Driftless Seed Supply Grower Resources

Peas and Beans Growing Resources (fresh and dry)

Historical and Cultural Significance

Dry Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

  • Origin and History: Dry beans, indigenous to the Americas, have been a fundamental food source in various cultures, especially in Mesoamerica and the Andes. Archaeological evidence shows their cultivation dating back thousands of years.
  • Cultural Role: They have played a vital role in traditional diets due to their high protein and fiber content. In many cultures, beans are a staple in everyday cuisine and are celebrated in numerous traditional dishes across the world.
  • Diversity and Adaptation: Over centuries, a multitude of bean varieties have been developed, showcasing a range of colors, shapes, and flavors, adapting to different climatic and soil conditions.

Green Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

  • Origins: Also originating in Central America, green beans were domesticated separately from their dry bean counterparts. They have been cultivated for their tender, edible pods.
  • Culinary Versatility: Green beans, also known as string beans or snap beans, have been integrated into a vast array of culinary traditions worldwide. They are prized for their versatility in cooking, appearing in salads, stir-fries, stews, and as a steamed or boiled side dish.
  • Global Spread: The spread of green beans across the globe has led to their integration into diverse culinary cultures, making them a globally recognized vegetable.

Peas (Pisum sativum)

  • Ancient Crop: Peas are one of the oldest cultivated crops, with origins tracing back to Middle Asia and the Near East. Their cultivation dates back thousands of years, with mentions in ancient texts and archaeological findings.
  • Role in Agriculture: Peas have historically been important as a source of protein and as a crop that enhances soil fertility through nitrogen fixation.
  • Culinary Diversity: Garden peas, including both shelling and snap varieties, are used in an array of dishes. They are featured in cuisines around the world, from pea soups and purees in European dishes to stir-fries in Asian cuisine. The versatility of peas, whether fresh, frozen, or dried, contributes to their widespread culinary use.
  • Symbolism: In many cultures, peas have symbolized prosperity and are associated with certain traditions and celebrations.

The cultivation of dry beans, green beans, and peas reflects a rich agricultural and culinary heritage. Each of these legumes has its unique history and has been adapted and cherished in various cultures around the world.

Site Selection and Soil Preparation

  • Sunlight: Full sun is essential for all three crops.
  • Soil Type: Prefer well-drained sandy loam soils.
  • Soil pH: Neutral to slightly acidic soil pH is ideal for nutrient availability​​.
  • Preparation: For peas, prepare the soil in the fall to avoid spring compaction​​.


  • Support Structures: Required for most peas and pole beans. Use trellises or similar structures​​. Can also plant beans at the base of sorghum or corn once the ‘trellis’ crop is at least 1.5ft tall.
  • Dry Beans: Plant after the last frost date. Space rows about 18-30 inches apart, planting seeds 1–2 inches deep.


  • Green Beans and Peas: Consistent moisture is critical. Avoid over-watering as many legumes are sensitive to root molds or rots.
  • Dry Beans: Less water is required. Stop watering when beans begin to mature and pods start to dry​​.

Nutrient Management

  • Soil Testing: Test for pH, organic matter, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients.
  • Fertilizers: Apply as per soil test recommendations. Avoid excessive nitrogen, especially for dry beans​​.

Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) Recommendations per Acre

Dry Beans

  • Phosphorus (P):
  • Low Soil Test: Apply 60-80 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre.
  • Medium Soil Test: 40-60 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre.
  • High Soil Test: 20-40 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre or none if sufficient.
  • Potassium (K):
  • Low Soil Test: 90-120 pounds of K₂O per acre.
  • Medium Soil Test: 60-90 pounds of K₂O per acre.
  • High Soil Test: 30-60 pounds of K₂O per acre or none if sufficient.

Green Beans

  • Phosphorus (P):
  • Slightly lower than dry beans, due to green beans' shorter growth cycle.
  • Low Soil Test: 50-70 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre.
  • Medium Soil Test: 30-50 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre.
  • High Soil Test: Minimal or no application.
  • Potassium (K):
  • Similar to dry beans but can be slightly lower.
  • Low Soil Test: 80-100 pounds of K₂O per acre.
  • Medium Soil Test: 50-80 pounds of K₂O per acre.
  • High Soil Test: 20-50 pounds of K₂O per acre or none if sufficient.


