Garden Lifestyle

Pole Beans Versus Bush Beans

Am I starting them too early?

I can't grow enough pole beans. These are the bomb!   Photo by clkolhan under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Growing green beans has always been a pleasurable experience in our garden. We’ve grown them on bamboo poles to create tee pees for the kids. We’ve grown them up and over compost bins both to hide the chicken wire, as well as to make use of a structure that was already in place. At this moment, we have beans growing at the base of our cold frame that has newly planted summer lettuce. Our theory is that as the vines climb, they’ll help shade the lettuce and keep it from bolting as long as possible.

Yes, green beans have been good to us – that is, the pole or runner bean varieties. Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, and Scarlet Runner have been champions for many years in our gardens. As far as bush beans go; I’ve become completely disenchanted. Year after year, they start out lovely and we fall under the illusion that this year we have the right variety that’s sure to bring lots of tasty produce. But no matter the variety or year, they all sorely disappoint.


More on growing beans

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Plant Some Runner Beans

Grow Yard-Long Beans for a Colorful Change of Pace

How to Grow Fine, Tender Filet Beans

How to Grow Favas, the Cool-Season Bean

Growing Beans to Save for Seed

The only plant that’s disappointed me more is Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata). Now here’s a plant I’ve completely given up on. I can’t seem to grow those seeds to save my life here in Northern California. Which makes no sense at all because we can grow virtually anything here in Nor Cal, but I digress.

Am I destined to give up precious space in my veggie beds for plants that produce a mere handful of beans and then sit back and relax for the rest of the season? Am I starting them too early? Watering them too much? Too little? Not performing the right voo-doo ritual standing naked over them during a full moon? Because if that’s what it takes, I assure you, I’ve done far more for much less.

I realize that most gardeners will agree the runners produce not only the tastiest snap beans, but are the most prolific; producing harvest after harvest in the same season. Still have places in my garden that aren’t conducive to growing the pole varieties and I know someone out there must have the name of that elusive-but- pretty-damn-great bush bean variety.

So, I’m asking for your help. If any gardener out there has some great bush bean varieties they’d like to share with me, I’d sincerely appreciate it and will make a spot for them immediately. If all you have to offer is kinky Voo-Doo rituals, I’d like them, too.

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