Fabaceae (Leguminosae) Annuals, Vegetables
Photo courtesy of Kimberley Navabpou
Purple snap beans

Most beans are frost-sensitive heat lovers, easy to grow from seed. With all, moisten soil thoroughly before planting, then do not water again until seedlings have emerged.

Once growth starts, keep soil moist. Fertilize soil after plants are in active growth and again when pods start to form. Control aphids, cucumber beetles, spider mites, and whiteflies if any of these pests are problems in your garden. 

Gardeners can choose from many types of beans, the most common of which are described below. These are New World plants belonging to the genus Phaseolus.

Dry bean. Same culture as bush form of snap bean. Let pods remain on bush until they turn dry or begin to shatter; then thresh beans from pods, dry, and store them to soak and cook later as needed. ‘Pinto’, ‘Red Kidney’, and ‘White Marrowfat’ belong to this group. 

Some varieties are best when harvested at the green shelling stage and cooked like green limas. These include the flageolet bean (a French favorite) and ‘French Horticultural Bean’, also known as ‘October Bean’. Heirlooms such as ‘Aztec Dwarf White’, ‘Mitla White’, and ‘New Mexico Appaloosa’ were used by Native Americans of the Southwest and are very well adapted to that region. 

Lima bean. Like snap beans (which they resemble), lima beans come in either bush or vine (pole) form. They develop more slowly than snap beans—bush types need 65 to 75 days from planting to harvest, pole kinds 78 to 95 days—and do not produce as reliably in very hot weather. Shell before cooking, a tedious chore but worth it if you like fresh limas. Grow like snap beans.

Scarlet runner bean. Perennial twining vine grown as an annual. Showy and ornamental, with slender clusters of vivid scarlet flowers and bright green leaves divided into three roundish leaflets. Use it to cover fences and arbors; it provides quick shade on porches. Pink- and white-flowered varieties exist. Flowers are followed by flattened, very dark green pods that are edible and tasty when young but toughen as they reach full size. Beans are ready in 50 to 80 days, depending on variety. Beans from older pods can be shelled and cooked like green limas.

Snap bean (string bean, green bean). The most widely planted bean type. Tender, fleshy pods, not stringy; may be green, yellow (wax beans), or purple (these turn green when cooked). Plants grow as self-supporting bushes (bush beans) or as climbing vines (pole beans). Bush types bear earlier, but vines are more productive. Plants look like scarlet runner bean, but their white or purple flowers are not showy. 

Sow seeds as soon as soil is warm. Heavy seed leaves must push through soil, so be sure that soil is reasonably loose and open. Plant seeds of bush types 1 in. deep and 1–3 in. apart, allowing 2–3 ft. between rows. Pole beans can be managed in a number of ways. Set three or four 8-ft. poles in the ground and tie together at top in tepee fashion; or set single poles 3–4 ft. apart and sow six or eight beans around each, thinning to three or four strongest seedlings; or insert poles 1–2 ft. apart in rows and sow seeds as you would bush beans; or sow along a sunny wall, fence, or trellis and train vines on a web of light string supported by wire or heavy twine. Pods are ready in 50 to 70 days, depending on variety. Pick every 3 to 5 days; if pods mature, plants will stop bearing.