More Thoughts While Weeding: Make Room For Green Beans | Gardening
While bush beans are found in most home gardens, their climbing counterparts sometimes get a bad rap. Green beans require support and tend to wander and wander, requiring considerable space – two reasons they are not suitable for commercial production.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a place in your garden, even if space is limited. Bear in mind that with kidney beans, it is often a case of feast or famine. These varieties flower and produce a mass of beans at a time. A second wave usually appears a week later, but after that the returns are slow to a trickle. This is when green beans really shine. Botanically speaking, green beans and bush beans are the same species, but their growth characteristics are very different. Green beans ripen and flower throughout the season, resulting in a prolonged harvest. And green beans generally tolerate heat better than most bush varieties, a real plus during the August heatwaves.
The other key difference is texture and flavor. Bush beans are good, and some like Strike or the typical French “green beans” from Maxibel, are wonderful. But green beans are gaining constant superlatives. These superior culinary qualities are genetically linked to the plant’s creeping foliage and sprawling vines and are hard to match in bush varieties.
And while some gardeners are put off by these unruly growing habits, green beans can actually save space. Consider that a 10-foot row of green beans, growing on a well-constructed trellis, far outstrips their low-growing counterparts. And as long as you keep picking, the green beans keep producing, producing three to ten times what you’d expect from bush beans.
Bush vs. Green Beans is not a proposition in my garden, and for good reason. Kidney beans ripen faster, and I sow Provider in mid-May. This hardy variety, with remarkable emergence in cool weather, is ready to harvest in the first weeks of July.
A week later, in go Strike or Jade, other great bush varieties, as well as Velor for a touch of color.
Green beans are one of the last main crops I plant, often not until Memorial Day or early June. This way, at the beginning of August, when the initial planting of the bush varieties is completed and directed to the compost heap, the green beans are ready to be picked.
The mast, like the bush bean, is successful in a wide range of soils, provided it is well drained and the pH is 6 or higher. Before sowing, put your trellis or posts in place and remember not to create a support system that is too high, otherwise the beans will be impossible to reach. In years past, I have gone for tripod mounts, sowing a distinct variety on each.
More recently, I switched to trellises, which makes picking easier.
Also consider that planting will create a shaded area, and you may want to locate it on the northern or eastern edge of your garden. On the other hand, this shade can be used to help protect heat sensitive plants such as lettuce or celery from the intense summer sun, thus extending their harvest time.
Plant breeders have produced a new generation of disease-resistant, high-yielding varieties, but many gardeners still opt for traditional “heirloom” favorites. Kentucky Wonder is one such example, as it first appeared in the 1887 Ferry seed catalog. Despite the hundreds of varieties developed over the next century, Kentucky Wonder – which is also known as from Old Homestead – is still a favorite. Appreciated for its tender, cordless and flavorful pods, the strain is cultivated all over the world.
Blue Lake is still a favorite too, loved for its 6 inch cordless straight pods and crispy texture. Geneticist Calvin Lamborn, the developer of the Sugar Snap pea, combined Blue Lake and Kentucky Wonder to produce the eye-catching Kentucky Blue.
In doing so, he straightened out the characteristic J-hook that characterizes Kentucky Wonder pods and won an All-America Selections gold in the process.
My current favorite is Fortex, an exceptional product of the French plant breeding efforts. Early and very productive, dark green beans can be picked small for foodies or grown up to almost a foot in length. Another top pick is Rattlesnake, a heirloom variety with distinctive purple streaks on the pod. The beans are delicious and of excellent taste quality. Known as Preacher Bean in the South, Rattlesnake is ready to harvest in 70 days.
Northeastest is one of the first green beans. Ready in just 60 days, the medium 8-inch green pods are flattened and have exceptional flavor. Introduced by Johnny’s Seeds in 1983, the strain has a well-earned reputation for its high vigor in the seedling stage and thrives despite prolonged cool, wet spring weather.
A newcomer to my garden this summer is Monte Gusto, bright yellow and very productive. The variety produces smooth, thin 8-inch pods that taste best and are more tender than yellow beans, on vines that are highly disease resistant.
Whatever variety you choose, these beans are well worth the effort invested in building a trellis or setting up poles. Combining high productivity over an extended period of time with unmatched flavor, green beans offer qualities that bush varieties find it difficult to match.
Ann Bennett writes and gardens on a hillside farm in Jackson.