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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pole vs. Bush (beans)

No, we're not talking political campaigns here (although, hey, it's election day!). Instead, this is a look at pole beans vs. bush beans in the home garden.

The classifications of green beans deal with growing habits. Pole beans create long vines that often intertwine and can be trained upward on a trellis or pole (a great space-saving measure); bush beans grow into compact plants about 18 inches tall.

This year I grew Slenderette bush beans and Blue Lake pole beans. Slenderette matures in 53 days; Blue Lake in 63 days.

Slenderette is my all-time favorite bean variety. The plants are prolific. I like to harvest when beans are the thickness of a pencil. One year I counted as I harvested, and consistently got about 40 beans this size per plant at the peak of the season -- with more growing for me to harvest in a few days.

Sadly, Slenderette beans did not do so fantastic in my garden this year. The seeds did not sprout well, and those few that did quickly succumbed to rot or pests (my quail challenge), resulting in my replanting three times. It's possible the seed was poor, but I bought it this spring from a reputable source. This was a wet cold spring, and I've had to plant seeds again other years to get viable plants, yet it was interesting to me that the pole beans weren't affected the same way. They sprouted just fine.

Then the pole bean leaves and vines went absolutely bonkers, quickly filling the teepee I built with lush green, and coloring out of the lines to invade nearby tomato cages. But where were the blossoms and beans?

Meanwhile my few Slenderette bush plants were Davids to the Goliath at the teepee, but even though they sprouted more than a week later, they delivered a harvest well before the other made blossoms.

Eventually, the pole beans set blossoms, but the vines were increasingly territorial. This photo shows the bean teepee toward the middle, with scout vines in the left foreground -- about six feet and two tomato cages away from where the seeds sprouted. Crazy! The campaign to take over my garden certainly worked 

Both varieties produced delicious beans when harvested young. However, the pole beans foliage hid forming beans so well that I often did not see them until they had outgrown their tastiness. That was a disappointment. Also, while the pole bean plants seemed to do better than the bush plants in extreme heat, the actual beans dried out on the pole plants first, despite the lushness. 

Here's how I rank these two varieties on gardening issues of the day:

Taste: Tie
Best germination: Blue Lake 
First to produce: Slenderette (this, despite a later germination)
Ease of harvest: Slenderette 
Plays nice (doesn't take over neighboring plants): Slenderette
Harvest to space ratio: Slenderette (took less space and produced more)

Overall winner: Slenderette

I probably will plant pole beans again because I think they're fun, but next year they are for sure going against a fence where they can't block anything else. 

What seed varieties get your vote?


David said...

Jennifer, I raised bush beans this year. I never have tried pole beans but it could be a future planting. I harvested a few batches of beans and then let the plants produce mature beans to dry for winter soup use. I'm starting to try to store garden harvest as much as I can without canning or freezing. The final tomato harvest was made yesterday. The weather has been so unusually warm that strange things are happening in the garden. Much to my surprise the potatoes have green foliage about two feet high. The dried up vines still have nice potatoes under them and the new green foliage has tiny marble sized potatoes under them. As far as I can see the potato plant has not grown from a seed potato. What's up with that? The onions have started to sprout again so I'm not sure they will be good to store or even to eat. The temps continue to be in the 50s at night and 70s during the day. That's about 20 degrees too warm for this time of the year. We should be freezing at night on a regular basis. We are three weeks past the first frost date with none in sight. I don't know what to think of it all. I replanted a spring flower bed and found the tulips that I dug up were starting to sprout. I don't think that's normal for this time of the year. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what nature is up to this year.

Have a great bean harvest day.

daisy g said...

I have some Slenderettes growing outside right now. Time will tell how they do. They have a delicate flavor and are oh-so tender. They definitely get my vote!