Bush or Pole?

Excuse me?

Beans. I’m talking about beans.

Beans are a great addition to your garden. They fix nitrogen in the soil, which I am told is a good thing, and can provide some much needed shade for your more delicate crops, like lettuce or spinach. According to West Coast Seeds, there are over 19,000 types of beans. That’s a lot! In this post, I’m going to focus on the good ol’ fashioned green (or purple, or yellow) bean and won’t discuss beans for drying, such as black or kidney beans.

bush beans

Bush Beans vs. Pole Beans

Bush beans grow lower to the ground, about 2′, compared to the pole variety which can grow taller than 6′. Pole beans, like the name suggests, require a support structure. The advantage with the pole variety is that you can use vertical space to grow a lot of beans. On the other hand, the bush beans spend less time growing upwards, so the plants start producing sooner.

This year I planted bush beans in my garden. Not because I prefer them, but because I didn’t really pay attention to the package when I, a) purchased them and, b) planted them. Imagine my surprise when the bean plants tapped out and stopped growing not even a third of the way up my make-shift butcher’s twine and bamboo stick support system. I was so proud of that ugly thing too. Once I realized that the plants were intended to be small (you know, about the size of a bush) and I hadn’t actually messed them up, I planted another round. We were getting about a handful or two beans per week, which was fine, but not exactly the abundant harvest I had been hoping for. The second planting are just starting to produce there first set of flowers now, so the beans will follow shortly. I think next year I will plant pole beans. I never had the chance to test my construction skills.

Growing Tips

  • Beans like well-drained, warm soil. Be sure to wait until the soil warms up (about mid-May) to sow.
  • Avoid planting beans near onions, garlic, leeks, or scallions.
  • Continuously harvesting the beans will ensure the plant keeps producing.
  • When the plant is finished producing, let it die and work the roots into your soil.

What to do with all those Beans

  • Snack on them raw
  • Make kimchi with them
  • Add them to a stir fry
  • Add them to a salad
  • Steam them and serve as a side with your favorite omelet
  • Pickle them (they are great for Caesars!)

Do you grow your own beans?  How do you like to use them?

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