Nothing beats fresh green beans straight from the garden. They’re easy to grow and highly productive. You don’t need much room – climbing beans utilise vertical space, and compact bush varieties will thrive in pots. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is their ability to fix their own nitrogen and improve soil health, which is great news for any gardener.
By
Phil Dudman

6 Sep 2012 - 3:18 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2017 - 11:08 AM

At a glance

Ease of culture: Easy
Where: All regions
Best climate: Warm conditions
When: spring, summer, autumn
Spacing: 15cm
Harvest: 8-12 weeks
pH: 6-7

 

Climate

• Beans are grown from spring to autumn in most areas of Australia. You can grow beans in winter in tropical zones
• Plant from mid-spring to January in cool and temperate areas – or spring and autumn in warmer areas
• Beans need at least 6 hours of sun a day
• Provide some protection from strong damaging winds

 

Soil

• Beans will grow in a variety of soil types, but the drainage must be good.
• Loosen soil with a fork to a depth of 30cm
• Toss in 2 full buckets of manure or compost per square metre – more for heavy clay soil
• Sprinkle a tight fistful of sulphate of potash per square metre, to assist flowering and fruiting
• A pH of 6-7 is best. If your pH is lower than 6, spread a handful of lime every square metre
• Mix your additives through with a fork and mound the soil to improve drainage
• Soak the soil and leave it to settle for a few hours before planting

 

Support

• Bush beans are self-supporting, but climbing beans need a frame
• Utilise old mesh fencing or timber trellis held in position with star pickets
• You can use bamboo poles to make a simple tepee frame – just grab 2-metre poles (5 or 6 will do), tie them together at the top and spread them out at the base to form a pyramid shape
• Install support frames before sowing. Align them in a north-south direction so that plants see the sun on both sides of the frame

 

Sowing

• Sowing seeds directly in the soil is the best method of planting beans
• Space rows 80cm apart for climbers and 50cm for bush varieties
• Use the handle of your rake to mark a line on the soil, then drag a trowel along the line to create a furrow 5cm deep
• Dribble seeds along the rows 10-15cm apart. For tepees, plant 3-4 seeds at the base of each pole
• Cover the seeds with around 2cm of soil
• Water seeds well, then don’t water again until they germinate. Bean seeds can rot when the soil is constantly wet

 

Watering and fertilising

• Start watering again as seedlings start to grow
• Regular deep watering is important, especially when flowers and pods appear
• Mulch the soil to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds
• Beans fix their own nitrogen and don’t need a lot of fertiliser – just a sprinkle of all-purpose organic fertiliser when the pods are forming

 

Harvesting

• Beans start fruiting 6-8 weeks from planting
• Pick them before pods become too lumpy – that’s when they’re at their best
• Don’t let them get old and stringy
• Check and harvest daily. Store what you don’t eat in the fridge
• Pods can also be blanched lightly and frozen for winter eating