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vegetable garden
Published January 19, 2022 by Nicole Burke

How to Grow Organic Beans in Your Kitchen Garden

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Beans Are One of the Most Practical Plants to Grow in a Kitchen Garden

From pinto beans to chickpeas, green beans to edamame, beans are a central part of any plant-based diet. Did you know the average person in the United States consumes about seven and a half pounds of beans every year?

Not only are beans staples of our pantry, they're also one of the most practical things to grow in the garden.

Before we get into tips for growing your own organic beans at home, let's learn a little about beans and explore why you should consider adding them to your kitchen garden.

(Prefer to listen? Check out Episode 24 of the Grow Your Self podcast, "If You Don't Know Beans About Beans," on Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio here, or Stitcher.)

how beans are grown

First, Are Beans a Fruit?

You wouldn't put them in a fruit salad, but beans form from flowers and contain seeds, right? So are beans vegetables or fruits?

Like peas, beans are seed pods, which makes them, botanically speaking, fruit. They're one of many plants you might grow in a kitchen garden that are technically fruits but often treated like vegetables in the kitchen. For gardening purposes, it's important to know beans are small fruits so you can grow them under their preferred conditions (more on that in a bit).

are beans vegetables?

Let's Spill the Beans on Beans

Beans have been around for thousands of years.

Fava beans, wild variants of broad beans, were found in Thailand dating back to 9,000 years ago! Beans were also found in Afghanistan, the Himalayan foothills, and even in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs for the afterlife. The first cultivated beans appeared about 4,000 years ago in Iberia and the Alps. These were also a type of broad beans, so think those large bean seeds.

The bean that we all think of as the quintessential bean, the green bean, has been found in archeological sites in South America. Beans were brought over to Europe by explorers, and Europeans spent hundreds of years developing beans, creating fancy French filet beans, Italian beans, and so many more. So we have beans being cultivated in many different cultures.

You'd think with this rich history, we'd have dozens of varieties to choose from in supermarkets today, but the truth leaves much to be desired.

yardlong beans

How Beans Are Grown in the United States

Where do we get our beans in the United States right now? Beans are grown in different parts of the country based on their use, basically whether they're going to be processed or canned immediately or sold fresh.

That means the two main categories of beans when it comes to the food industry are dried beans (pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, etc.) and fresh beans.

The majority of our dried bean production comes from North Dakota, while most of our green beans come from Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin (I like to think it was canned green beans that gave the Green Bay Packers their name, but it was actually meat).

pole beans on trellis

Why You Should Try Growing Your Own Beans

When you buy canned beans from the grocery store, you're mostly paying for the can itself and for the production process, rather than for the actual food. Farmers who grow beans for canning have to let the beans dry in the field before they can even harvest them and thresh them out of their pods. Then, those beans have to be boiled and cooked. Overall, that's a long production process.

Quick tip if you're budget-conscious and don't want to grow your own beans: buy dried beans in bulk instead of cans. By rehydrating dried beans, you can get six to eight times as much as you could get from a can, all from one little inexpensive package.

In addition to paying for the production process, you're also only going to experience one type of bean when you buy from the store. Farmers only grow bush beans, which will produce and be ready for harvest in one go. Pole beans, or vining beans, form pods here and there in a slow but continuous production—not exactly ideal for harvesting huge batches.

Pole beans can have an enhanced flavor compared to bush beans, so that's something you're never getting to experience if you're only eating beans from the store. The more you garden, the more you'll find that industrial food tastes very different from what you can produce in your own garden or on a patio.

If you're not ready to grow your own yet, consider purchasing your beans from a farmers' market in lieu of from a grocery store. That way, you'll still get to experience a wider variety of flavors (while, of course, also supporting your local farming heroes).

beans growing

Beans Growing Guide

Beans Growing Season

Most beans love the warm and cool seasons (typically your spring and fall). Frost will frequently kill any bean plants remaining in your garden. I tried growing beans during the hot season in Houston when I lived there, and found that the plants would stay green if I kept them watered but would stop flowering and fruiting. The beans I did get were really tough (not in a good way).

The one type of beans I did grow really well in the hot Houston summers was edamame. My kids had a lot of fun watching it grow, and we love some steamed homegrown edamame with coarse salt on the shells.

beans growing

How to Plant Beans in Your Kitchen Garden

One of the easiest things about planting beans is the size of the seed—nice and big and easy to handle. You can see what you're doing, whether you've already sown a seed in a hole or not. Beans also tend to germinate very quickly, sometimes in under a week.

Before planting dry bean seeds, soak them in water overnight to soften their protective seed coat and ease sprouting.

