How to grow beans and peas

Most beans originated in temperate or tropical regions, which affects planting times. However, temperature, day length and expected maturity dates are also factors. Some beans can also tolerate or even prefer cooler temperatures. You’re sure to find something in the bean family that suits your needs.

  • Intro
  • Warm Season Bean
  • Cool Season Beans
  • Good Varieties
  • Spring Planting
  • Summer Planting
  • Fall Planting

Warm Season Bean

Most beans are warm season plants. That’s true of the beans most gardeners grow, such as string or snap beans, dry beans and lima beans. You’ll find a wide array of plant types in this group, such as bush, half-runner and pole beans. These beans also come in various colors such as green, yellow, purple, brown, white and streaked and splotched.

Cool Season Beans

Fava beans are the only true cool season bean. They belong to a different family than snap and dry beans, which shows up in their different shape and taste. Sometimes called broad beans or horse beans, they are often grown for animal fodder as well as human consumption. Some people have a genetic metabolic disorder that can cause a blood disorder called favism if they eat fava beans.

Good Varieties

With more than 40,000 different bean varieties, gardeners can be overwhelmed with choices. These are readily available:

  • Kentucky Wonder – available in pole and bush varieties
  • Blue Lake – classic heirloom bean; pole and bush varieties available.
  • Royalty Purple Pod – can withstand slightly cooler planting temperatures
  • King of the Garden Lima – highly prolific long season pole lima bean.
  • Romano – Italian variety available in both green and yellow.

Spring Planting

Fava beans are the only bean that can be planted in early spring. Plant them when you plant early peas or lettuce. Late spring is the best time to plant many beans. Beans prefer soil temperatures of 65°F (18° C) to 90°F (32°C), but germinate best with soil temperatures of 80°F (27°C). Use black plastic to warm your soil in cooler springs or short-season areas.

Summer Planting

If you have a long season or choose beans with shorter maturity dates, you can plant beans in the summer. Many bush beans are ready in about 60 days. They appreciate the extra warmth of the summer soil and if well-watered, will quickly provide you with a crop. Pole beans, with their longer maturity, are less likely to make a full crop.

Fall Planting

If you live in a desert area, you may be able to plant beans with short maturity dates in early fall. Fava beans are often used as a cover crop and can be planted in late fall to winter over. Most beans, however, can’t tolerate fall planting. They are frost sensitive and even if you manage to germinate the seeds, they will not survive long enough to make a good crop.

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Do you love the crisp sweet crunch of young peas and beans? These easy-to-grow crops are perfect for all gardeners in small urban spaces. In pots, plots or garden beds!

How to grow beans and peas

How do you get the highest yield from your peas and beans, especially if you have limited space?

These are tips I use to grow healthy pea and bean plants that produce an abundant harvest. I hope they help you too.

3 Tips for Growing Peas and Beans

1. Healthy Soil and Fertilising

  • Peas and beans both prefer well drained, moist soils, with plenty of organic matter and a soil pH 6.0-7.5.
  • You can make your own potting mix like I do, or improve your soil with compost and worm castings if you have them. I also add minerals and mulch. Click here for tips on preparing your soil for planting.
  • Every couple of weeks apply a liquid fertiliser such as seaweed, fish emulsion or diluted worm casting concentrate to boost growth.

How to grow beans and peas

Apply seaweed when planting seedlings to avoid transplant shock.

2. Get your Timing Right

  • Choose varieties suited to your season and climate. I’m lucky to be able to grow beans all year round in my subtropical climate. I just choose my varieties carefully for the season – climbing snake beans over summer; dwarf and runner beans for the rest of the year. So timing is important when selecting your seeds or seedling varieties – learn what will grow when.

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  • Peas are another story. Sadly, I can only grow these through the cooler months, unless I raise seeds as microgreens. This is one way to extend your season to grow pea shoots for longer. A brilliant way to benefit from the extra nutrients too.

How to grow beans and peas

Quick growing pea shoot microgreens

  • Sow early morning or late afternoon if in a warm/hot climate to avoid heat stress for seedlings.
  • Plant in the new moon phase for faster seed germination and strong growth. This is also the best time to apply liquid fertilizers as you’ll see much quicker results. Root development and leaf growth comes before flowers and pods, so use this timing to your advantage!

3. Succession and Companion Planting

  • Succession Planting – To get a continuous supply of peas and beans, you need to succession plant or“sow little, and often.” Every couple of weeks I sow more peas or beans, so I stagger the planting – and the harvest.

