Heirloom pole beans once climbed over considerable competition while
vigorously struggling for water, nutrition, and light. Modern bush
varieties tend to have puny root systems.
_Sowing date:_ Mid-April is the usual time on the Umpqua, elsewhere,
sow after the danger of frost is over
and soil stays over 60[de]F. If the earth is getting dry by this date, soak the seed overnight before sowing and furrow down to moist soil. However, do not cover the seeds more than 2 inches. _Spacing:_ Twelve to 16 inches apart at final thinning. Allow about 2[f]1/2 to 3 feet on either side of the trellis to avoid root competition from other plants. _Irrigation:_ If part of the garden is sprinkler irrigated, space beans a little tighter and locate the bean trellis toward the outer reach of the sprinkler's throw. Due to its height, the trellis tends to intercept quite a bit of water and dumps it at the base. You can also use the bucket-drip method and fertigate the beans, giving about 25 gallons per 10 row-feet once or twice during the summer. Pole beans can make a meaningful yield without any irrigation; under severe moisture stress they will survive, but bear little. _Varieties:_ Any of the pole types seem to do fine. Runner beans seem to prefer cooler locations but are every bit as drought tolerant as ordinary snap beans. My current favorites are Kentucky Wonder White Seeded, Fortrex (TSC, JSS), and Musica (TSC). The older heirloom dry beans were mostly pole types. They are reasonably productive if allowed to sprawl on the ground without support. Their unirrigated seed yield is lower, but the seed is still plump, tastes great, and sprouts well. Compared to unirrigated Black Coco (TSC), which is my most productive and best-tasting bush cultivar, Kentucky Wonder Brown Seeded (sometimes called Old Homestead) (STK, PEA, ABL) yields about 50 percent more seed and keeps on growing for weeks after Coco has quit. Do not bother to fertigate untrellised pole beans grown for dry seed. With the threat of September moisture always looming over dry bean plots, we need to encourage vines to quit setting and dry down. Peace Seeds and Abundant Life offer long lists of heirloom vining dry bean varieties. Serious self-sufficiency buffs seeking to produced their own legume supply should also consider the fava, garbanzo bean, and Alaska pea. Many favas can be overwintered: sow in October, sprout on fall rains, grow over the winter, and dry down in June with the soil. Garbanzos are grown like mildly frost-tolerant peas. Alaska peas are the type used for pea soup. They're spring sown and grown like ordinary shelling peas. Avoid overhead irrigation while seeds are drying down.
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