How to Grow Edamame (Soybeans)

How to Grow EdamameIf you're looking for a frugal, easy way to make your garden urban chic, try growing edamame. Edamame (Glycine max / Faboideae) are young, green soybeans popular in Asian cooking which are as easy to grow as good ol' bush beans and even easier to prepare. Just boil, salt and snack!

How to Grow Edamame: Planting Tips

How to Grow EdamameWhile growing edamame is by no means hard (and even newbie gardeners are usually able to produce a steady crop their first growing season), there are a few tips you can follow to practically guarantee big bushes bursting with soybeans:

  • Grow edamame in full sun, preferably in a spot where they will not shade other plants.
  • Plant edamame seeds when soil is at least 55° F. The cooler the soil, the longer edamame seeds take to germinate. And the cooler it is, the less likely seeds are to germinate at all.
  • Plant soybean seeds in loose, loamy, well-draining soil, and water moderately. Overwatering can cause seeds to rot before and during germination.
  • If desired, use an inoculant (specific to soybeans) to help roots fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. (This is one of the reasons edamame — and legumes in general — are such great garden crops: They fertilize your soil while growing.)
  • To ensure a steady crop of edamame throughout your growing season, stagger your planting a bit (by two weeks or so). This way, when the time is right, you can harvest your beans in passes.

Tips for Growing Edamame

Growing EdamameDue to both its natural fecundity and thousands of years of cultivation by farmers around the world, it doesn't take much to learn how to grow edamame. In fact, get those suckers into the right soil and sun conditions and you'll grow something. (And, to be honest, if the birds "help" you replant your soybean seeds like they help me, you'll probably find a few unexpected edamame plants wandering throughout your garden next year too.) If, however, this is your first time growing edamame or your soybeans aren't living up to your expectations, here are a few suggestions:

  • If your edamame plants are stringy and/or pods are small, try spacing your plants further apart. Crowded plants are often leggy and produce stunted pods.
  • If your soil is under fertilized or your soybean plants show signs of deficiency (like unusually yellow leaves before maturation), use a heavy layer of organic mulch and/or fertilize when the plants start flowering.
  • Pick edamame beans in passes (as all beans will mature on a plant at once), when the pods are 80% to 90% mature. (This maximizes nutritional value and flavor).
  • To prevent powdery mildew, avoid watering leaves (water at the base instead) and make sure that plants have adequate spacing for air circulation. And, like many green legumes, potential garden pests include cucumber beetles, bean weevils and Mexican bean beetles.
  • Experiment! There are a LOT of varieties of soybeans out there, and every edamame gardener has their favorite supplier and seed. Play and see what cultivars you like best.

Looking for more in-depth information on how to grow edamame (like preferred soil pH, planting depths and germination rates)? Check out the Gardening Guides page for tips on growing edamame and other magical fruits.

Images thanks to Will Merydith,  Charles Haynesat and Ev0luti0nary!