How to grow beans and peas

French climbing beans growing up a bamboo trellis

  • When choosing your peas or beans, dwarf or bush varieties will usually produce flowers and pods quicker than climbing peas or runner/pole beans. If you sow some dwarf seeds/seedlings first, you’ll enjoy a fast harvest, while the climbing varieties take longer to produce flowers and pods. While climbers are slow out of the starting gates, they’ll go the distance and produce a harvest over a longer period!
  • Companion planting – To improve pollination of pea and bean crops, there’s a simple principle you can apply. Plant flowers nearby. To attract pollinators, lease out some of your precious garden ‘real estate’ to flower ‘tenants’. They will ‘pay’ you in more peas and beans! As the bees visit the flowers for a free feed, they’ll also stop by and pollinate these crops. Win-win!

How to grow beans and peas

Bee pollinating a green bean flower

How to Grow Guides

For tutorials with lots of inspiring vertical structures and tips, see my growing guides:

Easy Guide to Growing Perfect Peas – An easy step by step guide with everything you need to know to grow, maintain and harvest peas + delicious recipe ideas.

Jack and the Beanstalk Theme Garden – Tutorial tips for growing beans and a themed garden for children.

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There’s nothing to beat a steady supply of home-grown peas and beans, picked when they’re tender and tasty.
Runner beans, French beans, broad beans, mangetout and sugar snap peas are easy to grow, displaying pretty flowers before their pods appear.

When to sow peas and bean seeds

Check packets to discover the sowing windows for different vegetables.

Peas can generally be started outdoors from early April to early July, while it’s best to wait until May when the soil is warmer for runner and French beans. Some broad bean cultivars, such as Aquadulce, Claudia, can be planted outside during the autumn for earlier crops, while others can be put from March.

Aim for several sowings of various peas and beans to ensure a long succession of harvests.

For earlier crops of peas and beans, seeds can be started inside a greenhouse around a month before their outdoor planting time. Allow them to ‘harden off’ (acclimatise to the weather) before planting them into the soil.

Where to grow peas and beans

Plant peas and beans in an open, sunny location with free-draining soil. Avoid planting beans in cold or very wet soil. Grow peas and beans in different areas of the garden each year to avoid build ups of pests and diseases.

How to prepare the soil for peas and beans

Ideally, prepare the soil the previous autumn or winter to allow the ground to settle.

Dig in some well-rotted compost or farmyard manure to improve the structure and fertility of the soil. Add a dressing of lime to acid soil to raise its pH level.

Nutrient levels can also be boosted by applying a light dressing of general-purpose fertiliser a couple of weeks before sowing.

If desired, the soil can be warmed by putting down polythene sheets a few weeks before sowing.

How to sow peas and broad beans

  • Dig a flat-bottomed trench that’s 5cm (2 inches) deep and 15cm (6 inches) wide.
  • With peas, leave a 7.5cm (3 inch) space between each seed, while 20cm (8 inches) is recommended for broad beans.
  • Cover with soil, firm the ground and label. Water well.

Alternatively, sow broad beans in pots of compost and plant out when they’ve been hardened off. Peas can be started in gutters filled with compost. When the young plants are a reasonable size they can be slid into a trench dug into the ground.

How to sow French and runner beans

For early sowings, place individual beans in small pots of compost, about 5cm (2inches) deep.

Bring them on under cover and plant them in the ground once the risk of frost has passed, allowing 15cm (6 inches) between each one. Plants should be around 7.5cm (3 inches) tall. Harden them off before putting them in the ground.

Sow direct in the ground once the soil has warmed.

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A bean plant and beans

When To Grow Peas & Beans

Beans and Peas are cool weather plants, meaning they grow well at the very beginning of the spring season and in the fall season.

Hot weather stunts the growth and production of these plants.

Peas are actually the very first things that people plant during the growing season since they are so hardy in the cooler temperatures.

New Pea And Bean Support

Soil For Peas & Beans

Peas and beans are hardy and they are one of the easiest plants to grow.

They require a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

The best soil for beans and peas need an optimal soil pH of 6.0 to 6.7.

They do not do well in extremely acidic or alkaline soil.

How Peas & Beans Grow

Beans and Peas can either grow in the bush or pole variety.

If you have a bush bean or pole, you will not need support since they can hold their own weight. They are shorter to the ground and don’t tower over other plants. Bush plants have shorter production periods. They may only produce beans or peas for a few weeks out of the year.

