My mother-in-law can’t seem to stop herself from growing enough green beans for a small army, so I do the drying beans at my house. Mostly ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ black beans, California Black-Eyed peas and a few colorful soup beans like ‘Jacob’s Gold’ and ‘Speckled Cranberry’. This year I’m also experimenting with some types of beans I’ve never grown before; ‘Scarlet Emperor’ beans, Four-Angled beans, also called Winged beans, Yard-Long beans which are also known as Snake beans or bora, both white and yellow Lima beans and tan Garbanzo beans.
We’re using a number of different kinds of vertical supports for the beans, many of them homemade with bamboo. In Vertical Gardening Derek Fell reports that he’s able to harvest ten times more pods from his pole beans than their bush counterparts. Still, I couldn’t resist planting a bed of bush ‘Cannellini’ beans. We love ‘Cannellini’ beans but there just wasn’t a pole variety of them I wanted to try. I can substitute ‘White Emergo’ beans instead of the smaller ‘Cannellini’ in recipes, and they grow on big sturdy vines, so they will have to do for the pole variety this year.
The ‘Scarlet Emperor’ Runner beans have an 8′ arbor to climb, which I hear they will need. They were the first beans to germinate in the Dirt to Dinner garden this year. I planted a few of them on March 9th just to see how the ground temperature was doing and up they came! I guess there’s a reason they are so popular in England. I was attracted to the idea of growing a perennial bean plant but I’m also looking forward to their reportedly “showy” flowers, though we haven’t seen any yet. These gorgeous blossoms are from an ‘Akahana Mame’ growing on a teepee with ‘Louisiana Purple Pod’ and ‘French Climbing’ beans for effect.
The Winged beans and the Yard-Long beans are planted on either side of an 8′ trellis with sesame plants growing through the center. Imagine an A-frame with garden netting hanging down on either side. One side of the netting gets ‘Four-Angle’ beans planted along half of it. The other side of the netting gets ‘Red Noodle’ planted on the opposite half. That way the sesame growing in between gets sun from both sides where the beans aren’t. The last beans to go in are the Limas. They like warm soil, which is in short supply again this year. It takes several days for them to emerge from the soil and spread their wing-like seed leaves. I’m nervous a bird or bug or varmint will devour them before photosynthesis even begins but keep your fingers crossed for me. We’re trying ‘King of the Garden’ lima seed from both Baker Creek and Bountiful Gardens and ‘Golden’ Lima beans from Seed Savers Exchange. If you’re experimenting with new bean varieties in your garden this year, let us know what’s working well for you and how you’re growing them.
To be honest, I didn’t do anything special. They were growing at the edge of a trellis, so that marked the spot well. I grew a cover crop of clover that was all around them, so that may have protected the soil. I’m pleasantly surprised at how vigorously they’ve come back, despite how haphazardly I left them through the winter.
I have scarlet runner bean again this year. I had heard that it is a perennial in places with mild winters (I’m in SF). In late fall, I cut it off at the soil level and left the roots in the ground to see what would happen. Sure enough, in early May it had shot up new growth and now has grown a couple feet up a trellis!
ps. I’m really enjoying all your great posts.
Thanks for letting me know that! We’re ~50 miles south of SF, so there is certainly hope for the runner beans here. I’ll try to remember to be nice to them this fall. Did you mulch their spot with anything special? Since we grow all year round my biggest challenge is going to be trying to remember where they are. I don’t want to accidentally tear them up planting something else in their spot. How wide of a circle out from the stems did you leave for their roots?