5 Tips for Growing Prolific Beans in Raised Beds

Growing beans in raised beds this season? Organic farmer Jenna Rich discusses five tips for a successful and abundant bean season.

A close-up of climbing French Beans showing vibrant yellow pods and lush green leaves with a distinctive heart shape.

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I pick green beans like this: “one for the bucket, one for me,” and so on. They’re among the most delicious veggies to eat fresh from the vine, and I encourage you to harvest them this way. 

The most common beans grown in home gardens are pole, bush, lima, shelling, and fava. My favorites to grow and enjoy are classic green beans packed with crispness, flavor, and nutrients. They perform well in raised beds so if you enjoy this gardening method, you’re in luck!

This article will discuss five tips for successfully growing beans in raised beds

Provide Adequate Drainage and Proper Sunlight

A close-up of climbing French 'Neckargold' plant showcasing bright green, broad leaves climbing gracefully on a sturdy trellis.
Beans may contract fungal diseases in soggy soil.

When growing in a stationary raised bed, it’s crucial to plant in an area that receives full sun. For best results, ensure the soil is well-draining and has plenty of organic matter. While beans are in the ground for a while, they do not require much fertilizer, but well-aged compost assists in drainage. Too much fertilizer may cause damage. 

Beans won’t perform well in soggy soil and may contract fungal disease. If this is your first season using a raised bed, mix in a fair amount of compost to help with drainage. If it has been used before, freshen up the soil and fork the contents to help aerate and avoid compacting it. 

Follow a proper crop rotation plan to take advantage of the nitrogen the beans fix in the soil. Tomatoes and squash will benefit from the extra nitrogen, but cucumbers may produce too much foliage and only a few fruits if planted after a legume. Planting a leafy green like Swiss chard or spinach will give your soil a break from heavy feeders, and these plants will certainly enjoy the extra nitrogen boost. Keep track of your garden plots each season to avoid a negative rotation. 

Invest in a drip irrigation system for raised beds to keep your crops well-watered at the root level. This allows water to reach the roots rather than evaporating from the soil surface. 

Give ‘Em Support 

A close-up of Bluelake green beans climbing on a trellis in a garden, planted in a wooden raised bed, showcasing vibrant leaves and branches.
Use trellising for more space and shaded heat-sensitive crops.

While bush types do well independently and do not require support, climbing pole beans do. The mature height is variety-dependent, but pole varieties can grow six to seven feet tall or more and need a structure to support the weight of the plant and fruits. They can produce new flowers and fruits all season and grow to 6+ feet. 

Try the classic 2017 AAS award-winning ‘Seychelles’ pole beans. Plants produce four- to six-inch green pods until frost and remain relatively healthy all summer. Or try ‘Scarlet Emperor’ pole runner beans to harvest delicious pole beans all season. 

Trellising in raised beds allows growers to take advantage of every square inch. The vining plants on the trellis provide bonus shade for heat-sensitive crops like turnips, radishes, and lettuce. 

Support Options

A close-up of Scarlet Runner variety on a wooden trellis in a vegetable garden, featuring striking orange flowers and green leaves with green plants in the background.
Prevent plants from becoming too tall for harvesting.
  • Fence: Set up t-posts every four to five feet. Pound them into the ground until they’re sturdy. Attach netting, metal stakes, or string with garden clips or zip ties. Make the supports tall enough so mature plants won’t topple over it or be prepared to snip the tops. 
  • Poles: The term “pole bean” refers to the ability to vine up a pole for support. Once they climb up the pole, they form a sort of teepee shape. 
  • Arch-shaped trellis: This is just what it sounds like, but you can get creative with the materials to make it. Cattle panels bent over with some support stakes work well and look beautiful once crops have begun to fill in the empty space. An arched trellis makes quite a statement in the garden. 
  • Ladder: Upcycle an unused or broken ladder or create one with scrap wood. Vining types will climb up both sides, creating a lovely effect. Avoid chemically treated wood to keep your garden safe! 
  • Cages: If you’ve been gardening for a while, you likely have some lying around. They won’t provide the height needed for pole varieties, but they may create a healthy growing area for a few bush or fava bean plants. 

