Not only are they fairly simple to grow, but because of the many different varieties out there, it’s easy to find one that will suit your garden, be it big or small.
This guide will show you how easy it is to grow beans, including when to plant them, where to plant them, and how long they take to grow.
Appearance and characteristics
Beans belong to the family of legumes, which includes other plants such as peas and lentils.
A green bean is an immature bean that is harvested before it has dried out on the plant. Its length is anywhere from 3–10 centimetres long and about 1–2½ centimetres wide.
The colour of beans can range from pale to dark green, with some being yellowish-green. They have crisp, juicy flesh and are slightly sweet-tasting. A green bean’s flavour is delicate, growing stronger when cooked.
They are one of the oldest cultivated plants and are thought to date back some 10,000 years, although they do not appear in written records until 3000 BC in China.
What type of beans should you grow?
There are a large number of bean varieties available in Australia that you can grow directly from seed. Common varieties include:
- Broad beans
- Borlotti beans
- Snap beans
- Green beans (string beans)
- Stringless beans
- Edamame beans (soy beans)
- Butter beans
- Snake beans
- Romano beans
The best type of beans for you to grow will be determined by the following:
- Your climate
- The time of year
- The amount of space you have
- Personal preference
In general, the main decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to grow climbing beans or dwarf beans (also called bush beans).
Climbing beans are a good option if you want a large harvest and have space for them to grow vertically (more on this in the next section). If you don’t have space for a large trellis, bush beans may be your best bet.
Also, consider that aside from broad beans, most bean varieties grow best in the warm season.
Climbing beans vs dwarf beans (bush beans)
Climbing beans like Snake Beans grow vertically and can produce large quantities of beans in a small area. They can work well in small gardens but keep in mind that they will need strong stakes up to 2m tall.
Bush beans such as the Dwarf Borlotti or Cherokee Wax are much more compact, growing to a height of around 0.5m. If you are growing in raised garden beds, or don’t have space for a structure for them to climb, these will be the best option.
Another point to consider is that climbing bean varieties will generally have a later and longer harvest season.
When to plant beans in Australia
Beans are a warm-season crop and can generally be planted in the ground or into a container from Spring onwards (after the risk of frost has passed).
Beans need soil temperatures of between 16°C and 30°C to germinate.
Therefore, the best time to plant your beans will vary slightly based on your local climate:
- Temperate – September to February
- Subtropical – August to April
- Cool – October – January
How to grow beans from seeds
The easiest way to grow your own beans is to start with seeds. You can purchase bean seeds at most garden centres or online.
Bean seeds will grow best in well-drained soil enriched with compost, decomposed manure, blood and bone or other organic matter, and mulch. Aim for a soil pH level between 6 and 7.
They also need full sun, so make sure to plant them where they’ll get at least 6 hours of sun each day.
Beans should be planted in damp (not wet) soil so give it a good watering the day before in preparation.
Space plants 5 – 10cm apart in rows at a depth of 2 to 3cm.
Grow Guide: Beans
|Family: Fabaceae (legumes)|
|Plant type: Annual|
|Height: Up to 2m depending on the variety|
|Climate: Suitable for most climates|
|How to plant beans|
|Planting method: Direct sow|
|Soil: Well drained soil with compost, decomposed manure, blood and bone, and mulch|
|Soil pH range: 6 to 7|
|Soil temperature: 16°C to 30°C|
|Spacing needs: 5 to 10cm|
|Seed depth: 2 to 3cm|
|Germination days: 8 to 10 days|
|When to sow: Spring to Summer in temperate climates.|
|Caring for beans|
|Sun: Full sun|
|Water: Water regularly to keep soil moist (but be careful not to over-water)|
|Feeding: Not necessary|
|Time to harvest: 2 to 3 months|
|When to harvest: Beans should be picked when they are young and firm. Check the target harvest size for your specific variety.|
How to care for beans
Water your beans regularly to keep the soil moist but do not over-water because they don’t like wet soil.
Overwatering is the biggest risk when caring for beans, especially when they are young. This is why it is so important to plant your beans in soil with good drainage.
If you’re having trouble keeping track of the moisture in your soil, there are a range of soil moisture meters on the market that may help.
Feeding is generally not required for beans aside from some compost and decomposed manure applied to the soil at the time of planting.
How long do beans take to grow?
Beans take 2 to 3 months (8 to 13 weeks) from planting until they are ready for harvest. The exact amount of time will depend on the variety and your local conditions.
Climbing beans generally take slightly longer to grow than bush or dwarf varieties.
Here are some popular bean varieties and their time to harvest:
- Blue Lake Climbing Bean: 9 weeks
- Italian Romano: 9 weeks
- Borlotti: 9 weeks
- Broad Bean: 15 weeks
- Soy Bean: 13 weeks
- Snake Bean: 11 weeks
- Pioneer Dwarf Bean: 7 weeks
- Cherokee Wax: 9 weeks
- Mendoza Dwarf Bean: 9 weeks
When to harvest beans
Pick beans when they are young and before they have become large, lumpy, or bulging within the pods. This is when they are young and tender, with the best flavour.
Aim to pick the bean pods when they become firm to the touch but are still lean. If the pods are left to grow too big, they will become stringy and tough.
If beans are ready for harvest, they should make a “snap” noise as they break if you bend them in half. This is why they are also called snap beans.
Another way to check whether your beans are ready is to open up a pod and check the size of the beans inside against the target size for the variety you are growing.
Pick them frequently to ensure a good yield over a long season.
How to harvest beans
Picking beans is fairly straightforward.
Once you decide a bean pod is ready to come off the plant, simply break it off at the stem.
Here’s a handy video outlining the process:
Beans pests and diseases
Like many leafy vegetables, beans can suffer from powdery mildew. This can be mitigated by ensuring your plants are receiving adequate airflow (not planted too close together) and also by watering the soil only, not the leaves.
Newly sprouted bean plants may also need protection against shield bugs, caterpillars, snails and slugs.
Bean companion plants
Beans are a popular choice for many gardeners, but we’re not the only ones who love them.
Bean companion plants include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, potatoes and sweet corn.
Are beans easy to grow?
Beans are a great vegetable for beginners to grow because they require little work and produce large harvests compared to how much space they occupy.