Bush green beans are easy to grow and are perfect for people new to vegetable gardening. The bush green bean can be grown in almost any climate and, unlike pole beans; they don’t need any special supports.
Beans are legumes. In addition to providing a nutritious vegetable, they fix nitrogen into the soil. Inoculated beans can also help improve the soil when they are tilled under. There are many types of bush beans, and there is a variety to suit almost any palette. They can be eaten when they are young and can also be allowed to go to seed for a high protein food.
Bush beans are relatively small plants and can be tucked into small spaces all over the garden. They do not produce as many beans per season, as pole beans do, but do produce consistently until after the first frost in fall.
For a continual harvest, make successive plantings of bush beans every two weeks until seven weeks prior to the first frost.
With the exception of fava beans, bush beans are generally very sensitive to frost. They also do not transplant well; but if you have a very short growing season, it is possible to plant them in peat pots and then transplant them into the garden. In addition, get the shortest season variety possible.
Do not soak or pre-sprout green bean seeds before planting. Though you should dust them with a bacterial inoculate powder. Plant the first crop of beans a week or two after the last expected frost date. I plant my bush beans in double rows with plants 1-inch deep in our heavy Missouri soils. But if you live in an area where the soil is a light sandy loam, plant them 1 1/2 inches deep. Firm the earth over them for good soil contact. Plant each seed 3 inches apart and the second double row 6 inches from the first. The next set of double rows should be about 2 feet from the first double row.
The soil for beans does not need any additional nitrogen for good growth. The beneficial bacteria that live in the nodules in the bean roots provide plenty of nitrogen for the plants. Excess nitrogen produces leaves rather than beans. Rather than providing nitrogen, sprinkle kelp powder into the planting row on the beans when they are planted and then again on the surface of the soil around the beans after they have germinated.
Some people recommend staggering plantings at two-week intervals until about two months before the first killing frost is expected in the fall. However, I have never found that practice to be necessary. I plant them all at once, and then pick green beans every couple of days all summer.
Bush beans usually germinate in about a week. After the beans have germinated, apply several inches of mulch to conserve moisture, to reduce weeds, and to help keep the soil cool during hot spells that can cause the beans to stop blooming. Maintain even soil moisture of an inch per week throughout the growing season. These beans normally do not need support unless they are planted in unusually windy area. If this is the case, they can be propped up by brushy twigs or strong cords around stakes set at the end of the row or in each corner of the bed. To extend the harvest, cover them with old bed sheets when there is a danger of frost. By doing this, bean harvest can be extended even through several light frosts.
Insect pests that attack bush beans include aphids, cabbage loopers, corn earworms, European corn borers, Japanese beetles, and Mexican bean beetles. Mexican bean beetles are considered the worst threat to a bean crop. Adults are oval, yellow-brown, 1/4-inch long beetles with black spots, which are frequently misidentified as ladybugs. The larvae are fat, dark yellow grubs with long branching pines. Both will defoliate leaves from the underside, causing a lacy appearance and, if not dealt with, will kill the plants. To prevent or reduce the damage, cover the beans with row covers and hand pick larvae and adult beetles.
In addition, there are 1/10-inch long black flies with yellow stripes called leaf miners. The larvae of these flies tunnel into the leaves and damage the stems below the soil. Remove any affected plants and burn them to prevent infestation in other plants.
To prevent attacks from striped cucumber beetles, apply a thick mulch to discourage them from laying their eggs in the soil near the plants and hand pick any adults to remove them. Companion planting with catnip, tansy, radishes, goldenrod, or nasturtiums can also help repel them.
Spraying garlic spray on the underside of the leaves helps eliminate spider mites that like to live there.
To minimize diseases on green bean plants, avoid working in bush beans when they are wet from dew or rain. If diseases strike, remove any infected plants to reduce the risk of infecting the other plants.
Pick bush beans when they are pencil-sized, tender and before the seeds inside form bumps on the pod. Harvest them 2-3 days to encourage production. Do not pull the pods off, but pinch the beans off with your thumbnail and finger. If you are unable to master that skill, you can use scissors to remove beans.
Serve or preserve the green beans the day they are picked – the sooner after picking, the better.
For cooking, break them into bite-size pieces and soak overnight. Pour off the water, add fresh water, bring them to boil, and simmer until tender, which takes several hours.
To dry beans, leave the pods on the plants until the seed pods are brown and seeds rattle inside. Seeds should be so hard that you cannot dent them with your teeth. If the pods have yellowed and rain is predicted, pull the plants from the ground and hang them upside-down indoors to dry. Put the shelled beans in airtight, lidded containers. Add oxygen absorbers and store them in a cool dry place. Beans will keep for 10-12 months.