Beans are a warm-season crop, and should be not planted until the danger of frost has passed. Warm soil facilitates seed germination. Beans prefer full sun. They thrive in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Backyard gardeners prepare the soil by adding compost or manure. Beans are often used as a crop to get children interested in gardening, because the plants grow rapidly and the seeds are large enough for them to plant without difficulty.
Snap Beans (Bush Variety)
Snap beans used to be known as string beans due to the stringy fiber that grew on the seams of the pods. Selective plant breeding has diminished the fibers. The beans are now called snap beans in recognition of the snapping sound they make when bent. The pods containing the seeds are consumed. They grow in green, yellow, and purple varieties. Harvest when the pods are crisp but the seeds are not fully developed. Bush beans do not need support; they grow quickly and can be harvested in less than 60 days. Bush bean plants reach a height of 20 inches.
Snap Beans (Pole Variety)
Pole beans are so named because the vines wind around poles, fences or trellises as they grow. Because they grow vertically, they produce more beans in the same garden space compared to bush beans. Gardeners often use a tripod-style support made from poles. Pole beans are harvested between 60 and 80 days after the seeds are planted. This variety of snap beans can be planted every two to four weeks during the growing season, producing an ongoing, plentiful harvest. The plants can reach heights above 5 feet. Bush or pole beans are consumed raw in salads, and can also be boiled or steamed.
Lima beans come in bush and pole varieties as well. They are called shell beans because the large, round seeds of the plant are removed from their shells and consumed. Lima beans are harvested when the pods are bright green. They prefer even warmer temperatures than snap beans, and are planted several weeks later in the season. They tolerate humid conditions, but must have well-drained soil. Bush lima beans are ready for harvest within 70 to 80 days; the pole variety can take up to 90 days. Gardeners cook lima beans before consuming them. They are known as butter beans because of their rich flavor.
These highly nutritious beans are grown as a commercial crop, but varieties have been created for the home gardener that do not grow as tall as the soybeans in a farmer's field, and have a shorter growing season. Plant soybeans in warm soil, about the same time as the lima beans go into the ground. Harvest soybeans when the pods are plump and green, but before the seeds become hardened, 80 to 90 days after planting.