What Beans to Save as Seed?

When planning your garden, and planning to save your own seed, crossbreeding is always a concern.  All beans will cross, even between bush and pole varieties within their respective subgroups (e.g. common, Lima, Runner, Fava).  Planting more than one variety of the same subgroup is not recommended.  Beans do not generally cross the subgroup boundaries, so, planting a variety of beans from different subgroups in close proximity is not a problem.

Seed savers should plant an additional ten feet or more of dry bean row and then select the best non-hybrid dry bean as seeds for next years’ garden and a few extra as reserve seed in case of crop failure.  As a general rule bean seed, should be chosen for:

  • Seed quality: seed should be mature, air dried, and not be moldy or have started to sprout
  • Size: the larger seed is generally considered to have been an indication of healthy growth.
  • Shape: choose seed that has a shape consistent with the norm for the variety of bean.
  • Color and Pattern: seed that has the color and pattern consistent with the norm for the variety of bean.

How many beans to grow in the Garden?

With the gardening season nearing, it’s time to consider what to plant and how much to plant. When considering how many beans to plant, follow these general rules.

As a rule, when planning for how many beans to plant in a season, you will need:

  • fifty feet of row per person for bush beans, or
  • thirty-five feet of row per person of pole beans.

Many gardeners make a distinction for planting amounts between varieties (e.g. common Vs. lima) or usage (snap Vs. dry), but this is not necessary, the rules hold up.

If you plan to dual-purpose your beans, to use and consume them both as snap and dry beans, then double your row footage per a person.  Additionally, mark which rows will be used as snap or dry beans is recommended to ensure the best possible quality and sufficient quantity for each use.  Keep in mind that snap beans are harvested while young tender and dry beans need time to mature and dry on the vine.

Seed savers should plant an additional ten feet of dry bean row and then select the best dry bean as seeds for next year’s garden and a few extra as reserve seed in case of crop failure.

Related References

Mennonite Dry Pole Bean

Originally acquired from Sauk River Seed, this is an heirloom bean, which I have been maintaining for some years now.  The Mennonite pole bean has proven to be one of my heartiest of the common pole beans.  Even under drought conditions, this bean has proven to produce more and be healthier than any other common pole bean in my inventory, if given a minimum of water and care.  Under ideal conditions, this is an outstanding producer.  Best used as a dry, or shell bean, The Mennonite bean has an excellent nutty taste, makes excellent eating, and is an excellent substitute for pinto beans.

Except for larger size, very like the Czechoslovakian “Honey” pole bean and another bean known in Minnesota as the “Swedish”, but outperforms both.  The young pods can be canned fresh, in the upper Midwest Mennonites, traditionally, allow them to dry on the vine until frost, then store them for winter cooking.

This bean is sturdy and disease-resistant, requiring a strong trellis or fence.  Continues to produce until the first frost.

Year Introduced: 1864

Status: Heirloom

Size: Very large; up to ½ inch.

Color: Light coffee or dark tan

Type: Dry/Shell

Good as Green Beans: Not Really

Sun: plant in full sun

Soil Type:  most soils are fine

Emerges: 7-10 days

Edible: in 69 days

Habit: Pole

Seed Shape: A compact almost rectangular

Pod Length:  9 inches

Vine Height:  six to ten feet

Maturity: 90 days

Genealogy: Phaseolus vulgaris


Sow directly in warm soil, sets of three, about 1 ½ inches deep, 4 inches apart, and with a row spacing of about 4 feet between rows.


When plants reach 6 inches in height, side-dress them compost, manure or slow-release fertilizer.  Give plenty of water throughout the active growing season.  For Dry beans, reduce watering during the last month.


As green Beans

Pick as pods reach mature length, but before large seed form, then de-string, and cook. They may, also, be blanched and frozen or canned promptly.

As Dry Beans

Before the first frost cop vines free from the soil to stop growth.  Allow pods to dry thoroughly.  If a hard frost threatens, bring pods indoors, in a warm dry place, to finish drying.  In long growing season areas, harvest dry pods, as they become available, shell, and store in a breathable container in a cool dry place, protected from direct sunlight.