Pole Bean Advantages • Growing Pole Beans Under Cover • Flat Pod • Round Pod • Yard-Long • Johnny's Recommended Pole Bean Varieties
Rounds. If you like long slender beans, try our customer favorite, Fortex, which can be harvested at 7" as a filet bean, or allowed to grow up to 11" and still remain stringless and tender.
Yard-longs. Originating in Asia, yard-long beans are a group of heat-loving beans from a different genus and species (Vigna unguiculata) from bush or lima beans. These beans really need to be cooked to taste good. Try sweet and graceful Gita (above left), or eye-catching Red Noodle (above right).
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Both home gardeners and commercial growers stand to benefit from growing pole beans. Here are some advantages to these vining types:
- Pole bean flavor is far better than even the best bush beans — they're sweeter and starchier.
- Pole beans have a longer harvest window.
- Pole beans can be harvested upright — giving your back a break!
The initial time and cost investment needed to grow pole beans is higher than it is for bush beans, as one needs to set up a trellis system.
Home gardeners can use a teepee system, with crops such as lettuce, parsley, or radishes started in the center prior to planting the beans.
Pole beans can be also be companioned with the traditional bean "sisters," corn and squash, or another cucurbit such as cucumbers. You can plant three bean seeds or so at the base of a corn plant when the cornstalk is about a foot high, and the beans will climb the corn. Intercropping in the field is another option, both for the commercial and home gardener. Depending on your location and the size of your rows or plots, you will need to work out which specific varieties and planting times work best for your system.
With Phil Foster, of Pinnacle Ranch Organics, & John Bauer, Johnny's Territory Sales Rep
Of course, this is California — in New England, in contrast, one might plant first in early April in a closed-up tunnel (keeping Agro-fabric handy for frost-blanketing if needed), and succession-plant all summer long, with a final fall planting in August, allowing for harvest up into November.
Phil Foster of Pinnacle Organic Ranch is a leading example for commercial pole bean production. He has developed quite a following for his beans. Our California territory sales representative, John Bauer recently paid Phil a visit, and together they gave us the lowdown for pole bean success. Here is John's write-up, in 6 easy-to-follow steps.
Phil grows his Northeaster "under cover" in the early season, just to give the crop some extra heat. (Pole beans are commonly grown in tunnels in Europe, as well.) In the warmer season, he grows them in the open field, saving the tunnels for crops such as tomatoes.
(Note: Steps #1–3 are optional — for good success…)
- Step #1: Soak seed for 30–45 minutes in slightly warm water.
- Step #2: Place drained seed in a carton with warm, wet towel lining bottom of box. Spread seed out about 2" deep in bottom of box. Cover with another warm, wet towel. A drop light hung in top of box overnight helps temps in box stay in the 80's for optimum priming of the germination (~27–32°C).
- Step #3: Remove seed from priming box and treat with inoculant while seed is still damp. Seed will be swelled nicely, but no radical emerging yet. The germination process has been started.
- Step #4: Cut 1"-deep furrows between 60–80" apart. Plant 8–10 seeds/ft, which is spacing the seeds approximate 1.5" apart, no deeper than 1".
(Option B: Use plastic, and jab-plant 3 seeds every 8" through the plastic. This method, which is fast and gives a good stand, is how we plant at the Research Farm in Albion, Maine — though, at home, Johnny's bean experts favor Phil's method!)
- Step #5: Install steel or wood fence posts between 10–12' apart. When bean plants are 6" tall, start running twine down one side of row, wrapping around each post to end of row, and come back up other side the same way. Repeat as beans grow taller at 12" intervals up the posts. Remember, a close mechanical and /or tractor cultivation before installing posts will help with weed control later. (This is for bare ground production; see our line of mulches for plastic or bio-mulch options.)
- Step #6: Beans respond very well to drip irrigation to bring them up in soils with temperatures between 59–80°F (15–27°C). Drip irrigation saves water and is very effective way to prevent foliar diseases in your pole beans. Deep-cycle irrigation is preferable, as short, numerous irrigations promote soil disease on stems and roots as in pithium/damping-off fungi.
Growing pole beans can be a very satisfying occupation, as the plant can yield over a fairly long harvest period. Still, to get a nice succession and continuous supply, plant a new block every 2 weeks through season.
Tunnel production is very effective, as you can start much earlier and go very late into fall. In rainy climates, you keep the vines dry and minimize plant diseases.
Recommended Pole Bean Varieties
I and many of my grower friends grow the flat-pod organic Northeaster, although I've seen the round filet beans like Fortex (green), Carminat (purple), and Monte Gusto (yellow) do very well and develop a great following in the markets. Try them all, and you decide which does best for your farm or garden.
Have fun and good luck!
— John Bauer, Rep for Johnny's Selected Seeds in California
To learn more, see High Tunnel Green Bean Production, from Utah State University Extension »