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. “Everybody” acted like it was so simple, yet I didn’t even know where to start. After a few years of successful green beans, I now realize growing green beans IS simple, once you decide what kind to grow.
THAT was the question I had the hardest time finding an answer to.
If you’re planning on growing green beans, here are the basic decisions you’ll make. Once you’re done with that, you’ll be well on your way to poking your first seeds in the ground.
Question 1: Pole or Bush?
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 vertical support 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 grown up my okra, corn stalks, 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 and are planted in rows without the need for trellising.
Besides their growth habits, pole beans begin producing a couple of weeks later than bush beans, but they produce continually all summer. Bush beans can be harvested sooner and all of their beans come on at once. Pole beans tend to produce more beans in quantity than bush beans.
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 of bush beans, besides not needing a vertical support, is they are a good crop to plant, harvest, and pull up, leaving time to plant something else in its place. (This is called succession planting.) 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.
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Question 2: Which variety should I choose?
You’d think green beans are green beans, right? But there are several varieties, and you want to grow the best one. I’ve experimented with the three main varieties popular in our area: Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake, and Contender.
Kentucky Wonder was my best producer. However, if left on the vine too long, they develop strings, which are tough to eat. When snapping them, I always think I’m getting all the string, but usually some is left.
Blue Lake produces a little 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. I don’t recall if they developed strings quickly. I have heard of other gardeners who enjoy the Contender beans and that’s all they plant.
I prefer to plant open-pollinated (not hybrid) beans because at the end of the season, I let many of the pods dry out and I can save the seeds for next year.
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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