Oh, you guys. Remember when I told you that growing bush beans was so easy and fun and perfect? Forget that.
Inspired by our success with Black Valentine beans, I decided to take a leap and try pole beans last summer. I had always been intimidated by pole beans – mostly because I didn’t want to deal with the expense and hassle of the poles themselves. However, while I was evangelizing about how much I loved the black valentine bush beans, my friend Steph asked how the yields were. I had to admit that they were pretty low. This chagrin inspired me to attempt pole beans last summer.
It turns out that growing pole beans is easy. Ridiculously easy. The lazy/cheap method we used was to buy metal conduit at the hardware store. $2 for each 10-foot pole. The Hippie Husband helped me hammer the poles about 3 feet into the ground. I planted 8 beans around each pole, then thinned to 5-6 plants per pole once the plants got started. Once the plants got a little tall and were ready to start climbing, I gently wrapped them around the poles until they started climbing on their own. No tepee support structures, no tying the plants to the pole, no hassles whatsoever.
I’m not the most diligent weed remover. I did water the plants fairly regularly. There was no attempt made at fertilizing (besides compost mixed into the soil before planting). Seriously, I did nothing but water the beans, and even that was not the most regularly completed task.
The first thing I loved about growing these beans is that they are beautiful in the garden. The tall plants wrapped those conduit pipes in such a lovely gown of big green leaves and tiny flowers. My neighbors all wanted to know what we were growing. That patch was honestly the only attractive thing in our yard last year.
Oh, the beans. So, so many beans. A giant bowl filled with them twice per week. There were so many green beans that I stopped telling the kids to pace themselves while they were helping me harvest – I let them eat beans by the handful, and we still had plenty for dinner.
When we finally got sick of green beans, there were still plenty coming off the vine, and it was still too early to let them go to seed. The beans froze beautifully after we blanched them.
It is with a fair amount of smugness that I tell you that I canned dilly beans. It was my first canning attempt. 1/3 of the jars didn’t seal, but that was okay because it gave us an excuse to eat them right away. Because they were freaking delicious. I can’t even tell you how much we loved those dilly beans. I pulled out one of the last jars this week, and my kids threw a party when they realized that we still had dilly beans. I would never have predicted that. So delicious.
After we preserved a ton of green beans, I stopped feeling guilty about the idea of leaving the beans on the vine to wither. Those suckers just kept flowering and setting fruit. I’ve never grown anything so prolific.
It took a long time before the dried beans were ready, but we were able to get almost all of the beans completely dry before the first frost. They looked like pinto beans, and they tasted pretty much like pinto beans. They were great!
I was disappointed by the dried bean yield – the dried beans are way less impressive in volume than the green beans. Also, we lost a ton to critters, rain, and I don’t know what – lots of the beans were shriveled or too tiny or not quite fully mature (picked them too early – rookie mistake). The dried bean yield was only enough to fill a pint jar or so. I think that will be better this year because we have more experience. I can let you know, as we will be growing a truckload of Rattlesnake Pole Beans this year!
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