Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques
Planting Other Beans
by National Gardening Association Editors
If you like bush beans, try growing these other members of the legume family.
Pole beans like to send their vines up poles, strings or wire, but they don't like chicken wire or fences with a lot of horizontal wires or small mesh. Horizontal wires cause the vines to wind around each other and choke.
A pole diameter of 1 to 2 inches is good, and poles with rough surfaces are better than smooth ones. A good height for a pole is 6 to 7 feet. A variety like 'Kentucky Wonder' can easily grow to 13 feet if you let it, but who wants to harvest from a stepladder. By using 7-foot poles, the vines will head back down, and all the harvest will be within easy reach.
Short poles are okay, too. If you use stakes that are 4 feet high, your beans will grow quickly to the top of the stakes and then fall back down. However, the ease of planting and care will probably outweigh the occasional nuisance of harvesting in dense foliage.
Many gardeners grow pole beans up sturdy tepees. Simply hitch the tops of three 9-foot wooden poles together, spread out the bottoms 3 to 4 feet apart from each other and shove each pole in the ground 4 to 5 inches deep for support.
Planting Pole Beans
Plant five to six seeds around each pole 6 to 8 inches away from it. Firm the seeds into the soil, cover them with an inch of soil, and firm the soil again. If it's dry, make sure the soil stays moist until the bean seedlings are up. Later, thin, leaving only the healthiest three or four plants per pole. With this system, one ounce of seed is sufficient for four to five tepees.
You can put up these tepees in the garden or leave them on the lawn, clearing an area of sod for the seeds and poles. Kids love to play in the tepees, but they also provide a good, shady place for a cool-weather crop like lettuce.
A slightly different technique is to plant pole beans "Indian style." Indians planted corn and beans together using the cornstalks as poles. If you try this, plant the beans on the sunny, southern side of the cornfield on the outer rows. Plant one bean at every third stalk or so when the corn is 10 to 12 inches high. The beans don't get as much sunlight when grown this way, but they'll still produce. If you're growing sunflowers, they make good bean poles, too. In the beginning you may have to aim the tendrils of the vines toward the poles, strings or cornstalks. Once the vines get hooked, though, they'll do the rest of the climbing themselves.