Pole beans and peas need support or they will grow all over the ground, crowding out other plants and picking up bacteria from the ground. They are very prolific, which means they produce lots of beans and peas over a longer period of time.

Bean & Pea Support

Pole beans and peas need some sort of support to keep them off the ground. The plants can grow taller than an adult person with the right mix of soil, light and variety of bean or pea. The bean and pea plant will curl up any support you put near it.

You could use a pole, a fence a trellis or garden netting. One way you could make your own bean or pea support is by tying three sticks together at the top and spreading the bottom area to make a teepee. Push the tepee’d sticks into the ground to stop it from blowing over in the wind.

Where To Grow Peas & Beans

Grow beans and peas in well-drained soil, in a sunny (but not hot) location.

Make sure there is a support system close by for the pole versions of the plants.

You could grow peas and beans in pots that are six or more inches deep, but they seem to prefer more room for their roots.

Food & Water For Beans & Peas

Keep the soil around the bean and pea plants moist, but not wet. Try to water them a little each day.

No need to add nitrogen to the soil. Beans and Peas (and all other legumes) produce their own nitrogen or ‘fix’ the soil.

Other than the nitrogen, beans and peas need all the same nutrient feedings that other plants need. You can find plant food for specific plants in the garden section of stores or in garden stores and nurseries.

Bean Plant

Starter Vegetable Garden

  • How to Grow Vegetables: Starter Vegetable Gardens
    There’s nothing better than the smell and taste of a sun-warmed tomato just picked from the plant. Growing your own vegetables can be fun, save you money and promote good health.

When To Pick Peas & Beans

Pick bean and pea pods before they get too big. Pick them after you pod is round and you can see little bumps inside. It is better to pick them a little early than a little late. If you pick them late , they will be bitter and tough. For the best taste, pick them as soon as you see the little bumps inside.

If you want to save some of the seeds from the bean and pea plants, wait a little longer until the bean and pea pods are tough. Pick them then and takes the seeds out and let them dry. You now have seeds for the next season!

  • How to Grow Beans and Peas – For Dummies
    Peas and beans grow best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Planting in raised bed keeps pea seeds from getting soggy while they germinate in cool spring weather and

Pests That Love Beans & Peas

Mites, beetles and aphids are the most common pests.

Beetles and leafminers will make holes in the leaves.

Aphids will cause discoloration, deformation, or abscission. They can usually be found on the underside of the leaves.

In sandy soils, bean and pea plants are often damaged by root-knot, sting, awl, and stubby-root nematodes.

Aphids

  • How to Grow Beans and Peas: 16 steps (with pictures) – wikiHow
    How to Grow Beans and Peas. Beans and peas are relatively easy to grow, making them a good choice for a first-time gardener or a new garden plot. These legumes also have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, meaning they.

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Legumes are not only good to eat, they’re great for the planet, too

Runner bean ‘Scarlet Emperor’ is delicious. Photograph: Getty Images

Runner bean ‘Scarlet Emperor’ is delicious. Photograph: Getty Images

L egumes might just save the world. Stuff all this lab-grown meat and those cricket burgers: legumes are what we should be banking on. The protein-rich seeds of beans, peas and lentils are nutritious, easy to grow and leave the world in better shape, thanks to their relationship with soil bacteria.

These bacteria are known as rhizobia. They take atmospheric nitrogen, which is useless to plants, and turn it into forms the plant can use, such as ammonia. They also make the phosphate in the soil, which is essential for plant vigour, soluble, and produce hormones that help the plant develop and fine-tune its pest defences. In return, the plant houses the bacteria and ensures there is a good supply of oxygen and plenty of raw ingredients such as carbon and nutrients.

Rhizobia root nodules provide beneficial bacteria. Photograph: Alamy

It is a pretty sweet deal, but the amazing thing is that some of the nitrogen produced is sent back into the soil, available to other plants and the soil food web. This is why you should never dig up your peas or beans, just cut the plant back to soil level and allow nature to do the rest. The rhizobia in the nodules is released back into the soil, inoculating it for next year’s beans; any leftover nitrogen will be supped up by whatever you replace it with.

These days, I grow more beans and peas than I do any other crop, from dwarf varieties that I plant between taller veg to rows of climbing ones. Right now, some of you are probably tucking into fresh peas, snapping mangetout or steaming the first harvest of thin french beans. Although I love the flavour and tenderness of immature pods and beans, I concentrate my growing on stuff that will store through winter. Many of these beans I will harvest, shell and dry: they will fatten up by autumn, giving me jar upon jar of meaty, nutty, sweet, creamy beans that feed us through the hungry gap next spring. It’s also worth freezing fresh fat beans whole, particularly borlotti. Once defrosted, they cook as quickly as fresh and can be added to soups and stews without prior soaking.

