How Far Apart to Plant Green Beans

Green beans come in two major varieties, bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans just like the name implies grow into small bushes. Pole beans are a vine plant and need support to climb. They can end up 20 feet long depending on the variety and support given. How far apart to plant depends on the type of green bean.

pole beans on a trellis
This is the edge of the shallow end of the pool where the green beans were planted and climbed the 10′ makeshift wooden support.
pole beans on twine
From this angle you can see the top of the 10′ support that starts in the bottom of the pool. From there we put twine going sideways over to the porch roof that goes about another 10′. By the end of the season the green beans had travelled across the twine and made a nice canopy and walk through below.
Here you can see the bean pods hanging and ready for harvest. They are tender and great to eat at this stage. Sometimes we’ll leave the pods to dry on the vine and harvest them as dry beans.

Plant bush bean seeds every 2″ apart and then thin to 4″ apart when plants are 4″ tall. Make rows 2′-3′ apart in garden plots.

Plant pole bean seeds every 3″ apart and then thin to 6″ apart when plants are 4″ tall. Rows of pole beans will need to have supports for the beans to climb. Plant rows about 12″ apart if the support your using allows or however much space you need for the next support.

To thin plants, take out smaller plants and plants that are too close together. Cut the plants with scissors or schears just above the soil. Don’t pull them out by hand to avoid disturbing the roots of the remaining bean plants.

Green Bean Plant Spacing vs. Yields

Plant spacing vs yield studies are done on pretty much every crop that’s commercially grown, including green beans. In general, a high plant density results in greater yields for farmers, up to a point.

Although a higher plant density generally increases total yields by weight, it also usually decreases the amount and size of of fruits or vegetables per individual plant.

A study published in the New Zealand Journal of Experimental Agriculture showed findings on a green bean plant density vs. green bean yields study. The study was over two years and measured the yields of different green bean plant spacings including in-row and inter-row spacings.

Skip down to Table 2 in the study to see planting arrangements and plant populations at those arrangements and then down to discussion for a conclusion.

Inter-row spacings were 150, 300, 380, and 450mm (6,12,15, 18 inches) and intra-row spacings were 70 and 140mm (2.8 and 5.6 inches). The two different intra-row spacings of 2.8″ and 5.6″ were grown at every different row spacing.

The study found that a plant density of >40 plants per m2 was key to increased yields. The following arrangements had green bean plant densities >40 in both years of the trial – 150x70mm, 150x140mm, 300x70mm.

Plant spacings of 300x140mm, 380x70mm, 380x140mm, 450x70mm, 450x140mm all failed to give plant densities of >40 plants per m2 in both years of the trial.

How Deep to Plant Green Bean Seeds

Plant the bean seeds in the ground 1″ deep. If starting indoors sow seeds about 1/2″ deep. Water after planting green bean seeds. If you planted outside or in a pot, water gently from above. If you planted inside in a starter tray, water from the bottom.

How Many Green Beans to Plant In a Pot

bush beans and pole beans in raised beds
Here you can see pole beans on the left and bush beans on the right. Both varieties can be grown in raised beds. and the same goes for pots.

Use a pot that is at least 12″ deep, has good drainage, and has at least 3 gallons of dirt per plant. For a 10 gallon pot put 2-3 plants. Putting three plants in a triangle formation is an efficient way of planting the pot.

If you plant more seeds just use a different shape to keep the plants equally spaced: a diamond, pentagon, hexagon. Same spacing as above still applies with bush beans being 4 inches apart and pole beans 6 inches apart.

Remember if you’re growing pole beans they need support. You can give them support by placing the container next to a fence or trellis or any other structure they can climb.

When starting beans in pots place them in an area sheltered from strong winds. Green beans like full sun so make sure they are getting at least 6 hours of sun.

Beans need a good amount of water especially around flowering and fruiting so a big container with multiple plants in it is a good way to go.

Spacing Green Beans In Raised Beds

Bush beans are the common choice for raised beds. You can really pack the bush beans into a raised bed because you don’t need to have an aisle to walk through. Plant bush bean seeds every 2″ and then thin down to every 4″ when the plants reach 3-4″ tall. Plant rows about 24″ apart.

Plant pole beans every 3″ and then thin down to every 6″ once the plants reach about 3″ tall. Row spacing will depend on the support you are using for the pole beans. Support can be given in any way you can think of. One way is to take bamboo poles and make teepees in the beds.

To make a teepee in the bed make a circle in the dirt with a diameter of 2 feet. Take 8 poles and spread them around the circle evenly. Then make rows of teepees with pole beans all around them.

The image below is a different style with an A-shaped trellis that runs the length of the bed. You can support pole beans however and with whatever you can think of.

trellis for green beans
Instead of separate teepees this support has a shared pole that goes the length of the bed with poles in an A-shape along the pole for beans to climb.

Square Foot Gardening Plant Spacing

Square foot gardening is an intensive style of gardening that involves thinking of the garden in square foot blocks and using them efficiently. Most of the time square foot gardening is literally separated into square foot sections using wood trim or irrigation hose or wire grid and literally creating a grid that sections off the garden into square feet.

Most of the time square foot gardening is done with intercropping, which is planting multiple types of vegetables or plants next to each other. This can be a big positive in avoiding pests and the destruction that can occur with a monoculture and a bad pest or disease problem.

When the garden is sectioned off into square feet you can easily see if a square foot is being unused or not fully used and make a plan to fill it. If you know the correct amount of spacing between the plants you want to plant you can figure out how many of those plant you can fit in a single square foot. This calculator makes the job easier for uncommon spacings.

Somehow this method doesn’t work out well with green beans. Plants that are planted every 4″ can fit 9 green bean plants in one square foot which just wouldn’t work.

It’s still an interesting way to space plants in the garden so I thought to include it. This table shows some more examples of what could be planted in a square foot garden.

Plant# of Plants Per SquareSpace Between Rows
Baby Leaf Spinach32N/A
Lettuce Head2N/A
Melon2 squares per plantN/A

Nitrogen Fixing Aid For Legumes When Planting

Green beans and most legumes are nitrogen fixing plants. They take nitrogen out of the air and fix it into the soil.

To be more specific, there are specific strains of bacteria that have a symbiotic relationship with the beans that do the nitrogen fixing. The bacteria have a host in the bean plants and take up residence in the roots forming nodules along the roots, and the beans benefit by having the nitrogen they need added to the soil.

Bean plants will frequently take up bacteria strains that are not efficient at or don’t do any nitrogen fixing. They are not very selective about their root guests. This is why it is a good idea to add bacteria strains to the soil that are heavy nitrogen fixers.

This soil inoculant has three strains of bacteria, bradyrhizobium sp., rhizobium leguminosarum, and R. phaseoli, that are selected for just this purpose. Adding this soil inoculant at planting with any bean is a great addition to give soil a boost in organic nitrogen.

Comment below with any thoughts or experiences you have with spacing different types of green bean plants.

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