How to Harvest Green Beans

Green beans can be very tasty and productive if harvested correctly and at the right time. Harvest them too early and they’ll be miniscule; harvest them too late and they’ll be tough and stringy. Timing is everything with green beans. Picking them incorrectly can decrease production or damage plants and vines.


Defining Green Beans

The term green bean primarily refers to varieties of green snap or string beans that are harvested while still immature. The beans may or may not be green in color – some are purple or yellow and others are streaked or splotched. Other beans are also harvested and used green, such as runner beans, yard-long beans (actually a type of cowpea) and winged beans.

Growing for Best Harvest

If you want lots of high quality green beans, focus on sun, soil and water. Beans must have full sun for leaf growth and best flowering. Don’t plant until soil is warm – at least two weeks after the last frost. Soil should be well-drained, with lots of humus from well-rotted leaves, organic compost or aged manure. Water beans well, but don’t let them get waterlogged.

Bean Supports and Harvest

Bush beans don’t need any kind of support. Half-runners can grow to three or four feet and will do better tied on a trellis – they won’t twine up poles. Pole beans must have a trellis, teepee or other support. They will climb by twining and can be very heavy. Proper support makes it easier to harvest and increases production by exposing beans to light.

Maturity Dates and Harvest

Maturity dates can vary considerably depending on the variety. Pole beans will produce for months, bush beans offer only one crop. Some examples:

  • Greencrop – bush, 51 to 55 days.
  • Stringless Blue Lake – bush , 60 to 65 days.
  • Cascade Giant – pole, 58 days.
  • Violet-Podded Stringless – pole, 70 days.
  • Pencil Pod Black Wax – bush or half runner, 50 days.

When to Harvest

In most cases, the appearance of blossoms means beans will be ready to harvest in about two weeks. Cooler weather or very high temperatures can affect that time interval, however. Published maturity dates are a good guide. However, the real key is the beans – choose beans about four to seven inches long, slightly smaller than a pencil in diameter. Pick every few days, as beans grow fast.

How to Harvest

The way you harvest can affect future pod set. If you snap a bean from the stem and leave any of the bean itself, the plant may slow down production. Many gardeners use scissors for that reason. Bean plants and vines can be brittle, so use one hand to steady the plants and the other to cut beans or snap the stem from the vine.