Planting Pole Beans: How To Grow Pole Beans

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Fresh, crisp beans are summer treats that are easy to grow in most climates. Beans may be pole or bush; however, growing pole beans allows the gardener to maximize planting space. Pole beans require some training onto a pole or trellis, but this makes them easier to harvest and the graceful flowering vines add dimensional interest to the vegetable garden.

When to Plant Pole Beans

Weather is an important consideration, when planting pole beans. Beans do not transplant well and do best when directly sown into the garden. Sow the seeds when soil temperatures are around 60 F. (16 C.), and the ambient air has warmed to at least the same temperature. Most varieties require 60 to 70 days to first harvest and are normally harvested at least five times during the growing season.

How to Plant Pole Beans

Sow the seeds 4 to 8 inches apart in rows that are 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91 cm.) apart in rows. Push the seeds 1 inch (2.5 cm.) and lightly brush soil over them. When planting them in hills, sow four to six seeds at even intervals around the hill. Water after planting until the top 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm.) of soil are damp. Germination should take place in eight to 10 days.

How to Grow Pole Beans

Pole beans need well drained soil and plenty of organic amendment to produce a large crop. Full sun situations are preferable in temperatures that are at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Pole beans need a support structure at least 6 feet high and the vines can grow 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 m.) long. Pole beans need at least an inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week and should not be allowed to dry out but also cannot tolerate soggy soils.

Beans need a little help climbing their support structure, especially when young. It’s important to get them up off the ground early to prevent rot and loss of blooms. Pole beans need little fertilizer. Fertilizer should be added to the soil before planting pole beans. Side dress with manure or mulch or use black plastic to conserve moisture, minimize weeds and keep soils warm for increased yield.

Harvesting Pole Beans

Harvesting beans begins as soon as the pods are full and swollen. Beans should be picked every three to five days to avoid harvesting older beans which can be woody and bitter. A single bean plant can yield several pounds of beans. The pods are best used fresh but they can be lightly blanched and frozen for future use. Consistent harvesting will encourage new flowers and promote longer living vines.

Varieties of Pole Beans

The most popular varieties are Kentucky Wonder and Kentucky Blue. They have been hybridized to produce Kentucky Blue. There is also a string-less Kentucky Blue. Romano is a delicious Italian flat bean. Dade grows long beans and is a prolific producer.

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How to Plant Rows of Pole Beans So the Sun Can Get Through

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Planning a garden is always so much easier on paper. Lay out neat rows and blocks of vegetables based on the amount of each you want to raise, how certain plants will affect each other and the amount of sunlight each requires. Green beans are a vegetable that requires full sun. When you grow the pole variety, you need to consider how to site the plants so they receive the most sun and so they don't shade other sun lovers in your garden.

Monitor your garden site to determine which parts are in full sun and how the sun moves across the site from sunrise to sunset. Beans perform best in a location that receives six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Note which direction is north.

Prepare a row with 20 to 30 inches on each side that runs from east to west and is on the north side of the garden. This orientation means the sun is always shining on the beans from morning to night and they are less likely to shade nearby plants as they grow.

Insert supports either every 3 to 6 inches down the row. Alternatively, install a large metal T-post on each end, string metal cable between the two posts and tie lengths of twine that stretch from the cable to the ground every 3 to 6 inches.

Plant the bean seeds 1 inch deep at the bottom of each pole or strand of twine when the soil temperature is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Bean seeds are prone to rot when the soil is cold and wet.

Interplant the row with fast-growing lettuce, which appreciates afternoon shade, or with shade-tolerant plants that produce via their roots like carrots or beets. Radishes, which are harvested in three to four weeks -- often before the bean vines -- are another companion planting option.

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Green Beans

I love growing green beans because they are easy and everyone in my family likes to eat them. To me, this vegetable is a must have in the garden plot. Although growing green beans is pretty straightforward, there are a few things to consider before planting.

Pole Beans vs Bush Beans

The two most popular types of green beans are pole beans and bush beans. All beans require a bit of support, however pole beans require a trellis to grow well and to get a successful harvest. While bush beans only require minimal support from a tomato cage or sometimes nothing at all.

Bush beans are more compact and grow only a few feet high. They prefer hot weather and full sun.

Pole beans can grow up to 15 feet high (although they usually grow to about 6 feet high) with the help of a trellis. They prefer cooler summers and can handle partial shade.

Soaking Your Seeds

Beans are one of the seeds that benefit from soaking prior to planting. Soak your bean seeds overnight in warm water and plant immediately the morning after. This help with your germination rate, in both how many germinate and how quickly your seeds germinate.