In addition to preparing your beans, it's also a good idea to prepare your soil. Add some extra compost and some mycorrhizae, which will help speed up germination and aid your bush beans in pulling nutrients from the soil to grow faster and bigger. 

Plant your beans about one inch deep in your garden. I like to dig a little trough with my shovel in a straight line. This helps me see the spacing between each seed. Place your seeds about four to six inches apart, or about one seed every hand length. Cover with loose soil.

If you're growing pole beans, you'll need to plant your beans next to a trellis or another tall structure that your beans can climb up with their tiny tendrils. Pole beans can grow from six to eight feet tall and will continue to produce until frost arrives.

How to Support Beans as They Grow

Bush beans don't technically need a trellis, but I still support them to prevent them from flopping over from the weight of the beans onto the soil and forming a nice little bridge for pests. The way you can support them is by hilling them, or pushing a bit of compost around the base of the plant to form a mound. If a plant seems really heavy, you can use a stake and some twine to hold the plant upright.

Another option to support bush beans is by forming what's called a Florida weave by putting two stakes on either end of your row of beans and running twine back and forth between the stakes (hold the twine in place by adding screws along the stakes).

I personally prefer the taste and the look of pole beans. I grow my pole beans up the sides of my trellises when it's too cool out for tomatoes. I think the purple pole beans I grew up the arch trellises one year were even prettier than my vining tomatoes.

shop Gardenary trellises

How to Tend Beans as They Grow

With both pole and bush beans, the most important tending task to keep the plants growing and producing is regular watering. Keeping the plants watered is especially important in the first three to four weeks after planting. You never want to let the soil completely dry out before the seeds have germinated.

Once the first tendrils of pole beans have found a structure to climb onto, the plants will require less maintenance, but still need at least an inch of water per week. If you're not getting that amount of rain, make sure you hand water or install some type of irrigation system.

are beans good for you?

How Long Does It Take Beans to Grow?

Beans that you're harvesting fresh, like edamame, will typically be ready in a 60-day cycle or so. Dried beans, like black beans require closer to 80 or 90 days so that they can fully dry. During this time, you can basically leave them be in your garden. They'll turn brown, and you'll eventually be able to rattle them when they're ready for harvest.

beans types

Are Beans Good for You?

Beans Benefits: Edamame vs Black Beans

Let's do a little food fight between edamame and black beans.

Beans Calories

I think it's silly to talk about calories when it comes to eating vegetables, but we'll do it just for the sake of the argument. From my research, you get about 121 calories per 100 grams of edamame and about 91 calories per 100 grams of black beans. If you're watching your calorie intake, you're going to get 30 more calories with edamame.

Beans Dietary Fiber

Fiber is at the top of people's thoughts when they think about beans. Edamame has 5 grams of fiber per 100 grams. Black beans have about 7 grams. So far, black beans have fewer calories but more fiber, though the differences aren't huge.

Beans Sugar

Edamame, has 2 grams of sugar per 100 grams of beans, while black beans have 2/10 of a gram. Black beans are really low in sugar.

Beans Protein

Edamame’s got 11 grams of protein in 100 grams. Black beans only have about six grams of protein for that same amount. Edamame finally scores a point!

Beans Calcium

Edamame has 63 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams, while black beans only have about 35. That's impressive that edamame is so high in calcium.

Beans Iron

Black beans and edamame have roughly the same amount of iron—2 milligrams per 100 grams. So, that's a tie.

Beans Potassium

Edamame has 436 milligrams of potassium, while black beans only have 300 milligrams.

Overall, when you compare calcium, iron, and potassium, edamame is winning, though black beans are higher in B vitamins.

The Winner

If you're watching your sugar levels or caloric intake and aiming to eat more fiber, black beans win. If you need more vitamins and protein, then you're going to go for edamame.

As far as growing these two, they're similar to grow, but edamame will spend less time in the garden because it's not a dried bean. I think edamame is super fun to grow with kids. Black beans can be cool too—you just have to let them hang out in your garden longer. It’s a little bit more of a waiting game. 

Discover Your Green Thumb

Answer a few quick questions to find out your current gardening level and get free resources to grow with Gardenary.

That's How Beans Grow!

If you're looking for something that's simple, that's grows very quickly, and that adds a lot of foliage and color to your garden, you can't go wrong with beans. There's no beans about it, you should definitely grow beans in your kitchen garden.

Want to hear more about how beans became a staple in diets around the world? Listen to my "You Don't Know Beans About Beans" podcast episode on Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio here, or Stitcher.

How to Grow Organic Beans in Your Kitchen Garden