Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bush and Pole Beans

(above image from Paul Parent Garden Club)

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Bush and Pole Beans (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

"If I were to give you a plate with two piles of string beans--the first a pile of fresh picked beans from your garden and the second from a can, which pile of string beans would you eat? I think that most of you would choose the fresh picked beans, so why not consider growing them in your garden this year? Beans are easy to grow, taste delicious and are good for you to boot. Let us begin with the bush bean, as it requires less room, less work and is great for beginners. Bush beans are called determinate because they only grow to a certain height, flower, make fruit and stop growing. You pick those tasty beans and throw the plant on your compost pile--the crop is finished. For a couple of weeks you have a great harvest and it is over, so if you like bush beans, plant only a few feet of rows now, skip a week or two and then plant another section of beans. I plant May 1, May 15, May 30 and June 15 and June 30. This gives me fresh beans until mid to late September. (If you have the space in your garden, this is great advice for consistent bean yield. The May 1 planting could work this year in Skillin's Country but some years that is probably a little too early!)

Beans will not germinate well if the soil is cold, and you are not doing them a favor. Cold soil will slow down the germination, making the row have many skips where the seed did not germinate. Also if the soil is cold you have a better chance of disease developing on the seedlings, and your production will be lower. Bush beans love full sun and a well-drained soil that contains compost, peat moss, or animal manure. Beans are a unique plant as they have the capability of making their own Nitrogen fertilizer from a bacteria nodule that lives on its roots. The bean is a member of the legume family, like peas.

When you purchase your bean seeds at the garden center ask for bean inoculate powder. Place the bean seeds in a bag with a bit of inoculate powder and shake until the bean seeds are coated with the black powder and then plant. Using this bean inoculate will more than double the production of your bean crop! Plant beans 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart, rows should be 3 feet apart. Starting the seed indoors for a jump on the season is not recommended, so plant directly in the garden when the soil is 60 degrees.

Unlike the bush type, pole beans need support to grow on for the best crop. This vine plant is indeterminate and keeps growing all season long, but without support, it will not produce any beans. Build a trellis with string or netting for them to grow on 6 to 8 feet tall. You can also use a tall pole with strings running down the pole from the top to the ground like a pyramid to grow on. Anchor the string to the ground with stakes and the beans will grow by wrapping around the string or netting and will climb to the top easily. Plant the seeds in groups of 4 to 6 seeds at every string at the base of the pole or if using netting, every 3 to 4 inches apart along the netting. Pole beans are the king of production and produce more beans per plant than the bush type. Pole beans are sweeter, tenderer and I think better tasting. Pole beans tend to stay tender on the vine longer than the bush. Pole beans freeze very well and keep better than the bush type in the freezer.

Water the bean plants regularly and keep the soil moist (never wet though, or disease could be a problem). Avoid overhead watering with a sprinkler if possible. Fertilize with organic fertilizer like Garden Tone by Espoma every 4 weeks or use Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Food every 2 weeks. Keep beans away from onions, beets, radishes and the cabbage family. Plant beans in a different part of the garden each year for the best crop. Pick when beans are young and the seed has not developed in the pod yet. Enjoy!"

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
May 2, 1010

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