Why didn’t my green beans come up? I followed all the planting instructions but got a terrible stand!
I tend to be fairly habitual. So when planting my first couple of gardens, I fell into the habit created in my childhood and planted my green beans directly into freshly tilled sod ground. However, I had no experience planting directly into previously unbroken ground. I had only ever planted into ground that had been tilled for years in fairly established garden plots.
So when my green beans had a terrible stand the first year, I was shocked. I had planted at the correct soil depth, after the last frost date, and watered appropriately (or so I thought) so what was the deal? I tried replanting new seeds and still wasn’t given much of a stand. Year two I had a very similar experience, but I had also gone out of my way to soak them beforehand hoping for good germination! No such luck.
After some trouble shooting and replanting this year, I think I’m on the path to my own solution. Green beans are trickier than everyone makes them out to be if you are planting into previously unbroken ground. Let’s hit on some helpful tips!
Problems preventing a good green bean stand
There are multiple factors that must be considered, so if you’re doing some trouble shooting yourself, here is what I believe were my biggest problems!
Planting too early the first time.
Now, it wasn’t absurdly early. I still had some beans come up each time and we were definitely a week past the last frost date, but beans need decently warm soil to get going and both years we had had cool and rainy May weather. So even though out LFD was the first week of May, I really shouldn’t have planted until after we had several very warm days to really get the soil warm. Closer to the end of May or beginning of June.
Worms and maggots– those darn little buggers.
This year, when I had soaked my beans and planted them just before there was some rain in the forecast, I thought it would be the perfect combination… and I was partially right. It was just the perfect setting for worms to move in and eat my bean seeds. Yup, no kidding. I dug down after the beans should have been up with the rest only to find them half eaten by worms. I came to find out that this is especially common in ground that was previously sod. There are a variety of types that can cause this damage but I believe my issues were from wireworms and seed maggots.
Too much water.
If you water your beans too much before they’ve sprouted, you very well could have rotten bean seed rather than seedlings. And, well, that’s now wasted money (maybe only a few dollars, but still!).
Planting into previously unbroken ground.
Planting anything from seed into freshly tilled ground that had been sod can be so difficult. Ours has a good deal of clay in it and mix that with a ton of grass roots, it’s a problem. My suggestion is just to not have super high hopes with green beans and try again next year – it will get better! Once that ground gets worked more and the grass roots are no longer well established in the soil, your results will improve.
How I fixed those problems
The goal is to get a super quick germination and sprout to combat these issues.
Don’t plant the seeds deeply in the soil.
I fully admit that I’m not the best at judging depth. When the package says to plant at 1 to 1.5 inches deep, I very well may accidentally plant them closer to 2 inches deep unless I use a simple trick. I try to only plant as deep as my thumb from the knuckle to finger tip. This helps guide me while planting the entire row!
Wait until the weather has been in the 70’s to 80’s for a few days!
This will allow the ground to warm up which makes for quicker germination rather that the seed sitting is cold and maybe wet soil. Green beans are a fairly quick crop. So if you have the time to wait for warmer days until planting, I highly recommend it.
Don’t over water!
Give them a good soaking the evening that you plant them. Then water again a couple days later. You can go ahead and try soaking them before planting. However, I’ve determined that giving them a good soak in ground might very well be sufficient if they have time to actually soak in ground before any heat or sun burns the moisture off.
The combination of these factors helps prevent the seed from rotting or the worms getting to them before they get to sprout. The extra warmth speeds up the sprouting process drastically! If you have soil that has a good deal of clay in it, you may want to watch for a soil crust forming and re-water at night. This will give the seeds an easier time pushing through the soil.
And if you’re planting into freshly broke sod this year, it’s ok! Be prepared – put two seeds per spot and give yourself some grace. Next year after another good tilling, you most likely will have better luck. Our soil has a good deal of clay. After getting worked the second year and following the other advice I received, those seeds came right on up.
If I had a do over…
If I had a chance to change anything about my first year garden, I would have initially broke the ground the fall before planting. The idea behind this is to break up the grass roots and let them decay over winter. The next spring when the ground is tilled again, there shouldn’t be as many grass roots, if any, and the ground should prep better.
Gardening takes patience and the practice of learning from prior failures. Each year will bring new and different trouble shooting attention. Eventually this will all become second nature. But to get to that point, first we must go through the struggle.