A couple of things first before you plant your own. Beans don’t have to be grown in hills. They don’t have to be green. And while there are a TON of great bean varieties to grow, you’ll probably have a tough time finding musical or magic beans.
Something valuable to know is that beans can be divided into types. There are beans that can be used as shelling beans, and many that are edible pod beans. Importantly, before you plant, you need to decide whether to grow bush beans or pole beans.
Chelsea Fields, our Vegetable Seed Product Manager, said bush and pole beans have different growth habits and support needs as well as different harvest lengths.
Pole beans, as the name suggests, need to be grown on a trellis, or some sort of support, and they generally bear over a longer period making for prolonged harvest and therefore have higher yields, said Fields. In contrast, bush beans grow in rows on the ground, requiring no support. Bush Beans mature quickly and generally bear all at once, she said.
Choosing the type of bean to grow depends on how you want to use the beans and on space. Since pole beans are grown vertically they’re nice for a small garden space. The longer harvest season also allows you to pick beans periodically for fresh daily use.
Fields has found that growing pole beans can be fun and beneficial in other ways.
“Pole bean pods are higher, which means less bending, making harvesting easier,” she said, “ Pests, like slugs and rodents, damage pole beans less and disease problems are reduced because of better airflow.”
There are lots of heirloom pole bean varieties to grow. Experimenting with heirloom varieties is a blast because there are so many different colors or flavors to try. Gardeners, who preserve their harvests by canning, enjoy growing pole beans because the larger bean size requires less knife work.
“Pole beans are best for shelled beans because of the larger sized beans that are produced,” Fields said.
Bush beans offer their share of advantages. They taste great and make canning easier.
“Instead of trying to harvest little by little from pole beans and storing fresh beans until the amount is "worth" canning,” she said, “the harvest comes in all at once making large batch canning easier.”
But if you’d like to extend the fresh eating season of bush beans, Fields said to plant in succession. Planting in succession means sowing a few bean seeds every week or so during the planting season to ensure that you have a new crop of beans maturing regularly.
Bush beans are simpler, in that they don’t need any support. Quick maturing bush beans allow the fun of trying several different varieties in one season. They mature at different rates, but some in as few as 40 days, making it possible to succession plant several crops in a season depending on your zone.
Speaking of trying some great varieties, Fields suggested a few. One is a pole bean variety, ‘Fortex.’ Another is a bush bean called, ‘Beananza.’
“Fortex is a French type that is sweet and tender. This garden staple is a must for anyone growing pole beans,” she said, “Beananza is an excellent stringless French type with 7" long pods and a sweet, nutty taste. I think this will become a staple for bush bean gardeners.”
Here’s the magic and music of beans. One morning you’ll go check your plants after you’ve seen them flower, you’ll lift the leaf and see a slender, long pod and think, “Cool, beans.”