Are Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans Good?

dianega(7 - ATL)March 26, 2009

I have a 2003 pack of these & was wondering 1) are they likely to still be viable, and 2) are these a good variety?

Would a first-time bean grower like me be more "wowed" by trying another variety... or stick with these? Since I've never eaten garden fresh beans, maybe anything would wow me. :-)

I'm looking for great taste, no string, good productivity, somewhat resistant to whatever ails beans, something the kids will like. If this is just a so-so variety, can you recommend something easily available at the big box stores?

I was really interested in Smeraldo & Uncle Steve's, based on other posts, but just hate to pay shipping for 1 seed pack. Is there a big difference between KW & these?

Thanks from a beanie newbie

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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

dianega..Kentucky Wonder is a good bean ...been around a long time and certainly a good tasting bean. If I were you, I'd take a few seeds and just make sure they are going to sprout since your seeds date back to that's not too long for a bean seed if it was properly stored but if it were me, I'd make sure they are going to sprout...roll them up in a coffee filter or paper towel and stick them in a plastic bag...see if they will sprout..

For any and all information you can possibly want about Ky Wonders, click the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Everything about Kentucky Wonders

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 6:47PM
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The pole Kentucky Wonder (brown seeded) is indeed an excellent pole bean. One of my favorites. It does have strings tho. Don't confuse them with the several cultivars advertised as bush Kentucky Wonders. None of them are comparable to the pole and most are not even competitive among bush beans. I would follow Ruthieg's advice to check the germination.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 8:55PM
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dianega(7 - ATL)

Thanks for confirming it's a good one to try. Not crazy about the strings, though. Anyway, even if these don't germinate, I think I can buy more seeds locally.

One more question, can you suggest approximately how many beans to plant for 2 adults? What is enough to enjoy 2 times a week for dinner? 5? 10? 20?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 8:20AM
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first of all like all of the above said Kentucky wonder pole is a very good and tasty bean to's just my mother and I at home and we plant about 20 plants every year for fresh beans. when they start coming in there's more than enough for had better have at least a 8 foot trellis mine climb over 8 foot and grow down the other side.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 4:55PM
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Dianega, don't let the strings worry you. They are not heavy and, if picked young, you won't even have to string them. Personally I prefer a real string bean, with heavy strings, since usually, the pods stay tender much longer than most stringless beans. Nevertheless, Kentucky Wonder is a classic and quite good. I have to agree.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 8:56PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

and stringing a "mess" of beans will soothe your soul.......

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 4:01PM
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I myself prefer stringless beans, but I will have to say the Kentucky Wonder beans, had a very good flavor, and only the larger beans had strings. It is definitely worth growing them for one season.

Growing the Kentucky Wonder pole and Cherokee wax bush beans gave me the interest in growing other heirloom beans. This year I plan on growing 15+ types of beans.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 6:39PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

I'm going to plant a number of different beans this year too...I don't know how much I can seperate them to keep the seeds pure but I will at least try to put as much distance as I can.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 7:28PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

The KW I grow is the white-seeded version, "Pole #191" (a.k.a. "KW White"). Like the brown-seeded, it develops strings quickly... so unless you're OK with that, it should be picked young for best quality. The flavor is very rich, more "beany" than the stringless varieties I grow like "Fortex"... a little strong eaten raw, but outstanding fresh cooked or frozen. The yield can be very high over a short period of time; for single pickings, it beat all of the other pole beans I grow. The photo below is one plant.

"Pole 191" (KW White)

Because KW tends to bear in large "flushes" all at once, it is a good choice for canning. For a kitchen garden, where you want more continuous production, it would be best if succession planted... say, 1/3 of the row at a time, 10 days apart. Beans that bear over an extended period (such as "Fortex") are better suited for fresh eating.

Not sure how "Pole #191" compares to the brown-seeded KW, I'll have to grow them both one of these years to find out.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 6:54PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

Zeedman, that's one good-looking bean plant in optimum conditions w/ zero competition from other plants for sun and room on the trellis, plus it's well mulched.

My experience (zone 6 Southern NY) with KW (brown-seeded) is mixed:
The more sun, the better the yield. Taste is good. Good insect /disease tolerance.

