String beans are delicious and nutritious. They are also very easy to grow from seed. In this article, I’ll share how to grow bush beans from seed to harvest.
This grow guide will work for growing bush beans in containers, raised beds, or directly in the ground. They are a great candidate for square foot gardening and growing alongside other herbs and veggies.
Bush Beans vs Pole Beans
First, let’s differentiate between the two major types of string bean plants – bush beans and pole beans.
- Bush beans grow as a small, bushy plant that does not require trellising. These smaller plants will generally produce a single harvest, and then begin to die back.
- Pole beans are climbing, vine-like plants, requiring a trellis or other structure to climb. They often take longer to produce, but will continually produce more and more pods until the end of the warm season.
Note: Your seed packet might mention “shelling beans.” This is another type of bean that is harvested for the beans, not the entire pods. Some types can also be harvested for either; early for eating the pods, or later for the seeds inside.
In this article, I will focus on growing bush beans from seed. Many of the principles are the same between bush and pole varieties, the main difference being spacing and the need for a trellis.
Planting Bush Bean Seeds
My favorite part of growing bush beans is just how easy it is to plant the seeds. They are huge compared to many other vegetable crops, and will easily sprout in almost any type of soil.
When To Plant Bush Bean Seeds
String beans are warm weather crops, meaning that they will not tolerate cold weather. Avoid planting outdoors until the ground has warmed up, usually in later spring.
In short, direct-sow bush bean seeds outdoors 2-4 weeks after your local last frost date. From there, plant new seeds every week through the summer to get a continual harvest!
While you can plant bush beans indoors to transplant outside, I generally do not recommend it. These seeds will easily germinate in garden soil, pushing through even rocky and heavy soils.
Avoid planting too early, as colder temperatures will delay germination. This can lead to poor germination results, and can even cause seeds to rot before they sprout.
Soaking Bean Seeds Before Planting
Once you are ready to plant, I recommend soaking your bean seeds overnight. This step helps soften the seeds and initiate germination. Bean seeds sprout best with lots of warmth and moisture.
While soaking isn’t strictly required, it may help speed up germination. This step is more important if your seeds are older or were not stored in ideal conditions.
Bush Bean Planting Depth and Spacing
Plant bush beans about 1″ deep, covering them with the surrounding soil. The large size of the seed means that they must be planted much deeper than other veggies (such as tomatoes or eggplants).
The ideal spacing for bush beans is heavily debated. While the square foot gardening method suggests up to 9 plants per square foot, we recommend giving more space.
In our experience, bush beans should be planted at one plant per 6″ (15cm). Also, it is best to leave about 12-18″ between rows of bush beans. This helps make harvesting easier!
After planting, water thoroughly to make sure the seeds are kept wet. Never allow bush bean seeds to dry out during germination! If your climate is especially hot and dry, consider adding a thin layer of organic mulch to prevent the seeds from becoming dry before they sprout.
How Long For Bean Seeds To Germinate?
After planting, allow 4-7 days for your bush beans to sprout. Expect the seeds to take longer to come up if the temperature is lower than 70°F, or if the seeds are older than 1 year.
Soil, Light, and Water for Bush Beans
Like many fruit-bearing vegetables, bush beans like a rich, well-draining soil. Garden or ground soil amended with compost is a great starting place.
If you get a soil test, take note of your soil’s pH. Bush beans and most other garden favorites like slightly acidic soil, anywhere between 6.0-7.0. If the soil is overly alkaline, add some sulfur to reduce pH to the ideal zone, or lime to raise pH.
As for sunlight, give your bush beans as much as you can. Full-sun means at least 6 hours of direct, unbroken sunlight per day. If you can, give them even more light for better yields and flavor.
When it comes time to water your green beans, only water when necessary. Feel the soil and make sure the first 1-2 inches has dried out before watering.
If your soil has poor drainage, you can plant your bush beans on mounds to help more water flow away from the roots. Or, grow your bush beans in containers or raised beds to help prevent over-watering.
How Long Until Bush Beans Can Be Harvested?
Compared to long-term crops like tomatoes and peppers, bush beans are quick to grow. In general, most bush beans take between 50-60 days to go from seed to harvest.
Compare this to peppers, which can take well over 120 days, and 60 days starts to feel like no time!
Tip: Since bush beans grow so quickly, we highly recommend succession planting them. In other words, plant new seeds every week through the summer to keep fresh harvests coming.
Continue planting new bush beans until about 8-10 weeks before the first fall frost. Growth rate slows down in fall, so your final harvest will likely be a few weeks before the frost hits.
When to harvest bush beans
So, how do you know when the best time to harvest bush beans is? I have 2 main methods that I use to know when to pick bush beans.
- Size. Once your string beans stop growing larger, they are ready to be harvested. Avoid waiting too long after this to prevent the seeds from developing too far. Eventually the seeds may become hard.
- Timing. Like we discussed, bush beans take between 50-60 days from sowing to harvest. So, take note of your planting date and count the days until your harvest window arrives. Most seed packets will indicate the approximate days-to-harvest for the specific variety.
I love growing bush beans in the garden. Their fresh flavor and addictive crunch is wonderful, and makes me reserve a spot for them each season.
If you have any tips to share about growing bush beans from seed, please leave a comment below! We are always learning new ways to garden smart, so thanks in advance.