A step-by-step guide to growing green beans in a pot on your patio or deck
Green beans are one of those staple summer veggies that every gardener should grow at least once. They’re easy to grow and with a little bit of planning, you can grow green beans in a pot and have a fresh supply for weeks on end.
If you’re picturing the gray-green mushy beans you usually find in cans, fear not. Fresh beans are SO much better tasting and nutritious!
One of my favorite things to do with fresh green beans is prepare them as simply as possible: steam lightly and sprinkle with kosher salt and a few dots of butter. YUM!
Even better when you grew them yourself!
The climbing varieties are also a great way to get kids interested in gardening. If you have room on your deck, patio or balcony to build a small teepee over the container, they’ll have fun watching the vines wind around the stakes and easily help pick them when it’s time.
Now you might be wondering … what varieties are there besides climbers? Maybe you’ve only ever seen beans growing on vines (or maybe you’ve never thought about it before, also totally legit).
Read on for all the details you need to know about green beans, how to grow green beans from seed, bush beans vs pole beans, and how to grow them in containers!
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Bush beans vs. pole beans
First off, let’s talk about the types of green beans and help you decide what to grow.
- Bush beans grow about 2 feet tall and don’t require a trellis or other support.
- Pole beans are climbing vines that can grow as much as 15 feet in length. They require poles, a trellis or other support.
- Snap – any variety with edible pods
- Runner – often grown as ornamentals, thanks to the pretty red flowers
While we often broadly categorize them as green beans, you can also find yellow, purple, red, or multi-color varieties. Some have pods you harvest while they’re young and tender, while others are harvested at the end of the season as dried beans.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between bush beans vs pole beans:
|Bush beans||Pole beans|
|Height||2 feet||Up to 15 feet, usually closer to 6|
|Trellis or support needed?||No||Yes|
|Time to harvest||50-55 days||55-65 days|
|When to harvest||All at once||Ongoing, as vines grow|
|Biggest pro||Easy to grow, produces quickly||Plentiful ongoing harvest
|Biggest con||Less to harvest, all at once||Need for trellising, slower to produce|
|Recommended varieties||Blue Lake|
Climbing French Bean
How to grow green beans
Green beans are one of the easiest vegetables you can grow in containers. They do well in small spaces, as long as pole varieties have room to vine.
With large seeds and fast-climbing vines, pole beans especially are a great way to get kids into gardening!
So, two things to remember about green beans, right off the bat: They like warm weather and they have fragile roots, so it’s risky to start them early and transplant. That’s why I recommend you start your green beans from seed outdoors.
How to plant green beans from seed
Your best bet is to plant them outside after your area’s last expected frost date, maybe even a week or two after, to be safe.
Since they have delicate roots and don’t love being transplanted, it’s best to plant from seed in the container you’re planning to use for the season. (See below for container recommendations.)
- Bush beans: Plant seeds 1 inch deep, about 2-3 inches apart.
- Pole beans: Plant seeds 1 inch deep, about 4 inches apart. Install trellises or stakes when you plant, so you don’t disturb their delicate root structure by installing them later.
Keep soil consistently moist (but not saturated), and seeds should germinate within 7-10 days.
Or start from seedlings
While seedlings will help you get a faster start, beans don’t love to be transplanted.
Seed companies (and I!) recommend direct sowing from seed in the container where you plan to grow them for the season.
If you do start with seedlings, sure to harden them off by gradually exposing them to the outdoors before planting in your containers. Set them out in indirect sunlight for an hour or two per day for a few days, adding a bit more time and direct sunlight each day until they’re outside all day.
Choose a container and a sunny spot
Green beans like: heat, well-drained soil, somewhere to climb
Green beans don’t like: cool weather, dry or dense soil, lack of support (Physical, not emotional, although talking to them wouldn’t hurt! Apparently plants also like heavy metal music. Who knew!)
Fill a 10-12” deep pot or container with good quality potting soil for each plant.
Fabric bags are my favorite container for both climbing and bush varieties.
These 10-gallon grow bags are big enough for 1-2 bush varieties each or up to 3-4 pole bean plants. It’s easy to install a large cage or trellis around or on top of these, or you can situate them next to a fence or deck for the vines to climb.
Next, find a spot on your patio, deck or balcony that gets full sun at least 6-8 hours per day, if possible. Beans love heat and sun, and the more the better.
Now it’s time to think about providing support for climbing varieties!
Trellis or support
Pole beans and other climbers need some support and somewhere to climb.
Extra tall tomato cages like these highly rated K-Brands 72” stakes are perfect for beans. They’re versatile, easy to set up, reusable and vines have lots of room to climb.
If you can plant near a fence or deck railing, those work too.
Vines will find their way to the supports, but you can gently assist when they’re close but not yet latched on. They’ll take it from there!
Here’s how to build a teepee or trellis for your green beans:
How to take care of green beans in containers
Beans are thirsty and need steady water throughout the growing season. Aim for 1 inch of water per week, but make sure your containers have drainage holes to keep it moving. Soil should stay moist but not saturated or soggy.
It’s best to water beans at the soil level. If you do use an overhead spray from a hose or sprinkler, try to do it in the morning so the leaves have time to dry out before it gets dark. Damp leaves overnight are an invitation to mildew and disease.
Mulch can be helpful with green beans, as it helps maintain moisture levels in the soil. Even a thin layer of grass clippings can help keep some moisture in.
As with most container vegetables, green beans need plenty of nutrients to produce good-quality fruit.
That said, you don’t want to over fertilize with nitrogen, as beans fix their own nitrogen in the soil. Too much nitrogen encourages foliage growth but hinders pod production.
To give your beans a good low-nitrogen boost, try applying one of these every few weeks. Read label instructions for how to dilute and apply.
- FoxFarm Big Bloom liquid fertilizer (0-.5-.7)
- Dr. Earth Tomato, Vegetable and Herb fertilizer (4-6-3)
If you’re making your own potting mix or want to learn more about nutrient ratios, check out my Potting Soil 101 article.
Beans are generally self-pollinating, as the flowers include both male and female components. A few varieties do require insect pollinators like bees, but either way, you don’t need to do anything for the flowers to pollinate.
When to harvest green beans
The key to getting more beans: Pick early and often! The more you harvest, the more will grow.
Picking early is important because beans can easily get tough and stringy, if left on the vine too long. Most beans mature around 55 days after planting, so check ahead on the calendar to know when you’re most likely to start getting pods.
A good rule of thumb is to pick when the pods are firm and about the width of a pencil, before seeds have started to bulge. They should easily snap off the vine.
(Be sure to look up the ideal harvest size for the variety you planted, as they can vary and you want to make sure you make the most of the growing season.)
Remember, bush varieties usually produce their full crop in a short time frame, while pole beans will continue to produce over a longer period.
How to preserve green beans from your garden
There are so many great ways to preserve beans!
Canning, freezing, pickling and dehydrating are all good options. While a few plants in containers probably won’t produce enough for a lot of canning and freezing beyond what you use fresh, you might get enough to preserve some.
Now you have the basics for how to grow green beans in a pot on your patio, deck or balcony! I hope you give it a try … I think you’ll be hooked once you do. Picking fresh green beans from your own vines is such an amazing summer experience.
More ideas for your container garden:
- Veggies that grow well together in containers
- How to grow basil in a pot
- How to grow rosemary in a pot
- Growing zucchini in containers
- Growing okra in pots
- How to grow catnip in pots
- How to grow parsley in a pot
- Growing pumpkins in containers