1. Garden beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden.
  2. Beans are a warm season crop that need warm soil temperatures. Beans can be planted in spring, as soon as the soil temperature is 15°C. 
  3. Bush beans are short compact plants, while pole beans grow up to 3 m tall and require a trellis or other support.
  4. Plant beans every 2 weeks until mid-June to spread out your harvest.
  5. Beans are good grown as a microgreen.
  6. In addition to being good to eat, beans are good for your soil too. Beans fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in nodules in their roots through a mutually beneficial relationship with a soil bacterium called Rhizobium. If the roots are left intact to decay in the soil after harvest, nitrogen is released into the soil to benefit the vegetables growing there the following growing season.

Beans belong to the Fabaceae family (sometimes referred to as legumes). The Fabaceae family includes peas, beans, soybeans, lentils, peanuts and others.

Fabaceae plants have the unique ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in nodules in their roots through a mutually beneficial relationship with a soil bacterium called Rhizobium. In return, the plant supplies energy to the Rhizobium. If the roots of Fabaceae plants are left to decay in the soil after harvest, the nitrogen is released into the soil which will benefit the vegetables growing there the following growing season. 

Since Fabaceae plants share a common ancestor, they all have very similar growing needs and are prone to similar problems.

While they are quite similar, there are some key differences, so to ensure best success we've broken these into separate articles for easier instruction.

Beans are high in vitamins A, C, K, B6, thiamine, fibre and protein. Check here for detailed information from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

The Canadian Food Guide recommends that roughly half of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

Canada Food Guide: What's On Your Plate?

Growing outdoors

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Beans prefer to grow in a sandy, sandy loam or loam soil with good drainage. 

Beans need full sun for best growth. They can tolerate some partial shade but you'll get less yield. They are not suitable for very shady areas.

Beans are best grown outdoors in the ground, either in raised beds or unraised/ground level gardens if the soil is suitable. They can also be grown outdoors or indoors in containers (details below). They are not typically suitable for most hydroponic, straw bale, or other alternative growing methods.

Beans are also an excellent microgreen.

Beans should be direct seeded. Transplants are not recommended.

The timing of planting should coincide with your frost-free dates. We've given suggested dates below, but you can adjust these to your local conditions. Beans are a warm season plant and cannot tolerate cool soil. It's best to plant on or after your last expected spring frost date, when soil is at least 15°C.

  • Knowing the last expected spring frost date for your location will help you plan when to sow seeds. The date is based on averages and varies according to where you live – it is as early as mid-May for Saskatoon, Estevan and Swift Current, SK, while Yellowknife is May 30 and the Moosonee region in Manitoba is June 10. Find the date of the last spring frost at this link: https://climateatlas.ca/map/canada/lastspring_baseline# Click on where you live on the map.

In general beans take about 55 and 80 days from seed to harvest, depending on the cultivar. This is usually listed as "days to maturity" on the seed packet.

  • Saskatoon has around 130 frost-free days throughout the spring and summer for plants to grow. In Yellowknife, you can expect around 111 frost-free days. Check your seed package for your days to maturity or days to harvest information and compare it with your local average frost free days.
  • The frost-free season is the total number of days (on average) when there is no frost. It starts on the date of the last frost in spring and ends on the date of the first frost in fall. To find out the length of the frost-free season where you live, click on this link and find your location on the map: https://climateatlas.ca/map/canada/ffp_baseline# 
  • Note that these are current estimates and we expect our growing season to get warmer, longer, and drier as our climate continues to change.

Timing

  • Beans are best planted from seed. Beans do not like root disturbance, so transplants are not recommended.
  • Beans need warm soil temperatures and will germinate in 8 - 12 days when the soil temperature is 15°C or warmer. However, germination is optimum when soil is 21°C or warmer. Try to plant beans during a warm spell.
  • If the soil is colder than 15°C, seeds may rot.
  • Do successive plantings every 2 weeks until mid-June to spread out your workload and your harvest.  