Borlotti beans can be frozen whole. Photograph: Alamy

If you haven’t grown any varieties specifically bred for drying, try saving whatever you are growing as an experiment: runner beans and climbing french beans are ideal. The runner beans ‘Czar’, ‘White Emergo’ and ‘Scarlet Emperor’ are all delicious; my favourite, ‘Black Coat’, is sublime in its nuttiness. ‘Blue Lake’, ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and ‘Zolfino’ are a few of the many french beans that have a good flavour. Stop picking around mid-August, to give the beans enough time to fatten up before the autumn rains appear and spoil the crop. The beans are ready when they rattle inside the pod.

Quick facts

After harvesting early-maturing vegetables such as salad greens, radishes, peas and spinach, gardeners can plant other crops in midsummer for fall harvest. You can successfully grow some root crops, greens and other vegetables from late June, July or August plantings.

How to grow beans and peas

Know the average first frost date in your area

It is important to know the average first frost date in your area. This will help you calculate when to plant these late vegetables so they will mature before cold weather damage. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center has produced an up-to-date interactive map of first fall and last spring freeze dates.

Some vegetables will tolerate some frost and keep growing even when temperatures are in the low forties. Others cannot tolerate frost and stop growing in cool weather. Bush snap beans mature in 45 to 65 days, but even a light frost (temperatures between 30° and 32°) will kill the plants. Kale takes just as long to mature, but the plants continue to grow when temperatures are cool, and can survive cold down to about 20°F.

Cool-season vegetables including kale and others in the cabbage family may be the best choice for mid-summer sowing. An earlier-than-expected frost will not kill them before they are ready to eat. Many of the cold-tolerant vegetables actually have better quality when grown in cool weather.

Vegetables for midsummer planting

Crop Days to maturity Cold hardiness
Basil 30-60 Killed by frost
Beets 50-60 Survives high 20s
Bush Beans 45-65 Killed by frost
Broccoli 50-70 Survives light frost
Brussels sprouts 90-100 The hardiest – down to 20°
Cabbage 50-90 The hardiest – down to 20°
Cauliflower 60-80 Survives light frost
Cilantro 60-70 Survives light frost
Collard greens 40-65 The hardiest – down to 20°
Garlic Harvest the following July Winters over in ground
Green onion 60-70 Survives high 20s
Kale 40-65 The hardiest – down to 20°
Kohlrabi 50-60 Survives light frost
Leaf lettuce 40-60 Survives light frost
Mustard greens 30-40 Survives light frost
Peas 70-80 (longer than if planted in spring) Survives high 20s
Radishes 30-60 Dig until soil freezes
Spinach 35-45 Survives light frost; may overwinter
Swiss chard 40-60 Survives light frost
Turnips 50-60 Survives light frost

How to grow beans and peas

You can harvest leafy vegetables, such as Swiss chard, kale and mustard greens before the leaves reach full size. These small leaves are tenderer and tastier than mature ones. Plant these crops in succession every few weeks over the course of the spring and summer to provide a steady supply of young leaves.

Lettuce may bolt and taste bitter when grown in the heat of summer. Enjoy it in spring or wait until temperatures cool to plant a late crop. Shade from taller plants may help improve the quality of summer-grown lettuce, as will selecting varieties suited for warm weather.

Basil and cilantro are fast-growing herbs that are ready for harvest about a month after sowing the seed. Garlic planted in September produces the biggest bulbs the following July. After harvesting a late-maturing crop, you can plant garlic in that space.

Before sowing these second crops, turn over the soil and mix in some balanced fertilizer to replace what earlier plants have used up. Leftover debris like stems or roots from the first planting can cause problems in seed germination if you do not remove them or allow them to break down. Wait one to two weeks before seeding the second crop, or be sure to remove this material as completely as possible.

If it is too late to plant a second crop of vegetables, you may want to plant “green manure” to keep the area weed-free, prevent soil erosion and add organic matter to the soil.

How to grow beans and peas

How to grow beans and peas

Growing climbing beans and peas on a trellis is a great way to maximise your garden’s growing space, while providing habitat and shade that further helps your garden grow.

There’s all sorts of things you can use – what will suit you best depends on your garden’s context, and what you’re growing.

