Seed Saving: Beans

My garden always has a few bush bean plants, even when it's just a tiny container garden tucked into a small balcony.

I've had a few failures - some of the climbing varieties gave me only a couple of pods before dying from powdery mildew. My last attempt with a purple bush variety was overrun with red spider mites. I certainly didn't save any of those seeds - not at all disease or pest resistant!

But the yellow and green bush varieties have always been prolific producers.

Buying new packets of seeds each season can eat into my gardening budget, so I like to save as many seeds as possible. And beans are definitely the easiest type of seed to save for the next season!

Saving bush variety seeds from my balcony garden
Saving bush variety seeds from my balcony garden | Source

Easy to grow varieties

Tender green beans, tossed with a little garlic and lemon juice after a quick steam - for me, that's the taste of summer. But I love all types.

Edamame (soy), steamed and tossed with a touch of salt, some pepper and a few red chili pepper flakes - the perfect healthy snack.

Buttery yellow wax beans, creamy broad beans (fava), butter and lima beans, and stringless bush beans (snap) - all deliciously healthy, and all wonderfully easy to grow.

Whether they were heirloom varieties, organic or 'standard' seed packets, I have successfully saved the seeds and used them in the next season.

The only times I had to buy new bean seeds, were when my plants were overrun with diseases/pests (once), when one particular climbing variety produced almost nothing before dying of powdery mildew, when I wanted to try a new variety, or when I moved countries - because there are usually rules against importing seeds from overseas.

Saving bean seeds

  1. Choose the healthiest plants, disease and pest free if possible. Don't save any seeds from plants with spider mites or powdery mildew, both because the seeds will not be in good condition, and because those varieties are obviously not so hardy.
  2. Let a few pods get really large and fat - you want them to fully mature and then dry while they are still on the plant. This can take up to a month after ripening to an 'eat me now' stage.
  3. When the pod is dry, brown and probably very wrinkly, and the dried seeds rattle inside, snip the pods from the vine, crack them open carefully (don't stick your fingernails into the seeds inside), and take out the seeds.
  4. Leave the seeds to dry a little more on a plate or paper, out of their pod. Throw out any seeds that have been damaged.
  5. Pack the smoothest, healthiest and largest seeds into paper envelopes. Discard any bean seeds that are broken, shriveled, or very small - they will probably not sprout healthy plants.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mature beans drying on the vine to save the seeds, in my tiny balcony garden.Dried green beans after fully maturing.Saving the seeds of green beans.Dried bean seeds, ready for packaging and storing for the next season.
Mature beans drying on the vine to save the seeds, in my tiny balcony garden.
Mature beans drying on the vine to save the seeds, in my tiny balcony garden. | Source
Dried green beans after fully maturing.
Dried green beans after fully maturing. | Source
Saving the seeds of green beans.
Saving the seeds of green beans. | Source
Dried bean seeds, ready for packaging and storing for the next season.
Dried bean seeds, ready for packaging and storing for the next season. | Source

My beans!

What's your favorite type of bean?

  • green beans
  • broad beans (fava)
  • edamame beans (soy)
  • yellow wax beans
  • butter or lima beans
  • I can't choose - they are all great!
See results without voting

Saving hybrid seeds

You can collect seeds from hybrid plants or from beans that have cross-pollinated.

However, you may not get the same variety as you planted this time, a good number of beans might not ripen to harvest, or the healthiness and disease resistance of the plants may not be as good in the following season.

But that shouldn't stop you from trying - many times saving hybrid or cross-pollinated bean seeds works perfectly!

Easier bean collection, for busy seed savers

Thank you to LongTimeMother for her suggestion!

  1. Cut the branch with the drying pods, and place them in a large paper bag, labelled with the bean type.
  2. Hang in a dry area, with plenty of air movement until the pods and branches have thoroughly dried out.
  3. When you have time, remove the pods from the branches, crack the pods, and keep the seeds in the bag until fully dry.
  4. When dry, simply fold the bag down, and store!

Seed saving tips

Mature dried pods of some varieties will pop open to explosively disperse their seeds. Check the pods as they dry, and collect them before they shatter - don't keep any bean seeds that have been laying on the moist ground.

Collect old and ripe pods on dry days - you don't want much moisture on the pods as this might make the seeds rot.

You can store the seeds inside their pods, but I find that whole dried pods take up too much extra space in my 'seed' box.

Which seed was which?

Don't forget to note on the envelope which variety the seeds are from, and include any planting information, as well as the date on which you collected them.

