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How to grow soybeans – edamame beans in their pods. Getty Images

How to grow soybeans (edamame)

Find out how to grow soybeans or edamame, in our Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
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Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

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Do Sow in May

Do Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Harvest
Harvest

Do not Harvest in January

Do not Harvest in February

Do not Harvest in March

Do not Harvest in April

Do not Harvest in May

Do not Harvest in June

Do not Harvest in July

Do Harvest in August

Do Harvest in September

Do not Harvest in October

Do not Harvest in November

Do not Harvest in December

  • Plant size

    1.2m height

    45cm spread

  • Spacing

    15cm apart

    45cm between rows

Edamame or soybean is a versatile cropping plant, producing pods that can be steamed and then shelled for the tender fresh beans, or mature beans that can be dried to store for a long period before cooking. Edamame is the name given to the young beans while soybean refers to the mature bean.

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These beans have been grown and used for cooking for thousands of years in South-east Asia and are becoming increasingly popular in UK kitchens, too. High in protein, they can be steamed or boiled in their pods and added to dips, salads, side dishes, stews or casseroles. 

Soybean plants are frost-tender and need a long hot summer to crop well, so they are only suited to being grown outdoors in milder regions of the UK. Note this bean contains toxins and must be cooked before eating and shouldn’t be eaten raw.

How to grow soybeans

Grow soybeans from seed sown from mid spring to early summer, either starting seed indoors in pots or sowing directly where plants are to grow from late spring. Grow in a sunny sheltered site on good soil and keep watered so the soil doesn’t dry out. Harvest from late summer into autumn. Compost the plants at the end of the season.

Growing soybeans: jump links


Where to grow soybeans

Soy bean plants with soy bean pods
Soy bean plants with soy bean pods

This type of bean needs to be grown in warm areas and in full sun, on soil that is fertile and moisture retentive. Plants grow up to 1.2m high and are best grown in a site sheltered from wind.


Sowing soybeans indoors

From mid to late spring, sow seeds 5cm deep into individual 8cm pots or deep root trainer pots filled with moist potting compost. Place in a propagator, or cover with polythene and stand in a warm place, at a temperature of around 20°C. Once seedlings appear, move to a well-lit windowsill or a heated greenhouse and ensure the compost stays evenly moist. Harden off the seedlings to gradually acclimatise to the outdoors before planting out when all danger of frost is past. If cool weather delays planting out and seedlings have filled their pots with roots, transplant into larger (13cm) pots.

Sowing soybeans outdoors

Sowing soybeans in a drill outside
Sowing soybeans in a drill outside

Ideally, warm the soil before sowing seed direct, by placing cloches, fleece, or clear polythene over the ground for at least a couple of weeks. Sow from late spring to mid-summer, placing 2-3 seeds together, 5cm deep and 15cm apart, in rows 45cm apart. Once the seedlings have emerged, thin if necessary to leave one seedling, selecting the strongest and healthiest one to remain. If space permits, make several sowings over a couple of months so you can harvest over a long period.


Caring for soybeans

A regular supply of water is essential for pod and fruit-producing crops like edamame/soybean. During dry conditions, water thoroughly 2-3 times a week. Mulching the soil around the roots with well-rotted compost helps the soil retain moisture. Weed regularly as weeds would compete with the beans for water and nutrients.


Harvesting soybeans

Freshly harvested and cooked soybeans
Freshly harvested and cooked soybeans

Soybeans are ready to harvest around 12 weeks after sowing, in late summer or autumn. For edamame beans, pick when the pods are green with the shape of the beans is visible inside. Either shell the beans from the pods before cooking or cook the pods whole and pop the beans out afterwards. For soybeans, allow the pods to develop to produce large beans, then dry thoroughly in an airy spot under cover and shell beans from the pods before storing.


Growing soybeans: problem solving

Poor growth is commonly caused by low temperatures, so avoid sowing too early and protect young plants with fleece or cloches.

Small pods and beans are likely to be caused by lack of water. Ensure the crop is watered regularly during dry spells, and spread an organic mulch such as garden compost or chipped bark, to hold moisture in the soil.

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Slugs and snails can damage the seedlings, which are particularly susceptible when emerging from the soil. Surround the seedlings with a physical barrier, such as collars made from plastic bottles, protects them at this most vulnerable stage. Apply a wildlife-friendly slug and snail killer or a proprietary barrier.


Advice on buying soybeans

  • Make sure you buy soybeans from UK suppliers, as they’ll be adapted to growing in the British climate
  • Soy bean seeds are not widely available – only a few seed suppliers currently sell them
  • You may find plug plants available online in spring

Where to buy soybean seeds