Discover the Secrets of Growing Vertical Pole Beans

Are you torn between growing bush beans close to the ground or experimenting with the vertical beauty of pole beans? Let us introduce you to the world of pole beans, where you can save space and add visual interest to your garden. These climbing beans not only come in a variety of stunning colors and forms but also offer a bountiful harvest.

Pole beans and bush beans are the two main groups of common beans. While bush beans form compact bushes, pole beans develop impressive vines that can reach heights of 7-10 feet. As the name suggests, pole beans require physical support, making them an excellent choice for gardeners with limited space or unique landscapes. In fact, they can produce two to three times more than bush beans in the same area!

Not only are pole beans visually appealing, but they are also packed with nutrition. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Growing your own pole beans is a simple and rewarding experience that can be enjoyed anywhere.

Quick Care Guide

If you’re new to growing pole beans, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started:

A delicious looking harvest of beans and peppers
A delicious looking harvest of beans and peppers. Image source

Common Name Scientific Name Days to Harvest Light Water Soil Fertilizer Pests Diseases

Recommended Pole Bean Varieties

Now, let’s explore some of the best varieties of pole beans that you can grow:

Pole Beans

Egyptian kidney beans producing prolifically
Egyptian kidney beans producing prolifically. Image source

Pole beans and bush beans belong to the same family, but pole beans require trellises or supports to guide their upward growth. You’ll be amazed by the wide array of gorgeous varieties available. From broad and flat to straight and curved, lavender-pink to variegated striped, you can choose the perfect pole bean for your garden. Here are some popular varieties to consider:

  • Kentucky Wonder: An heirloom, brown-seeded bean with pods that can be eaten fresh or dried for shell beans. Harvest in 65 days.
  • Blue Lake: Dark green pods measuring 6 inches in length with white seeds. Ready for harvest in 60 days.
  • Blauhilde: Purple pods measuring 10 inches in length form from rose-purple flowers. Harvest in 65 days.
  • Musica: Flat, bright green pods measuring 8 inches in length with white seeds. Perfect for fresh consumption. Ready for harvest in 67 days.
  • Speckled Calico: Cream-colored beans with irregular red stripes. Can be used fresh or dried. Harvest in 84 days.
  • Gold Nectar: Semi-flat, straight yellow pods that measure 9 inches in length. Ready for harvest in 70 days.

Runner and Half Runner Beans

Although runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and half runner beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are different from pole beans, they all possess excellent climbing abilities. Runner beans seem to “run” up toward the top of a trellis, while half-runner beans combine the characteristics of both bush and pole beans. They grow to a more manageable height of about 5 feet, making trellising, vine maintenance, and harvesting a breeze. Here are some varieties to consider:

  • Scarlet Emperor: Scarlet blossoms produce black and mauve speckled seeds, primarily used as shell beans. Ready for harvest in 65 days.
  • Painted Lady Improved: Red and pink bi-colored blossoms produce black and tan speckled seeds, ideal for drying. Harvest in 68 days.
  • Hidatsa Red Indian Half-runner: Rose-red beans suitable for dry use. Ready for harvest in 85 days.
  • Mountaineer White Half-runner: Slender green pods with white seeds, perfect for fresh consumption. Harvest in 57 days.
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Planting Pole Beans

The Three Sisters are the three main agricultural crops of some Native American groups in North America: squash, maize, and climbing beans
The Three Sisters: squash, maize, and climbing beans. Image source

So, you’re ready to dive into the wonderful world of pole beans? Here’s what you need to know about planting them:

Pole bean seeds are larger than most, making them easy to handle and plant. You don’t need to worry about thinning the sprouts either. They are excellent at maximizing garden space, and with a few simple rules, you’ll have success in no time. Here are some tips for planning and planting pole beans:

  • Wait until the soil temperatures reach at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting pole bean seeds. Although they can tolerate cooler temperatures, germination will take longer in colder soils. Ideally, soil temperatures between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit will yield germination in about 8-10 days.
  • Directly sow the bean seeds in your garden as they do not transplant well. Most pole bean varieties will be ready for their first harvest between 60 and 70 days after planting. Multiple harvests can be expected throughout the season.
  • When choosing a location for your trellis, make sure it doesn’t shade nearby plants that require full sun. Consider planting trellises and tall-growing plants near the north side of your garden. It’s best to install the trellis before seeding to avoid damaging the plant roots later.
  • The planting method depends on the type of trellis you choose. If you’re using a teepee or single-pole support, plant 4 to 6 seeds at the base of each pole, about 1 inch deep in mounded soil. For a flat, linear trellis, plant seeds 1 inch deep and 3 inches apart in a row along the bottom of the trellis. If you prefer planting in rows, sow the seeds 6 inches apart in rows that are 24 to 36 inches apart.

Caring for Pole Beans

Once your pole beans have taken root and started climbing, they require minimal care. Here are some tips for taking care of your pole beans:

Light and Temperature

Pole beans grow best in full sun, although they can tolerate partial shade to some extent. However, expect a smaller yield in shadier conditions. Ensure a minimum of 60°F temperatures for healthy growth. If you live in an area with very hot summers, choose heat-tolerant varieties.

Water and Humidity

Shallow-rooted pole beans require at least 1 inch of water per week. Consistent moisture is crucial, especially during flowering and fruiting stages. Avoid soaking the leaves while watering, as beans are sensitive to moisture and can be susceptible to blights and molds.