Pro tip: If growing a relatively tall variety, keep your bed reasonably short to prevent the plants from becoming too tall for comfortable harvesting. 

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Space Properly 

A close-up of Scarlet Runner flowers amidst green leaves and blurred background, showcasing vibrant red blooms and developing beans on intertwining branches.
Sow seeds directly at least one inch deep.

Follow the recommended spacing of the variety you select to grow. Below, I’ve included a general spacing table for commonly grown bean types. 

Type of Bean  Recommended Spacing 
Bush green bean 4 to 6 inches
Bush and climbing fava bean 4 to 6 inches
Shelling bush bean 2 inches
Shelling pole bean 3 to 6 seeds per pole or 6-inch spacing
Roma-type pole bean 3 inches

Sow seeds directly at least one inch deep. If germination rates are below 90%, sow them densely and thin them later. 

Pro tip: Sow a few extra seeds in cell trays a few days after direct sowing them in the ground. The seeds in the cell trays will germinate and grow more quickly than the ones in the ground. Plug them into gaps in the ground when the plants are about the same height. Beans don’t love having their roots disturbed, so take care when transplanting them to avoid transplant shock and unnecessary stress. 

Most seed packages advise against transplanting. However, if you have critters in your garden or experience a particularly wet spring, I recommend giving it a go. I’ve never had issues transplanting beans. Don’t allow the seedlings to become rootbound; they should be fine. 

Ward Off Pests and Disease

A close-up of a raised bed in a garden, featuring green plants protected by a net to deter pests.
Choose disease-resistant hybrids for better harvests.

Physical barrier: Cover your newly germinated or transplanted bean plants with insect netting until pollination begins to keep damaging pests out. Doing so allows your plants time to become established, making them more likely to ward off pests and disease. Scout often to ensure larvae haven’t hatched out of the soil, essentially locking them into a bean patch buffet!

Healthy cultural gardening habits: Create a space where beneficial insects will thrive, plants mustn’t compete with weeds, and is stress-free for all inhabitants.

Practice good sanitation: Sanitize your tools after each use, and clear your gardens of plant debris to avoid spreading fungal disease and overwintered pest eggs. 

Companion planting: Dill and marigolds are two effective companion plants to consider planting with beans. Both have a strong aroma that may ward off Mexican bean beetles and nematodes. 

Select cultivars with disease resistance: While heirloom varieties have their place, hybrids offer resistance packages that allow gardeners more time to enjoy their gardens’ bounty and less treating diseases and receiving less-than-impressive harvests. 

Crop rotation: Many pests hibernate in our soils, laying eggs in the fall or spring, with larvae hatching out soon after. They plan for their offspring to hatch near food they need and enjoy to survive. Proper crop rotation prevents larvae from having a food source; hence, they go hungry or simply fly away in search of sustenance. 

Harvest Often!

A close-up of a hand using a pruning tool to harvest , featuring vibrant green leaves and elongated pods against a natural backdrop.
Morning harvest boosts plant flower production for consistent yields.

Harvest bean pods at the Goldilocks stage. The beans inside haven’t fully developed when the pods are still flat. They won’t have any flavor if you pick them at this stage. If you wait too long and harvest when the pod fully bulges out, they might taste bitter or pithy. Pick them when they’re in between this stage, just slightly bulged, once the beans inside are fully formed, for the best flavor and crispness

When learning harvest timing, hold a pod up to the sun and look at the inside. You should be able to see how formed the beans are. If there is a lot of empty space and the beans visible are tiny, give them a few more days. 

Harvest in the morning once any dew present has evaporated. Pluck pods carefully so as not to damage the stems. Picking encourages the plant to produce more flowers, so you’ll get consistent harvests. 

Note: If you’re growing shelling types, you won’t harvest them until the pods and beans inside are dried on the vine and about to shatter. They’ll have a slight rattle to them when shaken. 

Final Thoughts 

Beans are a fun and easy vegetable to grow in your garden, and if you’re like me, you enjoy gardening in raised beds. Follow these simple tips for a healthy and abundant season. 

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