in “tamu easy gardening” with type of vegetable.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or, or comment on this column at