Bush or snap beans are by far the most popular homegrown beans. They're easy to plant, grow well even in poor soil and furnish a tasty harvest in only seven or eight weeks. They used to be called "string" beans because of the fibrous string that ran the length of the pods.
Most of the varieties now grown in home gardens are stringless. They're called "snap" beans because when they're fresh, they snap in pieces easily. Snap beans are also referred to as "bush" or "pole" because the plants are either bushy or they grow up poles.
Snap beans are very productive. You can expect about 15 pounds of bush beans from a narrow, single 30-foot-long row or 40 to 50 pounds from a 30-foot-long rake-width row.
Good Bush Varieties
There are two basic types of snap beans: green-podded and yellow-podded or wax beans, and they come in different shapes: long, short, flat, round, broad. There are more green bean varieties than yellow ones. For green snap beans, 'Provider', 'Tendercrop' and 'Blue Lake' are widespread favorites. For yellow ones, 'Goldcrop Wax' and 'Improved Golden Wax' are good varieties to try.
You'll also discover purple-podded snap beans. A good one is 'Royal Purple Burgundy'. The purple pods are flavorful, and turn green when cooked.
Southern gardeners sometimes grow a different type of bush snap bean, called "half-runners." One reliable variety is the 'White Half-Runner' that matures in about 60 days.
Growing Vertical with Pole Beans
Pole bean vines twirl around all kinds of supports - strings, poles and fences - and they'll climb as high as 10 to 15 feet if you let them.
City gardeners and other people with smaller plots love pole beans because they can have a long harvest of beans using very little space. A lot of pole bean fans also grow them because they think they taste "beanier."
Southern gardeners prize pole beans because with their long season they can have a really long harvest from just one planting. In the North, you can expect a two- to three-week-long harvest from your pole beans.
Pole bean plants dry off fast after a rain or sprinkling because they grow straight up where the air can dry them. Therefore, bean diseases, which thrive in humid conditions and spread easily when leaves are wet, are kept at bay.
Pole vs Bush Beans
Some folks prefer growing bush beans to pole beans because although they take up more space, they require less work planting, staking, weeding and watering. Bush beans also produce most of the crop all at once, which is great for freezing. But pole beans are beautiful and bountiful, and you don't have to bend over to reap your harvest.
Although they mature later than bush beans, most of the pole bean varieties are really prolific. They only bear small amounts each day, though, so they're best for small families or those not interested in preserving their beans. As long as you keep them harvested, however, pole beans will keep bearing.