  • Phosphorus (P):
  • Peas generally require less phosphorus than beans.
  • Low Soil Test: 40-60 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre.
  • Medium Soil Test: 20-40 pounds of P₂O₅ per acre.
  • High Soil Test: Minimal or no application.
  • Potassium (K):
  • Similar to phosphorus, peas generally need less potassium.
  • Low Soil Test: 60-80 pounds of K₂O per acre.
  • Medium Soil Test: 40-60 pounds of K₂O per acre.
  • High Soil Test: 10-30 pounds of K₂O per acre or none if sufficient.

Key Considerations

  • Soil Testing: Accurate soil testing is essential for determining the specific nutrient needs of your soil.
  • Crop Rotation: Continuous cropping of legumes on the same field may alter the need for fertilization.
  • Organic Matter: Soils with high organic matter may have different requirements due to the natural availability of nutrients.

Pest and Disease Management

  • Common to All: Monitor for pests like aphids and manage with organic pesticides. Aphids may be a sign of over-fertilization.
  • Dry Beans: Watch for diseases like bacterial blights and rust. Rotate crops and use disease-resistant varieties.
  • Disease Management for Peas: Control root rot pathogens like Pythium and Fusarium by rotating crops and using well-drained soils​​.

Harvesting Beans

  • Green Beans: Harvest when pods are firm and before seeds fully develop.
  • Dry Beans: Harvest when pods are fully mature and dry. They can be left on the plant to dry if weather permits.

Harvest Recommendations for Peas

Shelling Peas

  • Timing: Harvest when the pods are fully swollen but still exhibit a vibrant green color. The pods should feel firm and plump.
  • Cue for Flavor: The best flavor is when the peas inside are fully formed but still tender. Overly mature peas tend to become hard and less sweet.
  • Method: Gently pull or snip the pods from the plant, being careful not to damage the vines.

Snap Peas

  • Timing: Harvest when the pods are plump and round, yet before the peas inside become overly large and start to lose their sweetness.
  • Cue for Texture: The pods should be crisp and snap easily, indicative of peak freshness.
  • Method: Snap peas can be picked by holding the vine with one hand and the pod with the other, gently pulling to avoid vine damage.

Snow Peas

  • Timing: Harvest when the pods reach full size for the variety but before the peas inside start to swell. The ideal stage is when pods are still flat with barely visible peas.
  • Cue for Quality: Look for pods that are thin, tender, and glossy. Overgrown pods can become tough and fibrous.
  • Method: Similar to snap peas, careful harvesting is key to prevent damaging the plant.

General Tips

  • Frequent Harvesting: Regular picking encourages the plants to produce more pods and extends the harvesting period.
  • Morning Harvest: Collecting peas in the cool of the morning can enhance their sweetness and crispness.
  • Storage: If not used immediately, refrigerate peas as soon as possible to retain their sugar content and prevent starchiness.

Post-Harvest Handling and Storage

  • Green Beans and Peas: Store at cool temperatures with high humidity.
  • Dry Beans: It's essential to allow the pods to dry on the plant as much as possible, ideally until they are brittle and the beans inside rattle, typically occurring in late summer or early fall. If extended rainy weather is forecasted before they are finished drying down on the plant, gardeners can consider harvesting early if they have adequate dring space. After harvesting, spread the beans in a thin layer in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area with a temperature around 60-70°F and low humidity. The drying process can take 1-2 weeks. Before storage, beans should be completely dry to the touch, with no residual moisture, and be hard enough to ‘snap’ or resist being cut under a knife or when bitten. 

Varietal Selection

  • Dry Beans: Choose varieties based on market demand, disease resistance, and adaptability to your region.
  • Green Beans: Select based on growth habit (bush or pole), pod characteristics, and disease resistance.
  • Peas: Choose between shelling and snap peas, considering disease resistance and growth habit.

This comprehensive guide covers the cultivation of dry beans, green beans, and peas, focusing on the unique requirements and management practices for each. For specific advice tailored to your region and the varieties you choose, consult local agricultural extension services or horticultural experts.