Growing beans from seed is fast, easy and inexpensive. It also offers you a much wider choice of different kinds of beans than you would get from already started plants.
Whether you want to grow green, yellow or purple beans, climbers or bush beans, snap or dried beans, you will want to give your beans a good rich soil with plenty of compost dug in. You might even want to side dress your planting with a little fertilizer. Even though the bean family (Leguminosae) has roots that actually fix nitrogen in the soil, most beans will benefit from adding a bean inoculant or a little nitrogen to the soil. Plant beans at a depth that is double their size, and keep soil moist yet well-drained. Place them at least three inches apart if you do not have specific directions to follow on your seed packet.
Beans do not like the cold so wait until you can be sure the temperature will stay above 40’F at the coldest time of day (or night). You can start them indoors while the weather is cool since they are easy to transplant. In fact, beans are excellent for growing in big pots outdoors on balconies or patios. One exception to the warmth-loving bean family is the fava bean. This one is fine for growing even in the winter in low-frost climates.
Beans love full sun and will take all the sunshine you want to give them. Plant your beans in rows for the best productivity, but feel free to use some of the climbing varieties to decorate trellises, fences or walls.
Use high quality seed that will not carry diseases. Wet soil can cause rot, mildew and fungus, and there are a number of insects that can bother beans, especially in more moist climates. In dry climates, there are fewer pests, but if summers get too hot and dry, flowers have difficulty setting seed and plants will not produce big crops. Watch out for rabbits and deer if you have them in your neighborhood. They LOVE beans! (You might consider protecting your beans with wire cages or netting.)
Beans are best rotated with other crops. Since the roots do fix nitrogen in the soil, leafy green vegetables like lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, etc. will flourish well planted where last season’s beans grew. You will also find your beans will grow better if they are not planted on the same site year after year.
Beans are fun to grow from seed. The hardest part is to decide what kind of beans you want to grow. There are enough varieties to fill a whole vegetable garden!