Growing Beans in Raised Beds (The Tall and Short of It)

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Growing beans in raised beds can be rewarding and fun. I’ve managed to do it and am doing it again this season, so I’ll fill you in on all you need to know about what to do and not to do to have a successful crop.

Beans are nutritious, and delicious, and if you’re blessed with some culinary talent you may find more ideas than you know what to do with that involve string beans, edamame, and the like. First, starting with the different types.

growing beans

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Types of Bean Plants

Now a little bit on bean types and how they are unique…depending on how much space you have, you may opt for one variety, or both. Some get tall and need support and others stay close to the ground.

Pole beans

I’m sure you’re familiar with green beans – pole beans belong to this family. They’re green, of course, except for wax beans, which are yellow (if you enjoy three-bean salad, you know already) Some of the most popular varieties include Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake and Scarlet Wonder.

They’re called “pole” beans, because, well, they need to climb up something like a pole as they grow, and sometimes they can get up to 12 feet. They are also known as “runner beans” for this tendency to grow very high and tall on their support structures.

Bush beans 

You won’t need a trellis for these as they don’t get very tall – they will sprawl out a little as they grow, so anything you can build that will help life them off the ground is sufficient. As the pods flourish, you’ll have to crouch down to hunt for them, which is no big deal. They’re ideal for raised beds as the conditions are good. Bush beans can do well in soil with clay or loamy conditions too.

As long as the space plotted out in your beds is at least 8″ deep you should be good to go.

Planting Bean Seeds

Several things to keep in mind before you plant bean seeds, regardless of type. First of all, they do not respond well to being transplanted, unlike other warm-weather crops. Be sure to wait until the last frost has passed before planting the seeds, and start planting them in your beds – do not start seedlings to later repot outdoors.

planting bean seeds

To be quite honest, I did start some bean seeds…it was a project I always wanted to do, start seeds in egg cartons so…(strike one) Guilty as charged. However, we did harden them off by keeping them outside during the sunny days as I think it was mid-March when we started the seeds officially and there’s still a few cold snaps to be had.

It was fun, though, to watch them sprout! One particular seed really took off and then I transported it to the bottom of a cup and it already created the first real pod! To be fair, our bush bean crop did well,, in spite of this, But I would not do that now. Save yourself time and aggravation, and just wait til the temps are at least no lower than 60 F at night before planting.

Second thing…do NOT soak the seeds before planting. It will stunt the germination process.

Plant both seed types about an inch deep and at least 3″ apart. Your rows should be spaced about 18-24″. As the seedlings grow (for pole beans) trim them when they get a few inches in height, so the remaining plants are about 10″ apart.

What to Plant Beans With?

Beans are “nitrogen fixers”….meaning that other things planted in the vicinity will get a nice boost of this nutrient if they are in the same bed. When you go to add fertilizer, choose one with a good ratio, and doesn’t have higher amounts of nitrogen.

As far as what you should be planting beans around, corn is very compatible, so are underground crops like radishes and carrots. We’re also planting seed potatoes on the other side which is also a good choice. The one crop I would stay away from is anything in the Allium family which means anything onion related like shallots, chives, leeks, etc.

Germination

They don’t take long to start sprouting…the average length of time for most beans is about 50-65 days from sprout to full pod growth.

Support For Your Bean Plants

Pole beans will need support structures as they get taller and start to climb, you could set up a teepee like structure , as long as it is tall enough, We used these bamboo poles for ours to climb up….all it took was just cutting down a few, these things grow like mad and bamboo is not hard to find , and did I mention we got them for free, too! (All it took was my machete and asking a manager outside Lowes for permission…)

So whatever you can come up with to support them that is tall enough (they get up to 10-12 feet, remember) will work.

planting pole beans raised beds

Pests and Diseases

Watch out for the Mexican bean beetle – they’re easily mistaken for ladybugs, which are a friend in the garden – unlike the red ladybug, these pests are more orange-yellow looking.  We found a few Japanese beetles (which are copper or green metallic looking) I picked them off and fed them to my hens. That’s another boon of keeping chickens – they enjoy a nice snack of bugs so a good natural pest control. 

Thee are also ways to trap beetles and you can drop them in a jar of soapy water. As far as diseases go the most severe are halo blight, bean rust and anthracnose. Telltale signs include dark brown spots, curling leaves and sunken lesions – it needs to be dealt with fungicide. Consult an experienced horticulturist for advice.

Harvest Time

This year we are planting pole beans,,,last year we did bush. I’m excited to see what will come of them…

When you see the bean pods they will be around 5-7″ in length and ready to pick. I twist the stem gently to pry them loose, it’s very strong. Be sure to be on top of new pods developing and get them, as regular picking will encourage productive growth with your plants. They will be mostly long green and skinny depending on the type. If they start to bulge, they are still edible but overgrown. You may have to open the shells and pick them out in that case.

pole bean plants

UPDATE: 6/27/23  We got some beans!! I think we had a total of about 15-25 pods total (as John puts it, “a mess of beans” ) I took that picture above just today. The remaining pods in the making are about 3″ or so in length – these I leave alone for now, I call these the “juveniles”.

Here is a batch of some of our beans we’ve harvested. You notice how they all have pointed ends, sometimes the start of the stems (that were attached to the vine) is still intact:I always trim those off with a small knife.

batch of green beans

Wrap-Up

Alright, now you? Think you would like to add beans to your crop repertoire this season? Have you grown them before? Let me hear from you and share your story if you have.

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