Growing Snap Beans

Beans are one of America's favorite garden vegetables. Early bean varieties were stringy, hence the term "string" beans. Modern varieties are stringless, tender, and crisp. Since they snap easily, these new varieties are referred to as snap beans. Snap beans may be classified as bush or pole beans. The bush-type beans are low growing plants that may grow 1 to 2 feet in height. The pole beans are vining plants which must be supported by a fence or stakes.

Beans are warm-season vegetables and should be planted after the danger of frost has passed, or about May 10 in central Iowa. Bean seeds should be planted 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Bush varieties are planted in rows 2 feet apart with seeds spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. After the seedlings emerge, thin bush snap beans to 3 to 4 inches between plants. For continuous harvest, plant bush varieties every 2 or 3 weeks. The last practical date for planting snap beans is August 1. Pole beans may be planted in rows spaced 2 to 3 feet apart with the vines supported by rough poles, a fence, or trellis. The support for pole beans should be approximately 6 to 7 feet tall. In the row, plant pole bean seeds 3 inches apart, later thin to 4 to 6 inches between plants. Pole beans may also be planted around poles fashioned into a wigwam. Pole beans require a few more days to mature than bush varieties. However, they produce over a longer period.

Suggested snap bean varieties for Iowa include:

Bush Green Beans Wax Bush Beans
Bush Blue Lake 274 CF Cherokee CF
Derby Gold Rush CF
Provider CF Kinghorn CF
Strike Slenderwax CF
Tendercrop CF
Topcrop C
Pole Beans
Blue Lake (stringless) CF
Kentucky Wonder C (contains strings)

C = Good for canning; F = Good for freezing

Snap beans should be harvested frequently and thoroughly. Leaving mature pods on the plant will decrease yields. The bean plant will put its energy into seed development rather than additional crop production. Harvest snap beans when the pods are young and firm and the seeds are small.

This article originally appeared in the May 12, 1993 issue, p. 69.


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