If you’re growing pole beans in a greenhouse, keep the ambient humidity below 60%. Higher humidity levels can make pole beans more vulnerable to water and air-borne diseases.

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Soil

Pole beans thrive in well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Sandy loam is the best type of soil, while clay soils can limit pod production. Mulching the plants with compost or shredded leaves helps retain soil moisture and suppress weed growth.

Fertilizing Pole Beans

Beans are considered “light feeders,” and fertilizing at planting time should be sufficient for their nutritional needs. Incorporating aged manure into the soil before planting is an excellent fertilizer choice. Spread the manure across the planting area at a depth of about 3 inches and work it into the soil. Once your pole beans reach about 4 inches tall, side-dress them with more aged manure.

Beans are also nitrogen fixers, meaning they absorb nitrogen from the air and release it into the soil. Therefore, avoid using commercial fertilizers with high nitrogen content on your bean plants. Look for a fertilizer with a low nitrogen to phosphorus and potassium ratio, such as 5-10-10.

Pruning and Training Pole Beans

Pole beans require sturdy support to thrive. There are many trellising options available. You can purchase pre-made trellises or get creative with recycled materials. Bamboo canes, branches, wire fencing, steel rebar, netting, string, or wire can all be used to build structures for your climbing vines.

You can even incorporate natural options by using corn stalks or giant sunflowers as supports. Growing corn and squash alongside your beans creates a traditional trio known as the “Three Sisters.” The corn provides support for the beans, while the squash shades the ground and suppresses weed growth.

Harvesting and Storing

Now comes the exciting part—harvesting your pole beans! Here’s how to maximize your harvest and store your beans:

Harvesting Pole Beans

The harvesting time depends on your desired use for the beans. For snap beans, harvest the pods while they are young and before the seeds begin to bulge. For fresh shell beans, wait until the pods begin to dry but the seeds are still plump and glossy. And if you’re planning to harvest dry beans, wait until the leaves have turned brown or fallen to the ground. Test a couple of seeds by biting them; if they barely dent, they are ready. The pods should be completely dry.

Storing Pole Beans

Freshly shelled or snap beans can be blanched and frozen, canned, or pickled for later use. Completely dried beans should be stored in sealed containers away from heat and light. Mason jars are perfect for storing dried beans.

Troubleshooting

While growing pole beans is generally easy, they can be susceptible to diseases and pests. Here are some common issues and how to address them:

Growing Problems

Low sun exposure or heavy soil can result in reduced yields. Prepare the soil by adding organic matter and grit to support bean growth and improve drainage.

Pests

Mexican bean beetles are a common pest that can damage bean plants. Handpicking them can help control the population, but for severe infestations, neem oil spray or diatomaceous earth may be necessary.

Aphids and spider mites can also harm bean plants by piercing plant cells and feeding on the juices. Neem oil is an effective control method, and interplanting sweet alyssum can attract aphid predators.

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Leafhoppers feed by puncturing bean leaves and sucking the plant juices. Control leafhoppers by using neem oil spray or diatomaceous earth.

Diseases

Bacterial blights can develop when the bean leaves are constantly wet or damp. To prevent this, ensure airflow around your plants, water close to the ground, and avoid spraying the foliage.

Bean common mosaic virus causes discolored leaves with mosaic patterns of light and dark green. Aphids and leafhoppers spread this virus. Unfortunately, there is no treatment once your plants are infected, so it’s important to inspect the leaves regularly and control aphids and leafhoppers as soon as possible.

White mold, caused by fungus, appears as fluffy, white mold. It thrives in cool, wet weather. Commercial fungicides can be used for control, but prevention is key. Encourage airflow to reduce moisture on the leaves and soil surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some common questions about growing pole beans:

Q: What are the best pole beans to grow?
A: Some popular varieties include Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, and Scarlet Runner.

Q: How do you start pole bean seeds?
A: Pole beans do not like to be started indoors and then transplanted. Directly sow the seeds in the garden when the soil temperature reaches at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Q: In what temperature do pole beans grow best?
A: Pole bean germination takes approximately 8-10 days in adequately warm soil. Ideal soil temperature is 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Pole beans grow best when the daytime air temperature is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Q: How long does it take for pole beans to produce?
A: Most pole beans mature in 65-75 days.

Q: Are pole beans the same as green beans?
A: Pole beans are a category that includes green beans, but they can also be bush beans. It depends on the cultivar.

Q: What are pole beans used for?
A: Pole beans can be used for various culinary purposes. Enjoy them fresh, canned, or freeze them for later. You can also save dry beans for planting in the next season.

Q: Which is better, pole beans or bush beans?
A: The choice between pole beans and bush beans depends on your climate and personal preference. Pole beans are ideal for cooler summers, while bush beans thrive in hotter regions. Some Asian pole bean varieties perform well in hot summers.

Q: What can be used for supporting pole beans?
A: There are numerous ways to support your pole beans. Bamboo stakes, sticks, trellises, metal poles, or even tomato cages can help your beans climb and flourish.

So, are you ready to embark on your pole bean gardening adventure? With their space-saving beauty, delicious taste, and nutritional benefits, pole beans are a fantastic addition to any garden. Get creative with your trellis designs, experiment with different pole bean varieties, and enjoy the bountiful harvest that awaits you. For more information and resources, check out Ames Farm Center. Happy gardening! Ames Farm Center