Grow them here. Grow them there. Grow them anywhere.
Bush beans are the dandelion of the vegetable world, not that they’re a weed, but that they’ll grow anywhere and everywhere. They’re one of the least fussy plants out there when it comes to growing conditions, and that characteristic makes them exceedingly satisfying vegetables to grow — for new and seasoned gardeners alike. Bush beans are also great to grow with children because they germinate very quickly with visible growth each day after sprouting.
Bush beans versus pole beans
There are two main bean varieties: bush beans and pole beans.
It takes a little more work to grow pole beans, because they need something to climb up for support, such as a trellis, or a pole (hence the name).
Bush beans, on the other hand, are free range growers. Their name is as descriptive as their pole bean cousin’s — and says it all — bush beans grow in a bush-like fashion. They are easy-growing, and don’t require extra work beyond the usual planting and watering that accompanies growing a plant. In many ways they’re like a child of the 80’s — they grow with the flow and don’t make a fuss.
Bush beans take up less room in a garden than pole beans because they don’t need supporting structures. They grow more quickly than pole beans, which is richly rewarding. And an added bonus of this marvellous plant is that bush beans add nitrogen to the soil, enriching it for other plants in the garden. It’s true that both types of beans add nitrogen, but because bush beans grow more quickly, they also add nitrogen more quickly.
Growing bush beans: in the ground or raised beds? Either!
Now that you know about the benefits of growing bush beans, you’re probably wondering how and where to grow them.
For optimal plant growth, direct sow seeds directly into the garden, a raised bed or a container. They’re well-suited to all three growing environments. (Direct sowing is planting the bean seeds in the soil. Bush beans can also be started indoors and transplanted, but we don’t recommend it, as these types of beans are not the happiest transplantees.)
Bush beans aren’t fussy about their soil. They love well-draining soil that is rich in organic material, but they’ll also grow just fine in less-than-perfect soil. They do prefer full sun though, and you’ll get a lot more beans from your plants if they get a full day’s worth of sun (6-8 hours, ideally most of that is afternoon sun).
If you decide to plant in the ground or a raised bed, make sure to sow seeds at a depth of 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) and a generous 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart.
Rows of bush beans should be at least 18 inches wide (46 cm). Bush beans come in all at once, so don’t plant more than you need at one time. If you can, spread out planting so that you sow beans every two weeks, to provide a longer growing season, and the possibility for a continuous harvest. From then on, simply make sure plants get two to three inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of water a week, either from rainfall or by watering them yourself.
Growing bush beans in containers
Bush beans are just as happy in a container as they are in the garden, which is great if you have limited space.
If you buy potting soil from a garden centre, choose soil specifically designed for growing vegetables in containers. We don’t recommend you create your own mixture.
As with planting in the ground or raised bed, your beans will need to be planted at a depth of 1 ½ inches (3.5 cm) and 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart. A great container possibility for that amount of spacing might be an old barrel.
If you aren’t trying to grow a lot of beans in one container, your container options are much greater. We grow bush beans directly in the garden as well as in three different containers: an old barrel, an 18 inch pot and a milk jug, which has just one bush bean plant growing in it. All of the bush beans are thriving, with minimal interference from pests.
Pests and bush beans
On the subject of pests, fortunately, bush beans don’t usually have many problems with insects or critters. Thankfully, the potato bugs, worms and caterpillars that plague many vegetable plants in gardens don’t seem interested in bush beans.
White flies or aphids are the only pests you’ll likely have to worry about, and placing a yellow sticky trap amongst the plants will capture these little devils quickly, leaving you practically worry-free.
Ah, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the harvest!
Bush beans germinate in about seven days and reach maturity at 50-60 days. First you’ll notice small white flowers forming, and then about a week later, pods will be visibly growing. You’ll know it’s time to pick them by hand when they’re about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long — before their seeds begin to bulge.
Beans are more tender when they’re small. Additionally, when you pick beans at a young stage, the plant will continue to flower and produce. On the other hand, if you leave beans to die on their vines, the plant will stop producing.
The dos and don’ts of growing bush beans
- Don’t go on vacation 50 days after planting and expect the plants to be bursting with beans when you get back.
- Do have fun and don’t stress over every detail. Bush beans are easy-going. Plant them. Water them. Talk to them if you want. They won’t talk back, but they will answer you with beautiful green leaves and long slender beans.
- Absolutely do harvest them on time and remember to eat them.
- Don’t wash them before you store them.
- Do place your beans in an airtight container and cook them within a week of harvesting. If you’d like to store them long term, you can blanch them and then freeze them for up to three months.
Whether you call them bush beans, green beans, string beans, snap beans, or French beans, they’re all the same easy-going, easy-growing beans that would love to be in your garden.
Plant after all danger of frost has passed and enjoy watching them grow and produce throughout the summer.
If you’re looking for companion plants for your bush beans, consider planting them with: potatoes, corn, celery and cucumbers. They like strawberries and rosemary as well, and marigolds will help keep aphids at bay.
Don’t plant bush beans with onions or beets though – they don’t get along.
That’s it. Plant your bush beans and sit back and watch them grow. Your no-fuss bush beans will produce delicious beans in no time. The biggest worry you should have is what you’re going to make for dinner with them.