How to Grow Bush Beans

Updated: Sep 15

Just as their name suggests, bush beans grow as a bush – so they aren’t a climbing bean. That means they need less maintenance than pole varieties, which need staking for extra support. Bush beans can be eaten raw or cooked, and can also be dried!


To help ensure your Bush Beans thrives, I've put together this video and transcript on how to grow bush beans with topics covered like:

  • Varieties of Bush Beans available

  • Caring for Bush Beans at all stages

  • Fertilizer and/or Mulching

  • Transplanting best practices

  • Bush Bean Companion Plants

  • Pests, Diseases and what to do about them

  • Harvesting and storing your Bush Bean

Listen to this Article:



Ready for a growing horticulture adventure in bush bean crop growing? Good, lets do it!


Glossary of bush bean terms

Before we get started, let’s learn a little bit about bush beans! These are my favorite terms when it comes to how to grow bush beans at hom


LEGUME INOCULATION

  • The process of introducing rhizobia bacteria into your soil by adding it to the seeds before sowing.

  • The bacteria store the nitrogen that your beans have taken out of the air.

  • Typically, rhizobia bacteria is already in soil where nitrogen fixing plants have been grown before – but it’s always useful for your plant’s growth to inoculate the seeds.

  • It’s important to note that Rhizobia bacteria are not in any way toxic to humans, animals, or plants.

PODS

Another term that refers to beans, pods are the fruit produced by bean plants. Bean pods include the skin, string, and seeds.


NITROGEN-FIXER

As part of the legume family, bush beans are popular for their relationship to rhizobia bacteria - which is responsible for fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil!

A Close Up of Bush Beans

Varieties of bush beans

Bush beans come in three general categories!


GREEN

This includes varieties like Provider, which is tolerant of cool soils and Blue Lake, a green variety with white seeds. Also, Contender is a popular variety with a strong unique flavor that stands well in both cool and hot weather.


YELLOW

This type includes varieties like Gold Mine and Golden Wax. Gold Mine beans are known for their sweetness and how they grow abnormally upright, while Golden Wax beans are known for their buttery flavor.


PURPLE

This includes varieties like Purple Queen, which is easy to spot in the garden and turns green when cooked! Royal Burgundy is another purple variety that will also turn green when cooked.

Varieties of Bush Beans

Planting bush beans seeds

How to grow bush beans when starting from seeds

  • It’s important to note that typically, bush beans are more successful when directly sown as opposed to being transplanted.

  • What’s interesting is that typically, dark-colored seeds have higher germination rates in cool soils compared to white/light colored seeds.

  • When directly sowing, the ideal soil temperature for your bush beans is typically between 70-80°F (21-26°C). Their minimum air temperature tolerance is 60°F (15°C) while their maximum is 80°F (30°C).

  • Pods typically don’t form properly when air temperatures are higher than 90°F (32°C).

  • Bush beans grow best in full-sun, and prefer a soil pH between 6 and 6.5 – although, the closer to 6.5, the better! They’ll really thrive in light, warm, well-draining soils and won’t do well in cold or wet soils.

Caring for bush beans

How to grow bush beans each step of the way

In this section, I’ll cover soil prep, inoculation, watering, and thinning. I’ll also talk about fertilizing and mulching your bush beans, transplanting and companion planting, plus your growing structure options!


SOIL PREPARATION

  • Find a spot with well-drained warm soil that gets full sun. Bush beans prefer light soil, so make sure to loosen the topsoil enough so that their roots won’t have a hard time growing and anchoring.

  • Adjust your soil with organic matter as well as other soil amendments if your soil pH, texture, or drainage is off.

  • Use an all-purpose NPK fertilizer and mix it in with your soil before planting – just be sure to follow the manufacturer instructions for the amount you’ll need.

  • Take out all weeds, rocks and debris from your soil, then level it off to avoid puddling.

INOCULATION

  • Before you sow your bush bean seeds, we recommend inoculating them.

  • This is an easy process - simply mix the appropriate rhizobia inoculum (which you can get online or from your local garden center) with your bean seeds in a dry container, making sure that each seed is nicely coated before planting.

NOTE: If you have purchased pre-inoculated seeds, then you won’t need to do this step!


SOWING

  • Sow your seeds 1 inch deep, and space them 2-3 inches apart in rows that are about 24 inches apart.

  • In general, seedlings will emerge about 10-14 days after you’ve sown them.

