Pole bean (Phaseolus vulgaris).
Fortex green pole beans have been my favorite green bean for many years now. I’m not inclined to try bush beans (again) or to experiment with new varieties of pole beans. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s the way I feel about Fortex green pole beans. However, I’m contemplating a new garden plan for next year to make Fortex green pole greens in my vegetable garden more productive for a longer period of time.
But first, here’s a look at this year’s beans. The photo at top shows the vegetable garden on August 12. The green pole bean plants, seen at far left in the photo, in 2 3’x3′ raised beds, are just starting to predominant in a vegetable garden slightly overrun with volunteer dill plants and wildflowers. Life is good when wildflowers surpass weeds as the garden nuisance.
In August and early September, the pole beans, planted on Memorial weekend with 2 bean seeds per bamboo pole and 6 poles per raised bed, seemed about right in both timing and number. Above are photos of vines and beans on September 5. Nice long beans on plants with leaves that still allow some air flow and sunshine in. Green beans that are uniform in size, perfect 7″ thin filet beans, for example, are the supermarket norm, but that just doesn’t happen in a real-life garden. Some pesky beans always get hidden away until they reach the 11″ length that Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog describes. So it’s fortunate that the 11″ beans continue to snap resoundingly and to crunch after a 9-minute boil.
By September 7, the bean vines are more densely packed, as can be seen in the photos above, keeping the interior and northeastern side in shade. The blooms and beans are mostly on the southwestern side, on vines sprawling over the vegetable garden fence and climbing over any wildflower in their way.
Sunflowers, seen above, which were evidently planted in the bean beds by the birds, like the compost-rich garden soil just fine. Pulling out sunflowers because they are in the wrong place is not one of my strong points as a gardener, especially when the American goldfinches stop by for sunflower seeds while I’m working in the garden. Bean vines and sunflowers coexist, with the bean vines using the sunflowers as another means of support.
The photo at left above was taken on September 7. The photo at right above on September 16. The difference is striking. At left, the leaves are healthy; the beans are straight enough. At right, the leaves are showing signs of rust and the bean is deformed. Possibly, bean plants are in their prime for only a short period of time. Hmm.
Let’s take a look back at bean history in my vegetable garden. Last year’s post on green beans, Fortex pole beans are thriving, published on September 20, 2016, shows photos from September 9 with healthy vines, leaves, and beans, pretty similar to this year’s September 7 photo above.
Going back to 2015, the post Green pole beans in June reports that Fortex green pole beans were planted on May 15 that year. On June 7, when the post was published, the little bean plants look healthy but are not vining yet, so they were off to a bit of a slow start. However, by June 13, the vines were vigorously climbing up the twine. The post Green pole beans in July, published July 3, shows healthy bean vines topping the bamboo teepee with some blooms in evidence. By July 13, 2015, in the post Harvesting green pole beans, the beans are long and plentiful, and the bean vines and leaves still look fresh and healthy. But by September 8, 2015, a post titled Trouble in Beanville bemoans problems with rust and spider mites. The bean leaves look terrible and no beans are in evidence. By that time, the beans, planted May 15, were almost 4 months old. Perhaps that was the problem.
This year’s beans were planted around Memorial weekend, so let’s say the end of May. Soil temperature needs to be at least 60° F. for bean seeds to germinate. Fortex green pole beans take 60 days to mature. I have always planted beans once a year. I’ve never considered succession planting for beans. Perhaps I should rethink that strategy if I want to produce more and better Fortex beans over a longer growing season.
Let’s guess that beans planted the latter part of May will start growing vigorously the first of June. So 60 days to maturity means they will spend most of June and July maturing, with some bean production the last part of July and all of August–6 weeks of production perhaps. By September, if the vines become too thick or develop rust or other problems, they should be torn down and taken curbside for municipal pickup. Never composted because of the danger of disease lingering in the soil. Below is a photo taken September 19 of some ugly bean leaves with no beans in evidence. Time to tear these bean plants down.
But I want beans in September if possible, so I will need to try succession planting of beans. Let’s say May 30, June 15, June 30, July 15. The July 15 sowing will mature around September 15. Our frost date is the end of October, so that’s 6 weeks of production if all goes well.
Of course, beans may not grow well in the fall for other reasons, so the July 15 planting may fail. But at least I will know which plantings are worth the effort. Having green beans in steady production from the end of July to sometime in October would be awesome. Certainly worth writing a post about.
Besides tasting good, green beans have amazing nutritional value. We all understand intuitively that garden-fresh vegetables are good for us, but to find out a little more about their nutritional value is a remarkable thing, amazing, really. And don’t forget there may be nutritional values yet to be discovered in all fresh produce.
To start with, green beans are low in calories with no saturated fat. They are a good source of vitamins A, B1, B6, and C as well as minerals and dietary fiber. I didn’t realize that green beans contain phytonutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, those magical patented ingredients in Bausch + Lomb’s PerserVision designed to protect old people from macular degeneration. Who would have thought the humble green bean could be so trendy. They are an excellent source of potassium, which helps to control blood pressure and heart rate. Also rich in iron for persons like me with a history of anemia. Many online sources provide nutritional information on green beans. Garden-fresh green beans are nutritious, for sure, along with garden-fresh lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and many more. If you are able to do so, plant a garden for nutrition, exercise, fun, and all-around good health. It doesn’t come in a bottle.
One of my favorite easy recipes for summer is as follows. Boil the green beans for around 9 minutes or until they achieve a lovely soft crunch when you sample one. Spear it on a fork and run it under cold water before sampling so you don’t burn your tongue. While beans are boiling, sauté some peppers and sliced summer squash in olive oil and butter. If the squash gets a little brown, that’s perfection. Drain the beans and dump the peppers and squash into the bean pan. Stir to give the beans a lovely coating of oil and butter. Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. See below.
Back to my green bean plan for next summer. I’ve always used 6 poles in the teepees in each 3’x3′ raised bed. Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog suggests 4 poles per teepee. I’ll give that a try to cut down on the density of the leaves and vines as they grow bigger.
My new green bean plan will require the use of 4 3’x3′ raised beds, but not all at the same time. If I pay attention, I can plant radishes and lettuce before and after the bean plantings, or perhaps sow some green manure crops into the beds after the beans are cleared away. Just remember to clean the bean plants up really well to prevent disease. Also using a 3-year crop rotation for the beans will help to keep them healthy. That’s a lot of planning come to think of it. But an extended harvest of delicious, nutritious green beans will be well worth the trouble.
Couldn’t resist adding photos of an American goldfinch female on a purple coneflower stalk. Goldfinches seem to enjoy purple coneflower seeds almost as much as they enjoy sunflower seeds. Male American goldfinches lose their bright yellow coloring in the fall, but they keep their black forehead year round. So this is a female American goldfinch. Wildflower seed heads may look a little ugly in the fall and winter, but seed-eating birds add enough beauty and entertainment to make up for any ugliness.