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Pole vs. Bush

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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?


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