There are bush green beans and pole green beans. You may ask what a pole green bean is. A pole green bean is a green bean plant that will reach out and grab hold of a pole, to assist itself in an upward climb. This kind of behavior is called Thigmotropism, (and now you have another answer at your next Trivial Pursuit game).
I found pole green beans were real easy to grow. Pole green beans produce significantly higher yields than bush green beans and they are more disease resistant.
The 1st time I planted them, I wound up with more green beans than I could use. I had to give away 4 gallons of blanched, frozen green beans to my children, (lucky for me, they all like green beans).
First things first, if you don’t already have some, go buy some “Pole Green Bean seeds”.
A little disclaimer for this story;
I try to buy organic seeds whenever possible, but in 2020, (during the height of the Covid pandemic), I couldn’t find any organic pole green beans.
The seed packet I ordered online, but it didn’t say organic. Just the same, I grew the green bean plants using as much organics as I could find.
To Germinate or Not to Germinate, That is the Question
Some people will get a pole green bean seed, stick it directly into the ground, water it and wait, (hoping, sometimes for weeks, that something is actually happening under the soil).
I tried that with squash seeds once and …. nothing happened at all. The sad part was waiting, and looking at the soil surface, and waiting some more, not knowing nothing was happening. It isn’t like I could dig down and look either, because the seed could be sprouting and I could accidentally damage it if I checked on it.
As it was growing outdoors, I have no clue what happened to the seeds, (I never found them). Were they too cold in the ground? Didn’t they get enough light where I planted them? Did they get too much water and rot? Did a bug eat them? Did a mammal eat them, (if yes, yuck, what kind of mammal is rummaging around in my garden)?
This method didn’t work for me and my squashes, so I turned to starting seeds in cups in my house, (where it’s nice and warm and I can control how much water and light they get).
Germination in a Seed Wrap
Many people recommend germinating a green bean seed before planting it. That is what I like to do, because I know within days, if something is happening with my seeds.
I wanted 6 good plants for my garden, so I germinated 12 seeds, (knowing that some seeds might not germinate and some young plants might not survive being transplanted). Always geminate more seeds than the quantity of plants you want.
To germinate a seed, dampen a paper towel with water, on a clean surface, (like a plate). With the damp paper towel horizontal to you, place a green bean seed on it, about 2 inches down from the top and 2 inches in from the edge of the towel. Moving horizontally, place another seed about an inch away from the 1st seed, continue doing this until you are within about 2 inches from the other edge of the paper towel. You should have about 6 seeds in a horizontal row now.
Fold the top quarter of the paper towel over the 1st row of seeds. Now these 6 seeds are covered, top and bottom, with the damp paper towel.
Do the same from the bottom of the paper towel. Place a green bean seed on it, about 2 inches up from the bottom and 2 inches in from the edge of the towel. Moving horizontally, place another seed about an inch away from the 1st seed, continue doing this until you are within about 2 inches from the other edge of the paper towel. You should have about 6 seeds in a 2nd horizontal row now.
Fold the bottom quarter of the paper towel over the 2nd row of seeds. Now these 6 seeds are covered, top and bottom, with the damp paper towel.
Fold the top row of seeds, down, but not touching the bottom row of seeds. Fold the bottom row of seeds up, but not toughing the top row of seeds. Fold in the ends of the paper towel. Folding the ends prevents air from reaching the seeds and prevents the seeds from falling out.
Dampen another paper towel on a clean surface.
Pick up the double row of seeds and place them on the new damp paper towel. Fold the new damp paper towel around the 1st damp paper towel. This seed wrap probably looks like a real big cigar role now.
Sit the seed wrap somewhere warm, indoors, but not in direct sunlight. Ideal temperature is 60 – 85 degrees for germination.
Check your seeds in 5 days by looking in one of the folded ends. If you don’t see any sprouting, close the ends and put the seed wrap back for another 5 days. If you believe the towels are beginning to dry, lightly dampen the exterior of the outer paper towel again.
You should see sprouts by day 14. If not, you can continue with this seed wrap, checking it every 5 days, but you may want to start another seed wrap, as this 1st one may not sprout at all.
Faster, Perhaps Easier, Germination
I have read, for faster germination, you can soak green bean seeds in a bowl for 12 – 24 hours, before placing them in a seed wrap.
Planting to Sprout
Once I see my little green bean seeds have sprouted, I like to start each sprout in a 16 ounce plastic cup. I pierce 4 holes around the bottom of the cup for drainage.
I keep my plastic cups and reuse them each year, (so, from what I hear, they should easily last me 200 years).
I had some left over organic soil and organic compost from my potato planting materials, (see one of my other posts, “Organic Potatoes Grown in Buckets”).
I use a 50/50 soil mixture, (50% organic soil & 50% organic compost).
I don’t need very much of this 50/50 soil mixture for my 12 green bean cups. I fill each cups to about 3 inches from the top of the cup. Place the sprouted green bean seed in the cup, and add another inch of soil.