Planting instructions

  • There is no need to soak bean seeds before seeding as soaking can damage the seed and lead to rot. But do water seeded areas well after you plant.
  • Plant seeds 2.5 - 5 cm deep (or as directed on the seed package) into moist soil about 10 cm apart in rows about 30 - 45 cm apart. 
  • Install trellis for tall varieties (pole beans).
  • Bush varieties do not need support.

Don't forget to label what you planted. It's also helpful to draw a map to help you track planting locations and success each year. This information is critical if you're rotating your crops to help prevent insect and disease issues.

Succession planting

There are two kinds of bean plants: pole beans grow up to 3 m tall and require support such as a trellis, while bush beans and short, mounded plants which do not require support.

The common garden bean are mostly snap or wax beans which are harvested when immature for their edible pods with immature seeds. They are available in green, yellow or purple pods. Purple pods are very ornamental but will turn green when cooked.  Green and yellow beans retain their colour when cooked.

Romano, Italian or lima beans are generally grown for its seeds which are eaten fresh or are dried for later use. 

French filet is a type of bush bean that produces thin, tender pods.

Cultivar recommendations:

  • Here are cultivar recommendations from the North Dakota State University Cultivar Trials, as they share a similar prairie climate and soils. You may download their list here: North Dakota State University Vegetable Cultivar Recommendations for 2021
      • Bush: Annihilator, Antigua, Bush Blue Lake 274, Crockett, Derby, Espada, Inspiration, Jade II, Lewis, Maxibel, Pike, Provider, Purple Queen Improved, Royal Burgundy, Serengeti, Strike
      • Dry: Arikara Yellow, Great Northern.
      • Lima: Fordhook 242, Eastland
      • Pole: Fortex, Monte Cristo, Orient Wonder, Seychelles, Stringless Blue Lake S-7
      • Wax: Borsalino, Carson, Gold Rush
  • The following cultivars are recommendations from the University of Saskatchewan vegetable program field trials which were conducted from 1989 through 2016. 
    • French filet: Delinel, Masai
    • Green beans: Diamant, Fandango, Foremost, Montano, Nash, OSU 5402, PLS 87, Provider, Renegade, Royal Burgundy, Staytom, Storm, Strike, Tema, True Blue
    • Yellow beans: Eureka, Gold Rush, Gold Mine

Actively growing beans prefer 2.5 cm moisture/week in well-drained soils. Water is especially important during and after flowering. Dry soil will reduce yields. 

Apply mulch around plants to keep soil evenly moist and to reduce weeding.

Beans are not suitable for fall seeding.

 

Beans are a warm season crop that can grow in the far north provided soil is warm when planting. Select early maturing varieties (less than 70 days to maturity) for best results.

Beans grow well in the far north on raised beds, which is simply a mound of soil higher than the natural grade, which may be framed or unframed. Raised beds tend to warm up faster than level ground in spring which enables you to sow seeds earlier.

To warm up soil faster, lay a sheet of clear plastic on top of the soil to warm the soil after the snow has melted. Studies show that clear plastic works better than black plastic to warm soil. Be sure to anchor the edges so the plastic does not blow away. Remove the plastic before planting.

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Forgot what you planted? Not sure if it's a weed? Germination in alfalfa - a legume related to beans

See our preservation section for more videos.

Growing in containers

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Beans can be grown in a container outdoors or indoors (with supplemental lighting).

Select a large, deep container with drainage holes in the bottom.  Keep seeds moist until they germinate. Thin seedlings to avoid overcrowding the pot - check seed package for recommended spacing. Provide a trellis for taller beans.

See: Vegetable container gardening

See our Growing indoors page for detailed growing advice.

Any of the recommended cultivars would work in a container. If you choose a tall cultivar such as a pole bean, provide a trellis for support to grow vertically.

 

Saving seeds

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Seeds are expected to be shelf-stable for one year from date of sale if purchased from a reputable retailer. If you wish to save your seeds beyond that, you should store them in the fridge in a sealed jar. Seeds lose viability quickly if they dry out too much or get too warm.

The life expectancy of bean seeds stored under favourable conditions is about five years.

Seeds stored under less favourable conditions will show poor germination after just a single year of storage. Beyond this, you can expect your germination rates to go down (ie. not all of your seeds will grow, but some might). To test your seeds, you can do a simple germination test. Follow the link for instructions. If you are still getting some seeds germinating, seed more thickly and thin any extra.

