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How to Grow Green Beans

Enjoy the health benefits of green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) all year-round when you discover how to grow green beans in your garden, containers and even indoors. Green beans were originally grown in Central and South America.1 The vegetable was introduced to the Mediterranean region and cultivated around Italy, Greece and Turkey by the 17th century. 

Today, backyard farmers grow green beans around the world as they are easy to grow and you may enjoy a large harvest from a limited space. Green beans come in varieties that may need support (pole beans), or may grow on their own without support (bush beans).

Although growing green beans in your own vegetable garden may seem challenging, as long as you provide some of the basic requirements, you'll be reaping a bountiful reward whether your beans are planted indoors or out. 

Those rewards also extend to the health benefits of green beans, which include being high in fiber, low in calories and having repeatedly demonstrated the ability to lower your risk of chronic illness.2

Prepare Before Planting a Garden or Container of Green Beans

Green beans are annual plants so you'll be planting new green beans each year. The plants enjoy a slightly acidic pH, near 6.0 to 6.2, and moderately rich soil. Prepare your soil before planting green beans seeds by adding organic compost. The seeds may be sown directly outside after the danger of frost is gone.3

Plant the seeds about an inch deep and water immediately. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly. The most important factor for a good harvest is ensuring the soil is warm, as cool, damp soil will rot the plants.4

Sow the seeds for pole beans close together and then thin to about 6 to 10 inches apart after germination. Bush beans may be thinned to 3 to 6 inches apart after germination. Both may be started indoors before the last frost; transplant 3-inch seedlings to your garden or container after the threat of frost has passed.5

If you choose container gardening, the green beans will need at least an 8-inch pot. However, for best results, the container should be 12 inches or larger. The larger the container, the less they will need to be watered. However, the container should have good drainage soil and about an inch of gravel at the bottom to encourage drainage and reduce the potential for root rot.6

Green beans enjoy full sun, so whether in the garden or in a container, they should be placed where they'll receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Bush beans planted in containers need more space around them than pole varieties for airflow and to reduce the potential for fungal growth. 

On the other hand, pole beans require more vertical space and a stake or trellis to support their growth.7 Once the seedlings are 3 inches or taller, add mulch around the plants to retain moisture and discourage weeds. 

Green beans are not heavy feeders. When grown in garden soil an initial addition of compost and a side dressing of organic fertilizer midway through the growing season is usually enough to produce a hearty harvest of beans. In containers, the vegetables may benefit from monthly organic fertilizer.8

Growing Green Beans Indoors Takes the Sting Out of Winter

You may also consider growing green beans indoors, especially if you enjoy the flavorful addition to your recipes all year long. As it is a relatively quick growing plant and quite pretty, it can make a visually appealing addition to your windows.

When growing indoors, the seeds may be planted any time of the year. However, it is helpful to remember the plants continue to have certain environmental requirements, such as plenty of sunlight. Alternatively, consider using grow lights if you don't have a window receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.9

The plants are warm weather plants and enjoy a spot where the temperature will be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and up to 85 degrees F. However, excessive heat and humidity may trigger a variety of problems.10 Since they are an annual plant, you'll get the same number of harvests grown indoors as you would outside.

Fill your containers with the same type of soil as you would have used outdoors — enriched with compost, well-draining, with a pH of 6 to 6.2. Avoid using soil rich in nitrogen. When the seedlings begin to appear and are 3 inches tall, add mulch to retain moisture. 

As with outdoor containers, a light feeding of organic fertilizer once a month may help your harvest. Whether grown indoors or out, most varieties will be fully grown and ready to begin harvesting within 50 to 60 days.11

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