You’re planning your summer garden, and you know you want green beans. You may not know if you want to freeze them, can them, or simply grow enough to eat fresh. You just know you want them. They’re supposed to be one of the easiest crops to grow, so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?
When I began my garden, I chose green beans because everyone else was doing it. It seemed so simple, but I didn’t even know where to start. Specifically, I didn’t know what kind to grow with so many options available!
THAT was the question I had the hardest time finding an answer to.
If you’re planning on growing green beans, here are the two basic questions you’ll need to answer:
- Do you want to grow pole beans or bush beans?
- Which variety of green beans should you plant?
Once you’ve made these decisions, you’ll be well on your way to poking your first seeds in the ground.
Should You Grow Pole Beans or Bush Beans?
You can grow green beans in two ways: up — using some type of vertical support — or in rows.
Pole beans send out vines (Jack and the Beanstalk finally makes sense to me), where they climb up whatever they can find.
Though my husband built me a green bean trellis (after my shoddy attempt at tying bamboo together in the shape of a tepee collapsed), beans have also found their way up my okra, corn stalks, tomato cages, and even netting meant for peas. If it’s vertical, those babies will find their way up.
Bush beans do not send out vines. They produce a small, stocky plant. You plant them in rows and they do not need a trellis.
Difference Between Growing Pole Beans and Bush Beans
Besides their growth habits, pole beans begin producing a couple of weeks later than bush beans, but they produce continually all summer. You will harvest bush beans sooner and all of their beans come on at once. Pole beans tend to produce more beans in quantity than bush beans.
In my experience, pole beans will stop producing in the heat of the summer (and then begin again as the temperatures moderate). But bush beans do not have that problem, possibly because they begin bearing before the heat sets in.
I have grown both, and I prefer pole beans. Not only do they provide a heavy yield, but it’s easier to pick them, with most of them hanging at eye-level or higher. Because they grow up, they take up less garden space.
The advantage bush beans have, besides not needing a vertical support, is their flexibility in succession planting. You can plant, harvest, and pull up, leaving time to plant another crop in its place. They also leave behind less garden waste to clean up. Unless you’re letting pole beans climb up compostable twine (which I have done), they can be more labor-intensive to clean up at the end of the season.
Which Variety of Beans Should You Grow?
Once you decide whether to grow bush or pole beans, you will need to choose a variety. There are countless options to choose from, and you want to grow the best one for your climate.
Personally, I have grown Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake, Contender, Rattlesnake, Seychelles, and Scarlet Runner.
Kentucky Wonder was my best producer. However, when left on the vine too long, they developed strings, which were tough to eat. I gave up growing them because it seemed I never could keep up with harvesting them young enough before they grew tough.
Blue Lake is my go-to green bean, and although I grow the pole variety, it also comes in a bush bean. Blue lake beans produce a bit less than Kentucky Wonder, but their beans are more tender and less quick to develop strings. I also prefer the taste of Blue Lake. They are excellent when picked young.
I only planted Contender as a bush bean, and they were very prolific, long beans that produced a heavy yield — perfect for canning.
Rattlesnake beans were the prettiest bean I grew with unique markings and purple flowers, and they also produced earlier and longer in the heat. My entire family (even the kids!) loved the taste of the Rattlesnake beans, but unfortunately they didn’t produce as well as the Blue Lake in the one year I tried them. I may try them again, though! They’re too pretty and tasty
I did not have a good experience with Seychelles beans, but I only tried them one season. Since they received the coveted award of an All-American Selections winner in 2017, my bet is they had an off-year in my garden.
One other option is the beautiful Scarlet Runner Bean. I planted these in the fall since they prefer cooler weather, and I only planted them for their striking orange-red flowers, so I don’t have personal experience with eating them.
Green beans are one of my favorite crops to grow. They require little effort and are much fun to pick. My children usually beat me to the picking! Hopefully these tips will get you on your way to a plentiful green bean harvest as well.
What kind of green bean do you enjoy growing?
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