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Vermont Garden Journal: Break Out Your Bean Pole And Let 'Em Climb

Many bean poles are built with branches but you can also grow beans on wire fence, corn stalks or sunflowers.
David Gomez
Many bean poles are built with branches but you can also grow beans on wire fence, corn stalks or sunflowers.

Beans date back thousands of years to South America. While most gardeners grow the low, bush version, this plant was originally a sprawling climber. While bush beans - and stringless bush beans in particular -  are a modern vegetable, pole or runner beans are more versatile.

Modern bush beans are bred to produce most of their beans within a week or so and then they're done. While pole beans produce a little later and more slowly over many weeks. There are also some attractive, unusual pole beans to try.

One popular heirloom is the scarlet runner bean. This climber features beautiful orange flowers, tasty immature beans and attractive mature beans with pink and/or black coloring. There are versions of the scarlet runner such as 'Golden' with chartreuse-colored leaves, 'Painted Lady' with pink and orange bi-colored flowers and 'Sunset' with peach-colored blooms. Runner beans grow well in cool temperatures.

If you have a hot spot in your garden, try the yard-long pole bean. It loves the heat and produces three-foot long green beans. Only a few beans makes a meal! 'Red Noodle' has burgundy colored beans that holds its color when cooked.

Plant your pole beans in a full-sun location. Build a teepee with branches or poles. Plant four beans around each pole. The tendrils will wrap around most poles easily and climb on their own. You can also grow pole beans along a wire fence or in a three sisters garden climbing on corn, sunflower or amaranth stalks. Plant the beans when the corn is knee high. Harvest pole beans for fresh eating at any stage, but before the beans inside begin to form. If you miss a few, let them mature into dried beans and either cook and eat them or save for next year.

Now this week's tip: with our cool spring, preheat the soil with black plastic mulch now when planning on growing melons, eggplant and peppers. Either plant through the plastic in a few weeks or remove it when planting.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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