How to Grow Soybeans

User Reviewed Soybeans are an edible legume that are very nutritious, as they are high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals. Soybeans are also very versatile, as they can be cooked, fermented, dried, and turned into products like milk, flour, tofu, and more. Soy is a huge crop for many commercial farmers, but it can also be grown in your own backyard as long as you get a good three to five months of warm weather.

Planting the Seeds

  • How to Grow Soybeans

    Pick the right soil.Choosing the right soil for your soy plants has many advantages, including that there will be fewer weeds, less erosion, and the right balance of nutrients and pH in the soil. This will produce healthier plants with better yields.
    • The best type of soil for soybeans is well-draining loam that isn't packed too tightly.[1]
    • If you're working with soil that has a high clay content, you can make it more suitable for growing soy by mixing it with peat moss, sand, or mulch.
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Plant at the right time.Soybean plants will generally produce the highest yields when the beans are planted in May, but the soil temperature is something you have to take into consideration as well.
    • The ideal time to plan soybeans is two to three weeks after the last frost, and when the soil warms to about 60 F (15.5 C).[2]
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Prepare the seedbed.Soy plants need a good balance of nutrients in the soil to grow properly. If there are too many or too few nutrients, the plants won’t grow properly. Therefore, it’s important to add a fertilizer to the soil if the area hasn’t been enriched in recent years.
    • For soil that hasn’t been enriched recently, add aged manure or compost to the soil to add more nutrients to the seedbed before planting.[3]
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Inoculate the seed.One particular nutrient that soy plants require a lot of is nitrogen. The best way to ensure that they get what they need is to inoculate the beans with Bradyrhizobium japonicum, which is a nitrogen-fixing soil bacterium.[4]
    • To inoculate the beans, place the beans in a bucket and sprinkle them with the bacterium. Use a spade or small shovel to mix the beans and coat each one.
    • Keep the seeds out of direct sunlight and plant them within 24 hours of inoculation.
    • You can purchase Bradyrhizobium japonicum through catalogues, online, or in some gardening and farm supply stores.
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Plant the seeds.Sow the soybeans 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) deep into the soil, and space the beans about 3 inches (7.6 cm) apart. Plant the beans in rows that are about 30 inches (76 cm) apart.[5]
    • Water the beans once they’ve been planted, but only until the soil is moist. Do not overwater newly planted beans, otherwise they may crack.

Cultivating the Plants

  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Keep rabbits away.Rabbits love soybean shoots, and will devastate your crop if you don’t protect the growing plants. To protect your crop from rabbits, put a fence around the perimeter of your garden.[6]
    • You can make a simple fence by driving a few stakes into the ground around the garden and attaching chicken wire to them.
    • You can also purchase premade panels of garden fencing.
    • Another method is to plant metal rings throughout the garden bed and cover them with horticultural fleece.
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Weed the area regularly.Soybeans do not like to compete with weeds, and will quickly be choked out if there are lots of weeds growing in the same garden. Weed the garden bed often and pull out weeds with a spade or by hand.
    • Once the plants establish themselves and get larger, you don’t have to worry about weeding so much, because the soy plants will choke out the weeds on their own.[7]
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Water.Soybeans typically only need additional water during three stages: when they are first growing and before they erupt from the soil, when they are developing pods, and when they're flowering.
    • During these periods, make sure to water the plants frequently enough to keep the soil moist.[8]

Harvesting Soybeans

  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Harvest the pods.Soybeans start to mature in September, and are ready for harvest when the pods are green and the seeds become plump and fully grown.[9]Be sure to harvest the beans before the pods turn yellow. To harvest, simply pick the entire pod off the plant.
    • When the seeds are ready, the pods will be between two and three inches (five to eight cm) long.
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Blanch and shock the pods.Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Fill another large pot halfway with water and fill the rest with ice. When the water comes to a boil, put the full pods into the water and boil them for five minutes. Then, remove them from the hot water with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath for five minutes.
    • Once the pods have cooled, remove them from the cold water and place them on a clean towel.
    • It’s important to blanch and shock the beans because you cannot properly digest raw soybeans.[10]
    • Blanching also makes it much easier to remove the beans from the pods.
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Remove the beans from the pods.Take a cooled pod in your hands and gently pinch both ends. As you squeeze, the seams of the pod will open and the beans will pop out. Place the beans in a bowl and repeat until you’ve removed all the beans.
    • Be careful when you're squeezing the pod, because the beans will shoot out!
    • Compost the hulls. Soybean hulls contain a lot of nutrients, and you can reclaim them by composting the hulls and putting the nutrients back into the soil.[12]
  • How to Grow Soybeans
    Use and store the beans.Once the soybeans have cooled, you can eat them immediately, use them in your favorite recipes, or store them for later use. The soybeans will keep in the fridge for about a week, or for storage up to a year, you can process them through:[13]
    • Freezing
    • Canning
    • Drying