Pole Beans Versus Bush Beans

comments (18) July 22nd, 2009

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ChrisMcLaughlin Chris McLaughlin, contributor
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I cant grow enough pole beans. These are the bomb!
Photo by clkolhan under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Oh sure, bush beans start out looking promising - only to sorely disappoint in the end.
Photo by gd1cker under the Creative Commons License 2.0.
Heres some of that stupid Babys Breath I cant seem to grow.
Photo by c_chan808 under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0
I cant grow enough pole beans. These are the bomb!
Photo by clkolhan under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.Click To Enlarge

I can't grow enough pole beans. These are the bomb!


Photo by clkolhan under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Growing green beans has always been a pleasurable experience in our garden. We've grown them on bamboo poles to create tee pees for the kids. We've grown them up and over compost bins both to hide the chicken wire, as well as to make use of a structure that was already in place. At this moment, we have beans growing at the base of our cold frame that has newly planted summer lettuce. Our theory is that as the vines climb, they'll help shade the lettuce and keep it from bolting as long as possible.

Yes, green beans have been good to us - that is, the pole or runner bean varieties. Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, and Scarlet Runner have been champions for many years in our gardens. As far as bush beans go; I've become completely disenchanted. Year after year, they start out lovely and we fall under the illusion that this year we have the right variety that's sure to bring lots of tasty produce. But no matter the variety or year, they all sorely disappoint.


More on growing beans

Pole Beans

Plant Some Runner Beans

Grow Yard-Long Beans for a Colorful Change of Pace

How to Grow Fine, Tender Filet Beans

How to Grow Favas, the Cool-Season Bean

Growing Beans to Save for Seed

The only plant that's disappointed me more is Baby's Breath (Gypsophila paniculata). Now here's a plant I've completely given up on. I can't seem to grow those seeds to save my life here in Northern California. Which makes no sense at all because we can grow virtually anything here in Nor Cal, but I digress.

Am I destined to give up precious space in my veggie beds for plants that produce a mere handful of beans and then sit back and relax for the rest of the season? Am I starting them too early? Watering them too much? Too little? Not performing the right voo-doo ritual standing naked over them during a full moon? Because if that's what it takes, I assure you, I've done far more for much less.

I realize that most gardeners will agree the runners produce not only the tastiest snap beans, but are the most prolific; producing harvest after harvest in the same season. Still have places in my garden that aren't conducive to growing the pole varieties and I know someone out there must have the name of that elusive-but- pretty-damn-great bush bean variety.

So, I'm asking for your help. If any gardener out there has some great bush bean varieties they'd like to share with me, I'd sincerely appreciate it and will make a spot for them immediately. If all you have to offer is kinky Voo-Doo rituals, I'd like them, too.

posted in: beans, growing pole beans, growing runner beans, growing bush beans

Comments (18)

ShawnDavis writes: This is great.. wonderful execution
Posted: 2:05 am on October 26th
janapowell writes: I've had good luck with Roma bush bean (Italian green bean)
Posted: 7:33 pm on February 25th
Happy2Garden writes: Mary14889 posted she has a great recipe for sweet pickled green beans....that sounds yummy :) anyone have that who is willing to share it? Thanks...
Posted: 3:12 pm on September 14th
Rich95662 writes: Does anyone know if I can plant pole beans this time of year here in the Sacramento area of Northern California and get a harvest before winter? I've never done any fall gardening but looking for other things besides the lettuce to try out this fall.
Posted: 2:39 pm on October 27th
MGgardenergal writes: I have tried a number of varieties and have settled on two favorites... Emerite Pole Bean and Maxibel Bush Bean - both are the french filet style and grow long slender beans that stay edible much longer, because the beans don't swell to fat lumps along the pods fast. I obtained both from Pine Tree mail order but they are available elsewhere also. For a bush bean Maxibel is a prolific producer and a long slender and flavorful bean. I have picked many pounds of beans from mine so far this year (9/17/2011) and many more to pick.
Posted: 4:24 pm on September 17th
hostaholic writes: I've also had great luck with Jade, tasty and they keep on producing. But my absolute favorite is Cupidon, the flavor is incredible and if you keep them picked it will continue to produce for a long time.
Posted: 3:25 pm on May 12th
Gardenerd writes: Here in Southern California I've had great success growing Maxibel haricot vert bush beans year after year. We have sandy soil, so I usually water every other day. I use either Square Foot Gardening spacing (9 per square foot) or Grow BioIntensive spacing on 6 inch centers, hexagonally planted. They cluster together and support one another, and you get a lot more harvest from a small space.

Last year I grew Dragon Tongue beans with moderate success as well. I'm giving it another go this year. Such a beautiful bean! Here's a picture of both beans: http://blog.gardenerd.com/2010/04/27/dragon-tongue-beans.aspx?ref=rss

I love bush beans because they free up my trellises for other crops like cucumbers, tomatoes, and melons (grown vertically). Keep trying, and happy gardening!
Posted: 10:53 pm on April 28th
Mary14889 writes: I love pole beans- they are my favorite thing to grow. I keep adding varieties. Last year I grew 8 different varieties and I'm not sure what the count will be this year. Some drop out. Last year I added Fortex and Kwintus- both keepers. I'm trying the Emerite filet bean this year but after just reading the article on filet beans see that I may have to grow some bush beans to get really good filet beans. I prefer pole beans because of the longer picking period and the ease of picking. I like colored beans like yellow Kentucky Wonder and purple yard long beans because they are easier to find among the foliage. Green beans are really good at hiding among the foliage. I always go up and down both sides of the row to get a different view. I had bad luck with Kentucky Wonder beans from Gurneys last year- they did not breed true and most were a flat tough insipid bean instead of my beloved rich meaty flavorful bean.