Soil Preparation and Planting

Beans need to be planted directly into the soil as they do not like to be transplanted. Plant your bean seeds 1-3 inches deep and about 6 inches apart.

Both bush beans and pole beans are warm-weather vegetables and cannot handle the frost. They do well in full sun locations and should not be planted until the last frost has passed. Beans do best with rich, well-drained soil. The soil pH should be between 6.0 to 6.8. You can add lime to the soil if the pH is below 5.8 (too acidic), or, add peat moss if your soil pH is above 7.0 (too alkaline).

Germination Rate

On average, beans tend to take about 6-10 days to germinate. Soaking your seeds will speed this up a bit. Beans like the soil temperature to be between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. If soil temperature are too low, it can take up to two weeks to germinate. Germination rates for bush beans and pole beans are pretty high, but it’s always smart to plant extra seeds.

How Long Does It Take For Your Green Beans to Grow?

Green beans grow quickly and it can take anywhere from 50-65 days to grow to maturity. Beans will continue to produce vegetables as long as the weather remains warm.

✅ These are our FAVORITE green beans! We always get a ton of green beans per plant!

How Much Sun do Green Beans Need?

Bush Beans require direct sunlight and summer heat. Pole beans can handle cooler summers and partial shade. However, neither variety can handle frost as they are summer plants. Although you can plant beans in any zone, cooler climates do better with pole beans, and warmer climates do better with bush beans.

Companion Planting with Green Beans

Many plants do well planted near green beans, that’s because beans boost nitrogen levels in the soil. The best companion plants include: corn, cucumber, eggplant, radish, and potatoes. However, beans tend to do well near almost any vegetable and most herbs.

Do not plant beans near: beets, onions, peppers and sunflowers

Pests and Disease

Growing green beans is a great choice for beginners because there are very few problems with pests. However, it’s always important to know about potential issues.

The most common diseases include: bacterial brown spot, halo blight and common blight. All three leave brown spots on the leaves.

The most common pests include: bean weevils, darkling beetles, cucumber beetles and stinkbugs.

When to Harvest Green Beans

Beans mature within 60 days (some sooner) and should be producing green beans at that point. Green beans should be harvested when the beans are still soft, and the inside seed it small. Beans should be about 3-4 inches long.

The more green beans you pick the more green beans you’ll get. At the height of production, be sure to pick your green beans every 2-3 days. The plant should produce well into the fall.

How to Preserve Green Beans

Green beans are delicious fresh but they are also a great option for preserving. Beans can be frozen as long as they are blanched before freezing. I freeze them in large batches and cook them throughout the winter.

Green beans can also be canned. When canning green beans, be sure to use a pressure canner as green beans are not acidic enough for water bath canning. However, you can always pickle your green beans and then use the water bath canning method.

Finally, if you want to save the bean seeds for planting the following year, allow the beans to mature fully and dry out on the vine. Then store these seeds in a dark, cool and dry location for planting the following year.

Growing green beans is a great option for beginner gardeners. Although this information may seem daunting, they really are easy to grow, mature quickly and produce a lot of food. If you’re growing a vegetable garden this year, consider green beans as a wonderful addition.

Need More Gardening Ideas: You may like Fast Growing Vegetables to Start Today. Be sure to also check out Growing Tomatoes From Seed to Harvest.

6 Steps to Pole Bean Success With Phil Foster, of Pinnacle Ranch Organics & John Bauer, Johnny's Territory Sales Rep

These photos were taken at Phil Foster Ranch, San Juan Bautista & Hollister, California. Phil started planting these beans in late January. (This has been a very warm winter.) He'll move outdoors in April sowings, and move back into the tunnels for a few sowings in August and September, with picking finishing in December.

Of course, this is California — in New England, in contrast, one might plant first in early April in a closed-up tunnel (keeping Agro-fabric handy for frost-blanketing if needed), and succession-plant all summer long, with a final fall planting in August, allowing for harvest up into November.

Phil Foster of Pinnacle Organic Ranch is a leading example for commercial pole bean production. He has developed quite a following for his beans. Our Southern California territory sales representative, John Bauer recently paid Phil a visit, and together they gave us the lowdown for pole bean success. Here is John's write-up, in 6 easy-to-follow steps.

Phil grows his 'Northeaster' beans under cover in the early season, just to give the crop some extra heat. (Pole beans are commonly grown in tunnels in Europe, as well.) In the warmer season, he grows them in the open field, saving the tunnels for crops such as tomatoes.

(Note: Steps #1–3 are optional — we find they help assure success…)

Step 1.

Soak seed for 30–45 minutes in slightly warm water.

Step 2.