Yields poorly in 1/2 sun.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 9:43PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"Zeedman, that's one good-looking bean plant in optimum conditions w/ zero competition from other plants for sun and room on the trellis, plus it's well mulched." -Ppod

Agreed, it was a pampered plant; "your results may vary". ;-) Severe rabbit damage resulted in a very poor stand last year... but I try to find the silver lining in things. Every failure teaches us something. Had the surrounding plants not been destroyed, I would not have been able to observe the variety's true potential - or show it to others. Planted more densely (as I did for years) the yield per plant would not be as impressive.

It was from observing the results of several accidents like that one that I decided (about 5 years ago) to increase my bean spacing. I thin the more vigorous pole beans (such as "Pole 191") to single plants at 12" spacing - much wider than the original recommendations. The results have been remarkable. It's really amazing how the vines will branch to fill in any empty space on the trellis. The yield per row foot may be slightly less than if crowded more closely, but the pod quality is much better, and there are fewer problems with disease. The plants also tend to produce more & larger seed at the greater spacing... and since I grow many beans for seed, that is a desirable outcome. The plant in the photo produced nearly a pound of dry seed.

When I used 4" spacing for "Pole 191", it had problems with rust in wetter years. At the wider spacing, this has not been a problem, probably due to improved air flow.

I mulch all of my beans, as soon as they have their first true leaf (which is when I thin them to their final spacing). Beans really dislike having mud splashed on their leaves, especially as seedlings.

The point about sun is a good one. Sorry to hear that KW does poorly in partial shade. Ppod, have you found varieties that do better under those conditions?

I am fortunate to garden on an unshaded property where, with proper spacing, all of my plants receive adequate sunlight - unless planted too closely. For many years, I used 3 feet between rows for pole beans; and when the vines had filled the trellises, observed poor yield on the lower 1/2 due to shading. After a conversation with Gardenlad several years ago, I increased the row spacing to 4 feet, and the vines now bear top to bottom.

(I really miss Gardenlad's contributions to this forum - if we keep talking about him, maybe he will think about dropping in once in awhile. One can only hope. ;-)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:04AM
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You bet! Gardenlad was such a great contributor!

BTW, for those who are Seed Savers Exchange members, the yearbook lists a Silver Lake Pole Bean. Back around 1984 I got that seed from a customer in the grocery store where I worked (Warsaw, Indiana). That might be Kentucky Wonder White seeded. I don't know. The seed came mixed with other beans in a jar she was carrying to her garden, to plant. Silver Lake is very prolific and has long pods like the Kentucky Wonder. Pod quality is about the same. I noted that it was lightening fast to climb and, if I recall, had first snaps in 55 days. I no longer grow it, but am glad to see the SSE offering it.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:01AM
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I remember KW as a kid. I planted some more this year to see if they're as good as I remember. I've planted 'Jade', a white seeded variety for several years. It's an outstanding bush variety with long straight dark green pods and very good flavor.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 12:47AM
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I'm wondering where people are finding good Kentucky Wonder Beans. I can't recall how long it has been since I have found good seeds. At least back to 2008. I have ordered from Gurneys, Fedco, Burpee among others. I ordered Old Homestead (can't remember the source) thinking they might be like the old Kentucky Wonder Beans that I used to love, but no. It seems that everyone that I have ordered from may get them from the same grower. I find a few long, meaty, slightly velvety beans like the KW that I knew and loved, but mostly there are flat, shiny, shorter, very stringy beans that I don't even bother to pick. I'm about to give up. I haven't ordered from Heirloom seeds or Seed Saver Exchange. Guess I'll do that before I give up and look for Silver Lake as well.

I have gotten Kentucky Wonder Wax from different sources and they have been to type. They have the same meaty texture expected of KW. They are nice and early but don't produce a long time. Should plant them in succession. For now, my favorite bean is Emerite. It doesn't have the rich meaty flavor of KW but is a beautiful bean, long, straight, uniform and stringless and produces like crazy in my garden. It has replaced Fortex for me. I planted French Gold as a companion. Like KW Wax, it's nice while it lasts but a short producer and the beans are not as uniform as Emerite. Again, I'll succession plant them if I try them again. Rattlesnake is another good producer that my boyfriend loves to chomp on raw. Both Emerite and Rattlesnake are filling up my freezer.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 10:34AM
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