I've mentioned before that I enjoy both bush and pole bean varieties and grow both of them in my vegetable gardens. But truth-be-told when it comes to flavor, I have a preference for the climbing green bean varieties.
Like many veggies, beans can be started indoors several weeks before the last frost. That said, they do perfectly find when planted directly into the garden bed once the soil warms up. Hardening off seedlings from living indoors to outdoor life is not my favorite part of gardening, so i avoid it when I can. And I can with beans.
In a sunny garden spot, when soil temps reach between 60-70 degrees, plant bean seeds 1" deep; 2" apart; and thin them to 4" apart as they grow. Beans like a fairly decent soil, so offer a little nutritional boost by adding plenty of compost. Some people might actually fertilize, but I find that it's overkill for green beans.
Water beans lightly until the little seedlings show up. At that point, you'll want to keep the soil moist for the growing plants. Add a little more watering time once the pole beans start to flower and keep that routine until you've harvested all the green beans for the season.
Good to know: If you collect beans at regular intervals, you'll for sure have a larger harvest. As a general rule, pole beans can stay on the vine longer than bush beans and remain tender. But I wouldn't bet on it. Harvest as many as you can at a time.
I've gathered up a great list of some of the most mouth-watering open-pollinated and/or heirloom pole and runner bean (snap) varieties. The focus here is on those that I use as fresh snap beans, but many of them are just as great when they are left to mature on the vine and to be used as a dried bean.
1. Asian winged -- This unique-looking bean produces pods that have four "winged" edges. They're beautiful in the garden and delicious on the table. Even the nut-flavored roots are edible as are the leaves. Asian winged beans are best in an area that has high heat and humidity.
2. Lazy Housewife -- This old heirloom has been around since about 1810. Claimed to be the first stringless green bean, Lazy Housewife is a very prolific variety.
3. Scarlet Runner -- Known for its brilliant red flowers, Scarlet Runner doubles as an ornamental in the veggie garden. She prefers cooler temperatures than most pole beans, but when she finds a spot that she loves she'll reach 10' tall or higher.
4. Kentucky Wonder Pole (AKA: Old Homestead) -- Originally, this variety was named 'Texas Pole' (1864). But in 1877 was re-introduced as 'Kentucky Wonder' and became extremely popular for the home garden in the early 1900s. Pods are stringless with fabulous flavor.
5. Blue Lake Stringless -- This variety is simple a stringless version of the wonderful 'Blue Lake' green bean. Blue lake is always a great performer with copious amounts of pods (from plant top to bottom) that are crisp with full-bodied, bean-y flavor.
6. Rattlesnake Pole -- Let's be honest, the name alone will have you planting it. But performance and personality will have you re-planting it again next year. Rattlesnake pole beans grow to 1-' tall and produce dark green pods that are covered with streaks of purple. It's drought-resistant and a good choice for those with sandy soils.
7. Climbing French -- A favorite in England, Climbing French is stringless, delicious, and purple flowers precede the pods. What's not to love?
8. Oriental Yard-Long (AKA: Chinese Long Bean, Snake Bean, Asparagus Bean) -- What ever you call it, these vines have no trouble reaching 10' and taller. But it's their pods that are truly unusually long -- that hang in pairs that are 14"-30" long! The plant is a speedy grower in a hot climate and slower to mature in cooler ones.
9. Purple Podded Pole -- This high-yielding bean is not only dependable, stringless, and tender -- it makes for a lovely ornamental, as well. The pods are 5"-7" long and deep purple.
10. Romano Pole (AKA: Italian) -- This gourmet bean is flat, stringless, thick, and tender. Toss in mosaic virus resistant and you have five great reasons to call it your own.