Snap Beans

Snap beans are popular garden veggie.

This bean is a tender, warm season vegetable that ranks second to tomato in popularity in home gardens.

Bush beans stand upright without support. Green bush beans were formerly called "string beans" because fiber developed along the seams of the pods. Plant breeders have reduced these fibers through selection and green beans are now referred to as "snap beans."

Pole beans are vining plants and climb supports and can be easily harvested.


Growing Snap Beans

When To Plant

Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost. They should be planted after all danger of frost has passed in the spring. Check your local frost free date. If the soil has warmed before the average last-frost date, an early planting may be made a week to 10 days before this date. You can assure yourself a continuous supply of snap beans by planting every 2 to 4 weeks until early August.


Spacing & Depth

Plant seeds of all varieties one inch deep. Plant seeds of bush beans 2 to 4 inches apart in rows at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant seeds of pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart; or in hills (four to six seeds per hill) 30 inches apart, with 30 inches between rows.



Seeds of most varieties tend to crack and germinate poorly if the soil's moisture content is too high. For this reason, never soak bean seeds before planting. Instead, water just after planting or plant right before a heavy rain.

Frequent shallow cultivation and hoeing are necessary to control small weeds and grasses. Because bean plants have fairly weak and shallow root systems, deep, close cultivation injures the plant roots, delays harvest and reduces yields.


Common Problems

Bean mosaic diseases cause plants to turn a yellowish green and produce few or no pods. The leaves on infected plants are a mottled yellow and are usually irregularly shaped. The only satisfactory control for these diseases is to use mosaic-resistant bean varieties.

Bright yellow or brown spots on the leaves or water-soaked spots on the pods are signs of bacterial bean blight. Bacterial blight is best controlled by planting disease-free seed; avoiding contact with wet bean plants; and removing all bean debris from the garden.


Harvesting Snap Beans

Harvest when the pods are firm, crisp and fully elongated, but before the seed within the pod has developed significantly.

  • Pick beans after the dew is off the plants, and they are thoroughly dry.
  • Picking beans from wet plants can spread beam bacterial blight, a disease that seriously damages the plants.
  • Be careful not to break the stems or branches, which are brittle on most bean varieties.
  • The bean plant continues to form new flowers and produces more beans if pods are continually removed before the seeds mature.


Selection & Storage

Legume is the scientific classification for beans. It covers all plants that develop pods as fruit. Fresh beans (as opposed to dried) vary in color, shape and length of pod. Fresh beans include green beans, Chinese long beans, tiny green beans (Haricot) and Fava beans, to name a few. This section will focus on bush beans and pole beans which are common garden varieties.

Harvest fresh beans before they become tough and stringy. If you can see the bulge of a developing bean through the green pod, the bean is over-mature and should be shelled (except pole beans). At this stage the pod is too tough to eat. Planting garden beans in two-week intervals help to eliminate having all the beans ready for harvest at the same time.

Fresh pole beans and bush beans can be stored, unwashed in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

  • Do not wash them before storing.
  • Wet beans will develop black spots and decay quickly.
  • Wash beans just before preparation.


Questions & Answers

Q. My beans appear healthy, but not many beans have formed. Why not?

A. The blossoms drop and fail to form pods during periods of hot, dry winds.


Q. Is it a good practice to plant pole beans at the base of corn plant for double cropping?

A. No. Neither crop can reach its maximum potential. Weed control becomes difficult and cornstalks offer weak support when the beans are maturing.


Q. Is it necessary to plant beans in a different area of the garden each year?

A. Yes. Beans are subject to diseases that may carry over in the soil to reinfect the following bean crop.


Q. Will bean varieties cross in my garden?

A. Because the flowers are largely self-pollinated, bean varieties usually do not cross. These crosses show up only when seed is saved from cross-pollinated flowers. In any event, you should obtain new seeds each year to avoid seedborne diseases.


Q. Can I use beans from my garden that have matured past the green, edible stage?

A. Yes. Snap beans (pole or bush) may be harvested for shellouts and for dry beans; and lima beans may be harvested for butter beans.


Q. Why do some snap bean varieties have white seeds?

A. Most bean varieties are developed for the canning and freezing industry. When varieties with colored seeds are used, the cooking water is slightly off-color. White seed is preferred because it does not discolor the cooking water.


Q. What are the fuzzy, bright yellow insects on my bean plants?

A. These are larvae of the Mexican bean beetle. The adult resembles a large ladybug. The larvae do the most damage. They are generally not a serious problem, but they occasionally reach damaging numbers, particularly early in the season.

Preparing Green Beans for 4-H Exhibition


Former Extension Specialist Jim Schmidt demonstrates how to properly prepare green beans for exhibition.