If you’re like me, and most other folks, space is often at a premium in the garden. I am always trying to find room for one more thing to grow, and I know I’m not the only one that struggles with that issue. One popular way to more effectively utilize that limited space is to go vertical with vining plants like beans. I’ve been growing various types of pole beans for quite a few years, and they are a good way to maximize your growing space while you also increase your yields.
There are several advantages to growing pole beans. For one thing, they typically produce two to three times as many beans per plant compared to bush beans. They also tend to produce those beans over a longer period of time, which makes them great for having lots of fresh beans to eat. And while taste is always subjective, many people think that pole beans taste better than the bush varieties.
There are certainly many different kinds of vining beans out there, including numerous heirloom varieties that have been handed down from generation to generation. Another added benefit I like is that the pole beans are produced higher off the ground, so they don’t require bending or stooping down to harvest them. And since the beans and vines are not coming in contact with the ground, you usually have fewer issues with diseases and spoilage.
One thing for sure, the vining varieties need some kind of sturdy support. It can be as simple as wooden or metal stakes, or a little more elaborate setup like bamboo poles sunk in the ground and lashed together at the top to form a teepee. Since I grow a lot of pole beans every year, I like to put up a trellis using a mesh material like Trellinet or Hortonova. These lightweight materials are UV resistant, and with a little care they can be reused for more than one season. For the last two growing seasons I have used the Hortonova material, which has a 6″ by 7″ opening which allows ample access at harvest time. You can read more about how I put up the trellis here: Trellising the Pole Beans.
The actual planting and growing of pole beans is pretty much the same as for bush beans. If you’re new to growing beans, Cornell University has a Growing Guide that explains all the details. And you can check out their Pole Bean Varieties for information and independent reviews from gardeners all over. This year I am growing the snap beans Fortex, Musica, and Gold Marie, and the dual-purpose beans Cherokee Trail of Tears and Rattlesnake which can be harvested either at the green snap stage or allowed to grow to maturity and harvested as shell beans. My other pole bean for 2014 is Good Mother Stallard, an heirloom shell bean with maroon colored beans mottled with white and a great meaty and rich flavor.
If you’ve never tried growing pole beans, you might consider giving them a try in your garden. While it may take a little bit of time initially to set up the support system, the payoff will come at harvest time with lots of tasty beans.