WATERING

  • On average, bush beans need 1 inch of rain per week (which can be measured using a rain gauge).

  • You can water them using a low-pressure trickle/drip system during dry periods, or if your beans don’t get that 1 inch of rain.

  • Overhead watering should only be done in the early morning so that the leaves have enough time to dry before the evening.

  • Their soil should be kept moist, but not over-saturated – and consistent, even watering is particularly important once the flowers start to grow.

  • That’s because flowering is the first step in pod production.

  • Make sure to also avoid touching or handling your bush bean plants when they’re wet.

THINNING

Once your seeds have germinated and the seedlings have emerged (and are standing about 2 inches tall), thin your plants so that there’s at least 6 inches between them.

Picked Bush Beans

FERTILIZING AND MULCHING


FERTILIZING BUSH BEANS

  • It’s a good idea to test your soil before planting, to see what it needs for nutrients. This will help you choose the right fertilizer depending on your soil and plants’ needs.

  • Bush beans naturally fix nitrogen in the soil, so fertilizers with a high nitrogen content shouldn’t be used, because any extra nitrogen can lead to poor pod development.

  • In general, you can use an all-purpose NPK fertilizer ahead of planting, mixing it into the top layer of your soil.

  • Keep in mind that your bush beans won’t need multiple fertilizations throughout their growing cycle.

MULCHING BUSH BEANS

  • Mulching is optional, and if you choose to do so, apply a thin 2-inch layer. This can help suppress weeds and reduce the need to cultivate around your plants.


TRANSPLANTING BEST PRACTICES

How to grow bush beans when using transplants

  • Transplant your seedlings 4-6 weeks after sowing them indoors.

  • First, though, you’ll want to harden them off. Start the process about a week before you plan to transplant by bringing your pots outside and leaving them in a sheltered place.

  • Slowly, day-by-day, introduce them to more direct sunlight. If temperatures get too low overnight, or if there is any threat of frost, bring your seedlings back indoors for the night.

  • Then, just take them back out in the morning!

  • If you didn’t buy previously inoculated seeds, or you didn’t inoculate prior to sowing indoors, be sure to add inoculum to each hole before planting your seedlings.

  • Once they’re ready for transplanting, space out your plants to a minimum of 6 inches apart in their rows. If possible, rows should be about 24 inches apart.

  • Dig a hole deep enough so that the root ball easily fits and is in line with the soil line. Cover the top of the root ball with soil and then gently press to firm the soil around the stem.

  • You’ll then want to carefully water each plant after they’ve been transplanted.

A Cut Open Bush Bean

GROWING STRUCTURE OPTIONS

How to grow bush beans when supporting their growth


Bush beans are compact plants and are great for growing in tight spaces. As you may have guessed from their name, bush beans grow as bushes, so they don’t need staking or trellises for support.


RAISED BEDS

Bush beans do well in raised beds since they’re a lot warmer much earlier in the season than most garden beds.


CONTAINERS

  • Bush beans can be grown in containers, but do not grow more than one plant per pot.

  • Also, 5 gallons (19 L) is the minimum container size that you should use. Planting smaller, compact bush bean varieties like Mascotte will also improve the success you have with growing in planters.


BUSH BEAN COMPANION PLANTS

How to grow bush beans with plant friends that help them succeed

Companion plants for Bush Beans

  • Plant bush beans with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green and red cabbage, cauliflower, collard, kale, kohlrabi, celery, carrot, cucumber, eggplant, peas, potato, radish, strawberry, arugula, rosemary, sage, Swiss chard, tomato, zucchini, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and corn.

  • Bush beans benefit many crops when planted together for a few reasons. Mainly, their ability to fix nitrogen to the soil is a big help for vegetables that are heavy feeders, since the added nitrogen boosts their growth and health.

Don't plant bush beans with:

  • Keep your bush beans away from bell peppers, hot peppers, chives, leeks, onions, sunflowers, basil, scallions, shallots, garlic and fennel.

  • Members of the onion family are harmful to the rhizobia bacteria that work with your beans to fix nitrogen in the soil.

Bush Beans Growing Outdoors

Common challenges and their solutions

There are a few common issues, potential pests, and diseases that can affect your bush beans. Not to worry – I’ve outlined them below, plus how to either avoid or fix the problem!


COMMON ISSUES


ZINC DEFICIENCY

  • If you notice that your bush bean plants are producing flowers but not producing pods, this could mean there are poor zinc levels in your soil.

