All About Growing Dry Beans and Peas

Learn the ins and outs of growing dry beans and peas, including lima beans, runner beans, tepary beans, field peas and more.

  • Dry beans and peas are a healthy staple crop that can be stored long into winter. With a huge variety of colorful pods and seed shapes and colors, it’s almost impossible to grow every kind of bean and pea variety available. Pictured here is the ‘Good Mother Stallard’ dry bean.
    Illustration by Keith Ward
  • Hand-pick Mexican bean beetles in all life stages, and try spraying neem to control light infestations.
    Illustration by Keith Ward
  • There are a number of different bean varieties to grow and cook. Pictured from left to right are ‘Streamline’ runner beans, ‘Christmas’ lima beans, ‘Yin Yang’ dry beans, ‘Dwarf Horticultural’ dry beans and ‘Pinkeye Purple Hull’ cowpeas.
    Illustration by Keith Ward
  • Cooking dry beans takes some planning ahead because you must first soak the beans in water for many hours. Beans make the perfect addition to favorite hearty dishes such as chili and black bean soup.
    Illustration by Keith Ward
  • Native Americans used cornstalks in their Three Sisters gardens to provide a place for rambling bean vines to climb. Bean tipis made of metal, wood, plastic, or salvaged materials work splendidly as well.
    Illustration by Keith Ward

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Dry beans and peas provide as much protein per serving as well-known protein powerhouses, such as eggs and cottage cheese, with the added benefits of fiber and an array of minerals. You could eat the dry seeds from any green bean or pea, but certain bean and pea varieties grown for their higher yields of flavorful, nutrient-dense seeds are a better use of garden space. When growing dry beans and peas in most climates, plant after your spring crops so they mature in dry fall weather. Legume flowers attract beneficial insects, and because of legume plants’ ability to obtain much of their nitrogen through partnerships with soil-dwelling bacteria, beans and peas remove fewer nutrients from the soil compared with most other crops.

Types of Dry Beans and Peas to Try

Choosing varieties that suit your climate is key to growing dry beans and peas. Note that all dry bean and pea varieties can be harvested and cooked fresh as the seeds approach ripeness, or you can leave them to mature into their dry, easy-to-store form.

Soup peas (Pisum sativum) are a cool-weather crop cultivated like green shell peas, but starchy soup peas are smooth rather than wrinkled. These frost-tolerant peas should be planted quite early, in cool spring weather. Bush-type varieties, such as ‘Gold Harvest,’ form self-supporting blocks when grown in wide beds, but ‘Blue Pod Capucijners’ and other tall varieties will need a sturdy trellis. Soup peas grow best in cool northern climates, in slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH from 5.5 to 7.0.

Traditional dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) look and grow like green snap beans, but the pods quickly become too tough and stringy to eat. Bush-type New England heirlooms, including ‘Kenearly Yellow Eye’ and ‘Jacob’s Cattle,’ tolerate cool soil conditions, so they are the best beans to grow where summers are short and cool. In warmer areas, bushy, black-and-white ‘Yin Yang’ (also known as ‘Calypso’) beans are as dependable as they are pretty. ‘Dwarf Horticultural’ beans can be sown after spring crops in areas with long summers. These and other true dry beans grow best in near-neutral soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0.

Many gardeners prefer to grow pole-type dry beans, which are grown up trellises or sown among knee-high sweet corn or sunflowers. Heirloom long-vined varieties — including intricately marked, brown-and-white ‘Hidatsa Shield’ and maroon-and-white ‘Good Mother Stallard’ — will eagerly scramble over drying corn in many climates. Where summer nights are warm and humid, ‘Turkey Craw’ and ‘Mayflower’ make outstanding cornfield beans provided they reach maturity in dry fall weather.

8/5/2017 2:32:33 PM

We started gardening and we were gone wrong. We could not figure out why we were not getting the beautiful vegetables we were hoping for. People suggest to spray chemicals for vegetables and fruits but is poison and it is not organic vegetables. My lab professor referred a guide it helps me to grow my gardening as what we like, you can get the guide from here >> ( ) <<. I have recommended this system to all of my friends and family. We got good organic natural vegetables and fruits in the next harvest, one of the beautiful products in the market....*

8/17/2015 6:42:27 AM

what bean is in the picture!

3/26/2014 8:36:36 AM

My Dad always grew beans to shell and one of his friends showed us this easy way to shell them. If you have an old Wringer washing machine, adjust the wringer opening gap so it will just grab the dry pod. Feed the dry pods thru the wringer and the pods with go thru the wringer rolls and and the dry beans will drop in the washing machine tub.

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