A couple of things I've learned- 1) they needn't be planted two inches apart because they are so prolific. They get so thick it is hard to pick them through all the foliage. (I found a good recipe for sweet pickled green beans for the extras. If anyone has hints for freezing them successfully, please share. I've tried lots of techniques but still don't like the results.) 2)After my bean seeds rotted in the ground at least one spring, now I use a technique that I use on squashes and corn as well: I allow the seeds to germinate indoors between damp paper towels in lidded plastic fast food containers that I save (all labeled on tape on the top with the variety). I only plant the seeds that have germinated and they take right off when planted in the ground outside because they have passed the difficult process of germinating.
Posted: 7:49 am on April 25th
dalspot writes: Royal Burgundy bush beans are awesome. The Royal Burgundy beans have a great yield, are easy to pick because they are purple, but turn green when boiled. They have a wonderful flavor.

Give the plants plenty of room between rows. They are a Ferry-Morse seed. Used to be carried by Burpee's too, but no longer.

Posted: 6:41 am on April 24th
sandykarla writes: I love to grow pole beans because they take much less space. I grow them on tepees, on fences, ... However, it is getting hard for me to find varieties that I like that are pole beans. There are lots of bush beans. Give me beans I can grow on the porch rail, on the fence, ...
Posted: 12:32 pm on April 23rd
geezerrob writes: Since I've attained 'Geezerhood', obviously I'm now a big fan of pole beans. We grow the Blue Lake variety and, yes, they are prolific. Growing pole beans gives the old back a rest. Couldn't tolerate the bending involved with the bush beans.

Did have luck with the 'Blue lake' bush variety (which is why we chose the Blue lake pole beans). Both Blue lake, and Tendercrop, bush varieties grew well here in Ohio. I used to get a double crop by mowing the bush beans off (mower blade set high). Once they had come back, we had more beans. Pole beans do simplify things since, if you keep them picked, they keep producing.

Doubt if this helps - but, if you are able to grow pole beans, would you need the bush varieties??

Good Luck!!
Posted: 12:19 pm on April 23rd
BevScott writes: I've grown Masai bush beans from Pinetree Seeds for years. I'm in zone 5. They have small, tender, delicious beans, but not as small as haricot verts, and are very prolific. From each plant I can easily pick a dozen or more beans at a time and get at least 3 pickings per season. The plants keep producing until fall. Just be sure to pick them before they start to fill out, because then they get soft and lose flavor.

Posted: 8:36 am on April 23rd
Connie_Murray writes: I've started growing pole green beans last year and they grew great (I am in Zone 7, Jersey Shore area). The trouble was my eyesight is going (a common problem once you hit the Big 4-0) so this year I am planting purple string beans and yellow wax beans so I can see the beans to pick them before they get huge and gross. I am also going to grow lima beans and garbanzo beans. Those are both vines and will climb up a structure of bamboo stakes with strings handing down. The vines climb up the strings and when the beans are done I will cut down the strings and vines and compost both!
Posted: 7:40 am on April 23rd
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: idahocowgirl: Sadly, I wish I could use coolness as an excuse, but I live in Northern California and we don't have anything close to short seasons here. It's looking more an more like the problem is in my court. BUT I am going to keep the names of the ones you mentioned because I think this is a worthy experiment!
Posted: 6:15 pm on July 31st
idahocowgirl writes: I'm not sure what your climate is like but where I live it is very short season and not a lot of heat long enough. I have good luck with Tender Crop, Top Crop and Contender. I can't grow pole beans here because the season is too short. If too cool is the issue, try using a tunnel cover to get the beans up and going. Good luck!
Posted: 5:40 pm on July 29th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: yourownvictorygarden: It's making me wonder if it's the zone. My Kentucky Wonders (pole) have never failed me...and I don't give them any special love, LOL. I agree, I need to keep trying!

djlw51554: Thanks for the "Jade" recommendation - I'll look for that one and give it a go. I have never seen this one and since that's the case, it fills me with hope.

Posted: 1:39 pm on July 29th
djlw51554 writes: I have had the same problem. I have an uncle who is a consummate veggie gardener. He recommends to me a bush bean called "Jade". The reviews for it on Gurney's website sound very promising. It's going to be my next attempt.
Posted: 8:52 pm on July 28th
yourownvictorygarden writes: I'm not much help here Chris, except to tell you what I've done in the VERY trying and unpredictable North Texas climate.

The bush variety Blue Lake 274 has always done well for me every year except one. I grow it in Spring and Fall.

I've been wanting to do more pole varieties since I already have a couple of trellises to use. This year I tried Kentucky Wonder and it flopped. I may have planted it too late or the soil in the new raised beds I've build hasn't 'matured' yet.

I grabbed a packet of the bush variety Tendercrop and will try it in a few weeks, as soon as we're safely out of our yearly 'heat spell season'.

I suppose beans are just like tomatoes in that there are so many varieties you can try, and hopefully succeed with.
Posted: 6:48 am on July 23rd
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