Culture: Though it can be fun to grow “climbing” beans on tripods or sunflowers, many folks grow them on 6–8' fencing. Plant 3–4" apart along the fence. Many pole bean varieties have strings that won’t annoy you if they’re picked early and often. Frequent and thorough picking keeps your vines vigorous and productive. Pick and compost the overgrown pods that got away, or cut them coarsely and add them to minestrone as suggested by Crystal Nichols of Greene, ME. If you don’t pick them, your plants will stop producing, satisfied they’ve fulfilled their reproductive mission.
One customer says, “Many people—even gardeners and cooks—have no idea how much better tasting pole beans are. Most bush beans are cardboard by comparison.”
Poles for Pole Beans
Nikos grows hers on tripods of long lashed poles. Gloria Seigars of New Sweden, ME, employs tall limber ash saplings that can be bent double without breaking. “Wired together, several of them make a nifty arbor and grand entrance to the vegetable garden.” Will Bonsall suggests letting them climb sunflower stalks. Give the sunflowers a two-week head start.
Plant about 5 seeds to a tripod, or 2 seeds to a sunflower.
Culture: Tender, will not survive frost. Inoculate with a legume inoculant, then plant seeds 3–4" apart in rows 24–30" apart after all danger of frost has passed and soil has warmed. Minimum germination soil temperature 60°; optimal range 70–80°. White-seeded beans are generally more sensitive to cold soil temps than dark-seeded varieties. Legumes have moderate fertility needs and can fix their own nitrogen. Excessive nitrogen may induce some bush varieties to develop vines in moist hot weather.
Saving Seed: Saving bean seed is easy! Leave pods on the plants to dry. Hand shell, or stomp pods on a tarp. To ensure true-to-type seed, separate varieties by 30 feet.
- ANTH: Anthracnose
- BBS: Bacterial Brown Spot
- CBMV: Common Bean Mosaic Virus
- CTV: Curly Top Virus
- DM: Downy Mildew
- HB: Halo Blight
- NY 15: NY 15 Mosaic Virus
- PM: Powdery Mildew
- PMV: Pod Mottle Virus
- R: Rust
- SC: Sclerotina
White mold, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, affects more than 300 plant species. In beans, low humidity, good air circulation and wider spacing, both between plants and between rows, reduce the likelihood of this soil-borne infection.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.