Place drained seed in a carton with a warm, wet towel lining the bottom of the box. Spread seed out, about 2" deep, in bottom of box. Cover with another warm, wet towel. A drop-light hung in the top of the box overnight helps temperatures in the box stay in the 80's, for optimum priming of germination (

Step 3.

Remove seed from priming box and treat with inoculant while seed is still damp. Seed will be swelled nicely, but no radical will be emerging yet. The germination process has been started.

Step 4.

Cut 1"-deep furrows in the soil, between 60–80" apart. Plant 8–10 seeds/ft, which is spacing the seeds approximately 1½" apart, no deeper than 1".

Option B: Use plastic mulch, and jab-plant 3 seeds every 8" through the plastic. This method, which is fast and gives a good stand, is how we plant at the Research Farm in Albion, Maine. (In their home gardens, though, many of Johnny's bean experts favor Phil's method!)

Step 5.

Install steel or wood fence posts spaced 10–12' apart. When bean plants are 6" tall, start running twine down one side of the row, wrapping around each post, to the end of the row. Then come back up the other side, in the same way. Repeat as beans grow taller, at 12" intervals up the posts. With bare-ground production (if you do not intend to lay mulch), a close mechanical and/or tractor cultivation before installing the posts will help with weed control later. Weeds can alternatively be discouraged by using plastic or bio-mulch options.)

Step 6.

Beans respond very well to drip irrigation, to bring them up in soils with temperatures between 59–80°F (15–27°C). Drip irrigation saves water and effectively assists in the prevention of foliar diseases in your pole beans. Deep-cycle irrigation is preferable to short, numerous irrigations, because the latter can promote soil disease on stems and roots, such as Pythium damping-off pathogens (which are most prevalent in wet and cool conditions).

Growing pole beans can be a very satisfying occupation, as the plants can yield over a fairly long harvest period. Even so, you can get a nice succession and even more continuous supply by planting a new block every 2 weeks through the season.

Tunnel production is also very effective, because it allows you to start much earlier and go very late into the fall. In rainy climates, it also allows to you keep the vines dry and minimize plant diseases.

John's Recommended Pole Bean Varieties

I and many of my grower friends grow the flat-pod organic 'Northeaster', although I've seen the round filet beans like 'Fortex' (green), 'Carminat' (purple), and 'Monte Gusto' (yellow) do very well and develop a great following in the markets. Try them all, and you decide which does best for your farm or garden.

— John Bauer, Rep for Johnny's Selected Seeds, Southern California

Water the plants about once a week in dry weather. Do not let the soil dry out while the beans are blooming or the blooms will drop and yields will be decreased.

The roots of beans grow near the soil surface. When hoeing and pulling weeds, do not dig too deep, or the plant’s roots will be damaged. After the plants begin to flower and set beans, apply ½ cup of fertilizer for every 10 feet of row. Scatter the fertilizer between the rows. This will help the plants produce more beans. Water the plants after fertilizing.

How to Grow Pole Beans With Corn

If you are planning to grow corn and pole beans together, you are actually trying nothing new. Especially the Native Americans have been growing corn, pole beans and pumpkins together for ages. And they have named this combination as ‘three sisters’.

Growing corn and pole beans together is not that hard. The main idea is using the corn stalks as a trellis for the beans. Consequently, you force the bean plant to grow up all around each corn stalk.

Planting these two corps together is quite useful. It not only saves time and space, but also eliminates the need of special fence designed to support the pole beans.

There are a few disadvantages as well. A lot of experts believe that this technique actually weakens both corps. So, prepare yourself for the possible difficulties before making any move.

Things Required:

– Corn plants
– Pole bean plants
– Soft string or pantyhose (optional)

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Growing corn and pole beans together does not mean that you plant them at the same time. You are required to plant your corn a few weeks earlier than the pole beans. This technique help the bean plants rise up the corn stalk.

And if you have not planted the corns well before the beans, there would be no stalk for the pole beans to climb. Let the corn stalks rise to a few inches before planting the corn, so that the corn always stays slightly ahead.

You cannot relax after planting the two corps, as they have to be observed regularly. As the pole beans grow, you are required to train them around the corn stalk.

It should be done very gently otherwise, you may crack the branches of the plant. Each bean plant should properly be wrapped around the corn stalk.

In case the plants refuse to wind around the corn, you can use a cotton thread to tie them up. Do it gently though, so the vines don’t crush.

Watering the plants on regularly basis is another crucial step. Since you are growing two corps at the same time, you need to water them more often.

Monitor your plants on constant basis. The bean plants should be trained every few days, so they stay around the corn stalk. Harvest your plants regularly, once the bean pods start appearing.

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