Those of us who grow as much of our own food as possible can get disheartened during the winter. After all, aside from a few hardy brassicas, not much grows out in the snow. Fortunately, we can try growing green beans indoors over the coldest months! Read on to learn how.
Growing Green Beans Indoors
Winter can be a hard season for those of us who love to eat fresh, local produce. The gardens are all buried under snow, the days are short, and the light is always indirect. Many locavores end up putting vegetables by all summer long, and miss out on fresh vegetables altogether. Alternatively, others find a few local greenhouses to support.
But, it is possible to grow a few vegetables in your own home. Not everything has to be canned, frozen, or bought. In fact, there are a number of vegetables that manage to thrive in an indoor, winter garden. They just need a bit of extra care and consistent light.
Lighting is always going to be an issue in the winter. If you don’t have a few, good, south-facing windows, indoor plants rarely thrive. I consistently kill my wintertime herbs because the lack of direct sunlight is devastating to them.
But, if you do have a few bright, south, or south-west facing windows, growing a few, simple vegetables can be an ideal way to supplement your rows and rows of canned tomatoes, beets, and zucchini relish. If you’re just jumping into indoor, winter gardening, try starting with green beans.
Growing Indoor Beans
Green beans are some of the best plants to grow in the winter. They’re well suited to indoor growing, because they’re incredibly happy being cultivated in pots, and they only need vertical growing space. Better still, they won’t take up half your living room. Green beans also have moderate nutrient requirements, which means they won’t need constant fertilizer applications to thrive.
But, these beans do need a lot of light to grow and produce well. So you need to give your winter beans a fighting chance by planting them in the sunniest window you have. If you don’t have a bright, sunny, window to plant your beans by, then definitely add a grow light. It’s so important to give your plants a boost of light.
Indoor green beans thrive when they’re allowed to climb up a bright window. Plant them in a kitchen or bathroom where your plants will benefit from extra moisture in the air as well.
Pots, Pollination, and Other Considerations
Don’t let these slender, vine plants fool you—even green beans need a bit of root space. Plant your beans in 8-12 inch pots to keep them from getting root bound. If you use smaller containers, your plants will need to be watered and fed more often. In contrast, larger pots can support more growth and production than smaller pots.
Your bean pots will also need good drainage holes, since bean plants really don’t like having wet roots for long periods of time. Make sure your pots don’t hold on to excess water. Sometimes, it helps to add in a small layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot. The stones help keep the soil from getting soggy, and the keep the drainage holes from getting blocked by compacted soil.
Do I Need to Pollinate?
In the summer, you’ll see happy honeybees with fat, yellow, pollen-coated legs hovering among your bean plants. Bees love bean flowers—especially gorgeous Scarlett Runners. But you likely won’t have honeybees hanging out in your winter kitchen.
Is that a problem? Actually, it’s not. This is because most green beans are self-pollinating plants. Although the bees love them, they don’t actually need help from summertime pollinators to produce beans.
It’s absolutely essential to trellis indoor green beans. If you’ don’t, they’ll end up trailing on the floor and getting caught in the vacuum. But trellising your vines is one of the easiest parts of online bean care. The truth is, your beans want to vine, whether you help them or not. If you give them even the simplest little strings to climb up, they’ll be happy.
Give them twine, string, wire mesh, or a little wooden trellis to climb. As long as whatever you offer is strong enough to hold your lightweight bean plants, and tall enough to keep them from trailing on the floor, your plants will thrive.
Do I Need A Grow Light?
In the depth of winter, you may need to add a grow light to your little, indoor vegetable patch. Beans love—and need—full sun. To flower and produce, your plants need at least 8 hours of sunlight. If you live in a sunny area with few trees, this might not be a problem. Even in winter, a large, south-facing window can provide more than enough light.
But, if there are too many trees or buildings nearby, or if your windows aren’t large enough, getting enough light can become a problem. Especially in midwinter, it’s good to have a grow light on hand. A week of cloudy, dark days can destroy a winter bean harvest quickly.
If your plants are lacking light, or if you’ve had more than two cloudy days in a row, give your beans a few days under the grow light. You’ll be amazed at how much good a little extra light can do.
You can plant indoor beans at any time. Depending on soil, sunlight, and variety, beans are usually ready to harvest anywhere from 45-75 days after planting.
First, fill your pots with plenty of organic matter and a rich potting mix. Pop a couple bean seeds into each pot and water them well. Green beans should germinate in 7 to 10 days if the soil is over 60 degrees. If your house is a little on the cool side, they could take as long as two weeks to sprout.
Green bean seedlings don’t like being transplanted. They’re pretty sensitive little guys, so plant them in a pot that’s large enough to contain the mature plant.
Watering & Feeding
In the garden, green beans don’t need much in the way of watering or fertilizing, but container plants are more vulnerable. Because they only have a small amount of space, indoor beans need a bit more attention.
Try to keep the soil around your bean plants moist, but not wet. It should feel slightly cool, with a hint of moisture when you poke a finger into the soil. Try watering in the morning, and then letting the sun dry the soil slowly throughout the day.
Since green beans rarely need applications of fertilizer, we’re often tempted to neglect them indoors. But if you want your beans to produce well in the winter, you’ll give them a monthly cup of compost tea or some other light fertilizer. Just enough to replenish the nutrients in the soil.
Trellising beans can seem overwhelming at times. They never stop growing! In pots, the limited root space will often tone back some of the growth. With proper care and feeding, indoor beans grow lush and productive, but they probably won’t take over the whole kitchen.
If you’re worried, however, try pinching off a few of the new tendrils. That will help your plant remember to focus on bean production, not just spreading. Don’t pinch off too many tendrils though: new growth leads to new beans.
After flowering, you’ll start to see tiny beans forming. When the beans inside the pods start to bulge a bit, and the pods themselves are still somewhat bendable, it’s time to harvest. Snap the stem of the bean gently from the plant. Or, you can use garden snips to clip each bean from its stem.
Most beans will produce continually for at least a few weeks. Leave the smallest ones on the stalk to ripen while harvesting only the mature beans. If you harvest consistently, your plant will continue to produce.
Don’t forget to continue caring for your bean plants as you harvest. Sometimes, we forget that for many plants, harvest season and growing season are one and the same. Keep giving your beans their cup of compost tea, keep watering regularly, and setting out the grow light when the days are dim. If you do, they’ll produce longer and better for you.
Indoor Beans for A Winter Harvest
There’s nothing more satisfying than picking your own, homegrown vegetables in the heart of winter. When the weather outside is snowy and miserable, your house will be full of greenhouse hygge. You won’t want to make dilly beans out of these hard-earned vegetables, either. Eat them fresh, or add them to casseroles.
Indoor green beans are a great way to get fresh, local produce into your winter diet again. Additionally, they’re a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. So when you get your first winter harvest of homegrown green beans, enjoy them thoroughly. Sear them with slivered almonds or roast them with squash and garlic.
Or, you can just sit down under your green bean vines, in the bright winter sunshine. Fill a bowl with your own, fresh beans and eat them one by one. You deserve it! You’ve conquered winter. You don’t need grocery store green beans anymore, because you’ve mastered the art of indoor vegetable gardening.