I water until I see water run out the bottom of the cup.
You will see in my photos that I planted 2 seed per cup, but later, during transplanting into the garden, I had to separate the plants from each other. This caused me to accidentally damage one plant and if failed. I’d suggest you plant one sprout per cup, so you reduce the possibility of damaging a plant when transplanting.
I give my sprouts a tiny amount of water every day, (about 2 tablespoons before they break the surface of the soil). I give them more water after that, for a couple of weeks, while they are growing in the cup.
Beans grow best in soil that is moist, not soggy, so pay attention to the dampness of the soil and adjust your watering amount accordingly.
And Now, I Wait, Until…..
My 1st 2 sprouts of the season.
I find it interesting, that both of these sprouts were planted at the same time, but one was significantly shorter, or it was delayed from raising out of it’s shell covering.
Date of this picture is 4/13
Date of the following 3 pictures is 4/14
Kinda funny, but I find green bean sprouts are quite cute when they are young.
I like to keep a lamp over my sprouts, (turning on the light for my seedlings as soon as I wake up and turning it off when I go to bed).
The date of this picture was 4/15
When looking at the last 3 pictures, I am just amazed at how fast they grow. I’ve got to tell you, this is nothing compared to how they wind up.
Before transplanting any of my pole green beans, I got their growing environment ready for them to be successful.
You can simply use one pole per plant for climbing, can use trellises or do like I did and improvise with whatever you have that works safely.
I had 4 tiki lamps that I wasn’t using, so I positioned them to be behind my pole green beans. If you don’t have any tiki lamps laying around and you really like the look, you might consider getting solar tiki lamps. Here is a link to 4, 55″ high solar tiki lamps.
I bought green garden twine and wound it from lamp to lamp, to aid my green beans while they climbed.
You can see 2 of my green bean plants in the ground, (in the picture above, right of the milk bottle). Once I’ve transplanted a plant, I will water regularly, in the mornings, so they get 2 inches per square foot, per week.
Remember, they like moist soil not soggy soil.
Organic Insect Control
For insect control, once the plants are at least 8″ tall and you have transplanted the green bean plant, you should spray them with organic cold pressed neem oil. Do this in the early morning, every 1 – 2 & 1/2 days.
You should also spray after a rain, as rain will wash away the neem oil fairly easily. It’s best if you spray on top of leaves and also on the undersides of the leaves. It gets easier to spray the undersides as the plant gets bigger.
Staggered Green Bean Planting
I staggered the planting of each pair of green bean plants, so I would have a longer period where green beans were available for picking.
You can transplant 2 into your outdoor garden, then 2 more2 weeks later, and then 2 more, stretching out the harvest. This way, as the first pair of plants begin to decline, there is another pair still going strong, and another pair beyond that pair.
In the raised bed where I have my green beans, you see patty pans, (bottom center of this picture). There are 3 marigolds, (along the left side of this picture). There is straight neck yellow squash, (just past the red whirly gig). There is a Zucchini just beyond that and 5 green bean plants in front of the climbing poles and twine.
At the very top of the picture, you can also see there is a new milk bottle. It is protecting a newly sprouted cucumber.
All of these are companion plants.
Unfortunately, the farthest green bean plant, (number 6), failed. Luckily, I had replacement plants started and ready to go, (remember, I sprouted 12, just in case).
This picture was taken on 7/22.
These green beans love to climb and the twine with the tiki poles held all of their weight.
If you don’t keep the green beans well watered, they will stop flowering.
No flowers means no green beans. Again, they like moist soil, but not soggy soil.
Pole green beans have a longer harvest cycle. Beans can be harvested for 6 to 8 weeks.
I like to take a container out with me, when I go out to my vegetables, because there is almost always something that needs harvesting.
Blanch and Shock
It’s time to take the green beans in, wash them in a colander, cut the tips off, cut them into 2 or 3 inch segments and blanch them for freezing.
To blanch the quantity of green beans seen above, start a 6 quart pot of water boiling.
I love my Greenlife Soft Grip Diamond, Healthy Ceramic Nonstick 6 QT Stock Pot with Strainer Lid. It is sited as being dishwasher safe.
Add a tablespoon of coarse kosher salt, (per quart of water), and stir.
Fill another large container with ice and cold water, (I have a big red mixing bowl I use, but maybe you have something else, like another pot, that can hold a lot of ice and water).
Once the water in the pot is boiling, put the cleaned, cut green beans in and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, (this is called blanching). This helps to brighten the color and enhance the flavor of the beans.
Once time is up, drain the green beans and immediately, put them into the icy water, (this is called shocking).
They can sit like this for a few minutes as they cool.
Once they are cold, pour the green beans into a colander to drain.
You can sit some of the green beans aside for use if you like, or you can freeze all of the green beans in freezer bags or whatever containers you use for freezing.