Saving scarlet runner bean seeds

Save seeds from open pollinated or heirloom varieties of beans. If the plant tag or seed package from the original plant says “hybrid”, then the seeds grown from hybrids won't look the same next year.

The seeds of beans are inside the pods. Leave the pods on the plant until they turn brown and are dry and brittle. The seeds in green pods do not ripen well after they are picked from the plant. If there is hard frost or wet weather, cut and bring the whole plant inside. Hang the plant upside down to finish ripening the seeds.
 
Once the pods are dry and brittle, crack them open and remove the seeds. Discard the pods in your compost. Keep the best seeds and discard ones that are small, shriveled or moldy. The seeds should be hard and dry before storing them. If the seeds are still a bit soft, spread them out on a plate or tray and allow to dry until they feel hard like a pebble.

Place seeds in an envelope marked with the name and year harvested. Place the envelope in a jar and seal. Store in the fridge. 

Harvest

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  • Beans are ready to harvest about 3 weeks after flowering.
  • Pick pods for fresh eating early in the day before daytime temperatures rise. 
  • Pick snap beans slightly immature, before the pods become tough and fibrous for fresh eating. If you plan on canning beans, pick them at a more mature stage so they stay firm after heat processing.
  • Pick french or fillet beans when slender and young.
  • Romano, Italian or lima beans can be picked when the pods become thin but not dry. Split open the pods and remove the beans for fresh eating. If you want to dry the beans, harvest when pods are dry and beans rattle when shaken. If it's late in the season and the beans have not fully matured, cut the entire plant and hand upside down indoors to continue drying. Once the pods are completely dry, shell and remove the beans. Ensure the beans are completely dry before storing.
  • Check bean plants often for ripeness - you may have to pick every day.
  • Beans for fresh eating should be refrigerated if not used immediately.
  • Dry beans can be stored in jars or other containers in a dark, dry place.

 

Use one hand to hold the vine and the other to pluck the bean from the vine without tearing the calyx (the end attached to the vine).

Beans do not have a particularly high respiration rate so keeping them cool is less important than other plants. Refridgerate fresh beans if not using them right away.

Storage

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Beans are best used immediately, whether eaten fresh, or frozen or canned for longer term storage.

Peas can be stored in perforated plastic bags in the crisper of the refrigerator for several days.

Long term preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.

Cooking and preserving

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Preservation methods we recommend include freezing, fermenting, dehydrating (drying) or canning.

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Troubleshooting

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Beans are relatively low maintenance. Providing their water, light and soil needs are managed they don't tend to get a lot of issues. Maintaining healthy soil with adequate organic matter will go a long way towards preventing most issues.

White mold (sclerotinia) is a common problem. Avoid overcrowding plants and stake taller varieties to promote good air circulation. Water plants early in the day to allow leaves to dry. Use mulch to prevent  spores from infecting plants through soil splash. 

See the Common problems tab on this page for advice on other specific bean issues.

 

 

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Common questions

The problem is likely cool soil temperatures for your first early planting. Beans are a warm season vegetable which are very sensitive to cool temperatures. 

The ideal soil temperature for bean seed germination is 15°C to 21°C.  Germination is slow and poor when soil temperatures are below 15°C. Germination may take two weeks or more if soil temperatures are below 15°C. Soil temperatures are considerably cooler than air temperature so the best time to sow bean seeds is after your last average frost free day in spring. Cool, wet soils are the right conditions for seeds to rot. 

This is why you have better success when you do your second planting of beans later in the spring, when soil temperatures are naturally warmer. You can still sow seeds until around the middle of June. These should do better as soils are warmer at this time of year.

Try this next year: If you like getting an early start on your beans, pre-warm the soil soon after the snow melts. Lay a sheet of clear plastic over the soil and anchor the edges. Studies show that clear plastic warms soil better than black or other colours of plastic. Leave the plastic in place for a few weeks until the soil is thoroughly warm. Remove the plastic before planting. Good luck!

Research

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