  • You can do an at-home soil test to find out your soil’s nutrient levels, then amend any deficiencies you find.

POOR POD SET

  • This can be caused by too much nitrogen fertilizer.

POTENTIAL PESTS

How to grow bush beans while avoiding pests


Aphids, Spider mites, and leafhoppers are common pests of bush beans. They feed on the leaves and fruit of bean plants, and can stunt their growth and cause them to lose their leaves.


Monitor your plants for signs of these pests, paying close attention to the undersides of leaves. Typically, they can be removed using a stream of water in the early morning. Natural predators like ladybugs can also be attracted to your garden to control these pests.


ROTTED SEEDS

  • If your bush bean seeds are planted in cool, moist soils, they’re more likely to rot and not germinate. Be sure to plant in soils that are well-draining.

DROPPED FLOWERS

  • It’s common for bush beans to drop their flowers in hot and dry conditions, which makes your bean yield smaller.

  • Aphids, Spider mites, and leafhoppers are common pests of bush beans. They feed on the leaves and fruit of bean plants, and can stunt their growth and cause them to lose their leaves.

  • Monitor your plants for signs of these pests, paying close attention to the undersides of leaves.

  • Typically, they can be removed using a stream of water in the early morning. Natural predators like ladybugs can also be attracted to your garden to control these pests.

POTENTIAL DISEASES

How to grow bush beans disease free


ANTHRACNOSE

  • A fungal disease that causes dark sunken spots to grow on your bean plants. This fungus can grow on any part of the plant except for the roots.

BACTERIAL BLIGHTS

  • Including (but not limited to) bacterial brown spot, bacterial wilt, and halo blight. Blights can spread quickly, and symptoms can be delayed. T

  • hey typically cause spots to form on leaves (which can eventually fall off), while stunting your plant’s growth.

RUST

  • Another fungal disease, rust is mainly found on the undersides of bean leaves. Spots will first appear off-white and puffy, later becoming the red/brown, circular raised spots that are unique to rust fungi.

STEM AND ROOT ROTS

  • There are multiple fungi that cause rotting in the stems and roots of bean plants. This fungal growth may cause damping off, lesions on leaves, and the decomposition of stems and roots.

  • Usually, that means plants wilt, lose their leaves, and can then possibly die.

BYMV (BEAN YELLOW MOSAIC VIRUS)

  • Viral infections may cause wilting of your plants, the cupping and yellowing of leaves, and dead veins in infected leaves.

  • This viral disease is spread by aphids, so insect control is very important.

PREVENTING DISEASE

  • These diseases can be avoided by practicing clean cultivation.

  • Do not plant your bush beans near other legumes, or in soil where other legumes have grown in the past 3-4 years (aka practicing crop-rotation).

  • Only use trusted, certified disease-free seed.

  • Also, avoid planting bush beans in soil with temperatures below 65°F (18°C) - typically, temperatures between 70°F-80°F (21-26°C) are best.

  • Keep your garden bed and/or container free from weeds, and space your plants properly to allow for proper air circulation.

RESISTANT VARIETIES

Provider is a green bush bean that’s highly resistant to powdery mildew and bean mosaic viruses.

Bowls of Bush Beans

Harvesting and storing

How to grow bush beans for your dinner plate and pantry


HARVESTING

  • For Fresh Use: Pick your beans regularly to encourage the plant to continue producing pods. Harvest the beans just after they have filled out, but before they get too large. Typically, bush beans are more tender and sweet when they’re small to medium in size.

  • For Dried Beans: Allow the pods to stay on the plant until they begin to dry. Once they’ve started to dry out, uproot the entire plant and hang them in a warm, dry spot until they have completely dehydrated. Collect the beans from the plants and then shell them. Enjoy the peas inside, and then keep their shells and plants for composting!

STORAGE

  • Keep your fresh bush beans in a plastic bag or container in the crisper of your refrigerator. These should keep for about 7-10 days.

  • If you’d like to freeze your bush beans, you’ll have to blanch them first in some hot water. After that’s done, store them in a tightly sealed container and leave about 1 inch of space at the top.

  • You can also freeze blanched bush beans in air-tight freezer bags. Properly frozen bush beans should last up to 10 months in the freezer!

  • Bush beans can also be canned or pickled, if that’s something you’d like to do! As long as the vacuum seal is intact, canned beans can last up to 1-2 years. That’s great for long-term storage!

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