On the other hand, it's rather fun seeing which varieties appear from which seeds - I forgot to label my envelopes one year, it was quite a variety guessing game!

Storage life

Bean seeds are usually viable for 2-3 years if kept in cool, dark, dry and pest-free conditions.

One or two silica gel packets keep my seed 'shoe'-box nice and dry. Be careful to keep these away from young children and pets - silica gel desiccant must not be eaten!

Late winter is when I start planning my little balcony garden. Check on your seed collection during winter, before you start your spring planning, to make sure weevils haven't discovered your seeds, and also that the box remains dry. It's tragic when you lose a whole collection kept in a spot that got too damp.

Save peas for the next season too!

You can save green pea, sweet pea and sugar snap pea seeds the same way.

Simply let a few pea pods fully mature and dry on the vine, then store the dried pea seeds in envelopes in a cool and dry place until the next season.

As with beans, select only the healthiest of plants and pods, and throw out any seeds that look damaged.

Do you save bean seeds each year

  • Of course!
  • No, but I will now!
See results without voting

A complete guide to saving vegetable seeds

Seed saving resources

  • The Seed Savers Exchange, based in North America, is one of the best places to swap and buy heirloom vegetable, herb, spice and fruit seeds.
  • Seed Savers, a collection of local groups throughout Australia and New Zealand, has a free introduction on seed saving (117 different plants), as well as a more detailed reference, and of course, a seed exchange network.
  • The excellent GardenWeb forums has a seed saving section, where you can find information about saving the more hard-to-find varieties.
  • The International Seed Saving Institute provides a free and good basic seeds saving guide.
  • There is a Bean Project in Germany at the ├ľkologisches Bildungszentrum M├╝nchen, requesting people to save their seeds, especially of heritage varieties.

Bean seeds saved at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture.
Bean seeds saved at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. | Source

Are you a seed saver?

Do you have any bean or seed saving stories (or nightmares)?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Comments 7 comments

carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I have never even thought to do this. Interesting hub and certainly food for thought.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

I've never read information on saving seeds. How unique and interesting! I also love your idea of using simply garlic and lemon to dress green beans. I'm going to get some at the market tomorrow! Thanks so much for sharing.


Vanderleelie profile image

Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

An excellent way to continue favourite plantings from year to year. I will try this with my own pole beans (Scarlet Runners). Voted up and useful.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I am a seed saver!! Thank you! And I use paper envelopes!!


totallyPATTI profile image

totallyPATTI 4 years ago from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Great Hub! TY! I'm planning on growing some chickpeas and kidney beans next season... and will definitely save some of the seed for successive years.


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

I confess I always save my best seeds and some of all the beans I grow including kidney beans, borlotti, haricot, lima and black-eyed beans. (Lucky I have more space than your little balcony garden. I would never be able to decide what not to plant!)

Here's a tip for collecting seeds in a hurry and catching any exploding bean pods ... Just cut the tops of the plants as the seeds begin drying and let the whole top fall into a paper bag. Same with the pods from your beans. Write the plant type on the outside of the paper bag (near the bottom not the top because you'll end up folding the bag when the seeds are dry and you've pulled out any unnecessary debris) and store the paper bag open while the plant dries out.

Because I have so many different types of herbs, fruits and vegetables growing in my garden, at certain times of the year I have lots of paper bags. I peg the open bags (generally a few bags to each peg) in places ranging from least annoying to most annoying to my husband, depending on available space. Least annoying is when they are pegged to a clothes drying rack I unfold and erect in the greenhouse or garden shed. Most annoying is when I come in from the garden late in the day and because I'm too tired to go to too much trouble I simply close the curtains and peg all my open paper bags laden with seed heads on the curtains from floor to ceiling. I love the look on my husband's face when he spots the curtains. :)


nifwlseirff profile image

nifwlseirff 3 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany Author

LongTimeMother - Thanks so much for your tips! Cutting the tops of the bean plants does make it quicker.

I can imagine what his face is like when he sees the curtains! Mine came home one day to chillies, herbs and drying seeds tied to everything possible - the wall heaters, kitchen implement racks, cupboard handles... He was not amused! With two new (big) kittens, these would become toys, so I've been limited to a small storage room outside the apartment - it will be difficult next harvest!

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    Kymberly Fergusson (nifwlseirff)676 Followers
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    Kymberly loves to dive into many hobbies - productive gardening, crafting, sewing, reading, everything Japanese. And she loves blue hair!



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