Beans, one of the oldest domesticated crops, are a fantastically versatile, easy to grow, and can be highly productive in small spaces. Some beans are eaten fresh in their shell (your everyday snap bean), and some are removed from their shells and dried for long-term storage (shelling beans). Despite the difference in how we eat them, most beans are closely related and have similar growth habits. In our Seattle gardens, we tend to only plant the snap bean type because the shelling beans usually require a longer growing season.
Everyday snap beans can be green, yellow, red, purple, and striped! They come in bush and pole verities, which refers to the plants growth habit:
Bush beans: These plants don’t need a trellis. They are short and generally set all of their fruit during a short period of about 1-2 weeks.
Pole Beans:These are plants that like to climb and therefore require a trellis. Pole beans can grow over 6 feet in a season, and generally set fruit over several months.
There are advantages to both types of bean. If, lets say, you would like to pickle a whole bunch of beans; bush beans would be the perfect choice. If you would prefer to have beans with dinner a few times a week all summer, pole beans are the best choice. If you have plenty of space, plant both (see picture top left)!
One must also consider location when choosing what type of bean to plant. Pole beans require a tall trellis so you must be able to place the trellis in a spot where it will not shade out other plants in the garden. If you have wood-framed raised beds, plant your bush beans along the edge of the bed. As they grow, let the bean plants cascade over the side of the bed. This is great way to utilize space, looks great, and makes harvesting really easy!
We love pole beans for the elegant vertical structure their trellis adds to the garden. If you are thinking about planting pole beans, but aren’t sure how you are going to trellis them, we recommend making a simple tripod trellis out of bamboo poles. Here is how!