Beans are one of the easiest vegetables for people to grow and they are as popular as tomatoes and peppers. Within the bean group there are those that are grown for the dry bean and those that are grown for the green bean which is served as a vegetable. Green beans are all climbers to some extent but they are generally classed as being pole beans, which grow five or six feet, or bush beans which only grow a foot or two.
As a general rule, the pole beans, particularly the scarlet runner beans, do much better in cooler summers and bush beans do well in moderate to hot summers. There are numerous types of beans in both growth habits and a few, such as Blue Lake, can be found in climbing and bush form.
The broad, flat green string bean that is thinly sliced French style is a pole bean and most of the beans that are harvested for drying such as kidney beans and navy beans are pole beans too. Most of the pencil thin Filet beans are bush beans. Almost all the other beans, whether you want purple, yellow or green, can be found in both bush and pole forms.
Whether you grow pole beans or bush beans you will have an abundant harvest if you remember to pick regularly. Most beans are harvested before the seed grows too large, and the overall harvest will continue for many weeks if the beans are picked every day or so. Obviously if you intend to harvest the bean seed for winter casseroles and meals, then you will let the beans mature and dry on the vine, before you pick them.
For growing beans, you will need a sunny spot and well drained soil. Wait until well after the last frost before you plant the beans as they all like warm soil for germination. Plant the seeds about an inch below the surface and keep watered until the seed germinate. The seeds are large enough that even small children can help to plant the beans. Once started, the beans will grow quickly and you will get the first flowers then fruit in about 55 days. Pole beans take an extra week or two before they are ready to harvest, primarily because the energy is put into growing the vine before the flowers are produced.
Probably the biggest difference between bush beans and pole beans is the amount of land you need to grow a good crop. Bush beans are usually planted in linear rows and the double row will support each other as they grow. Pole beans are planted against a trellis, or tepee arrangement which can be placed on smaller plots. Pole beans can also be used to make a quick screening fence around an area or into a play house for young children. Try mixing the Purple King pole bean with a nasturtium for a colorful wall of the playhouse that is both fun and good to harvest.