First of all, make sure you’ve planted climbing (sometimes called pole) beans, or climbing peas. The term bush/dwarf bean or pea means the plant doesn’t climb high but instead exists as (yep, you saw this coming) a low bush that doesn’t need a trellis.

So – once you’ve definitely got seeds or seedlings of climbers, you’re ready to go.

This might seem completely obvious once you’ve been growing for a few seasons, but until you know, you don’t!

Beans and peas are fundamentally different in how they climb.

Peas send out little side tendrils that cling to trellises like tiny hands, and hold on that way – the central plant grows straight (ish) upwards, relying on it’s curly hands for support.

Therefore, pea trellises need to include thin wires/strings etc, so that the pea’s little tendrils have something to hang on to as they grow.

Beans, however, twine upwards with the whole plant, so they can handle chunkier trellises made of bamboo, wood etc. This is why they’re sometimes called pole beans – cause all they need is a pole, and up they’ll grow.

The name for the process by which both peas and beans do their inherent twirly hanging-on is called thigmotropism.

How to grow beans and peas

Which trellis to use depends on your garden’s context – is it a permanent trellis that you’re wanting? Are you renting and may need to pull it down in 12 months time? What’s your budget? Is it windy where you are? All these factors and more come into play.

Places like your local tip shop are a great place to source scrap chicken wire or old screen doors, and your local reserve or railway siding may well have some bamboo just waiting for someone to love it and turn it into stakes.

And then, there’s also garden centres, of course, which have all sorts of options, but none of them as fun (or an low-impact) as finding something second hand or DIY.

How to grow beans and peas

  • Scrap chicken wire
  • Wide netting hung between poles or from the top of a fence
  • Jute string netting – make your own or get it from Digger’s club
  • Old mattress spring frames

How to grow beans and peas

  • You could make a bean banjo with poles and string
  • Bean tipi‘s are always a good idea, especially if you need an in-garden cubby house.
  • Bamboo poles, or trellis – here’s some designs
  • Tie foraged willow into a trellis (off the ground) – here’s some designs
  • Bamboo A-Frames with string – here’s a good example.
  • Use the ‘Three Sisters’ technique of growing corn, pole beans and cucurbits in the same bed – here’s a US example and an Aussie one too.

For any and all trellises that you decide to use, however, there’s one thing to remember – make it sturdy.

It’s hard to imagine when all you have in your hand is a small pile of seeds, or seedlings, but once your peas and/or beans are fully grown, they will be heavy.

So give them the support they need from the start to grow high and strong, against wind, bird visitors, and the hopeful weight of their pods.

At our place, we’re growing climbing beans in quantity (snow peas will go in later this season). We’re using them as a shade for our house along one wall, and growing them down the middle of a veggie bed as well.

How to grow beans and peas

Running a trellis down the middle of a garden bed is a great idea – it helps maximise the vertical space in that garden bed, as other crops can be planted alongside and reap the benefits of having beans or peas, both soil building plants thanks to their nitrogen-fixing root nodules, growing right next door.

The other great thing about in-garden trellises is the shade factor. Once the strength of Summer hits, if your garden is sunny, there will be plants that may suffer under a full day of sun each day.

Depending on how you design your beds, a north-south trellis down the middle can enable dappled shade for part of the day to each side of that bed, and for its veggies too.

Another way to work the edges and use good design to ensure bountiful harvests.

Okay, then. Good luck with your trellis structures, and may your harvests be bountiful –

This type of vegetable requires high levels of nitrogen in the soil. Therefore, you should plant it together with plants such as beans and peas. To repel pests, you could also use onions or garlic.

Also, what can be planted with beans? Green Beans Other companions include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other members of the cabbage family along with cucumbers, peas, potatoes, and radishes. Keep green beans away from: Beets or anything from the onion family. Onions, in particular, impede the growth of bean plants.

Herein, what can be planted with peas?

Members of the Brassica family such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage are all suitable pea plant companions. These plants also pair nicely with peas in the garden: Corn. Tomatoes.

Leafy greens, such as lettuce and spinach, are excellent garden pea companions as are:

  1. Radishes.
  2. Cucumbers.
  3. Carrots.
  4. Beans.

How do you grow peas and beans?

Peas and beans grow best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. Planting in raised bed keeps pea seeds from getting soggy while they germinate in cool spring weather and warms the soil for the beans, which you plant later. Peas and beans like moderately moist soil that isn’t heavily amended with fertilizer.