help with bean towers

kawaiineko_gardener(5a)December 30, 2011

Primarily, I'd be growing green beans; however I'd also like to do lima and edamame (baby green soy beans). With the soy and lima, they'd be for shelling.

For lima and edamame, I'd like to get about 25 lbs. of fresh shelled beans; however is this even possible with container gardening, or not worth it? Note this is NOT dry beans, but fresh shelled.

I have various questions regarding this. First I'm wondering which variety of bean to plant, pole or bush; I know pole is a heavier yield, but they take longer to mature, and my growing season is short.

Next, I have to think about space, as I have a limited amount, and which type will maximize the space, pole or bean.

How many bean plants would I have to plant to get 50-75 lbs. of fresh beans. I know how many lbs. per plant you would yield depends on variety.

However with either bush or pole, can you recommend a variety that is heavy yielding, and if so how many lbs. per plant does it yield?

The other thing I need to figure out is if I do bean towers, how many beans plants can I plant per tower without overcrowding them? Also, how far apart would the bean towers need to be spaced; I ask this because the beans will be grown via container gardening, either raised beds or SFG.

A very stupid question, but do the bean plants climb up the tower by themselves, or do you have to train them to do it? I don't know, as I've never grown pole beans before.

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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

For snap beans, you would be better off with a pole variety. Yes, they can take a little longer to bear (or not, as I'll show below) but the yield will be much higher, and sustained over a longer period. The length of growing season is not as much of an issue for beans picked immature, since they need far fewer days than beans left for shellies or dry seed. I didn't plant my snaps until July 1st this year, and still froze a year's supply before frost.

While as a rule pole varieties take longer to bear than their bush counterparts, there are exceptions. "Goldmarie" (wax) and "Earlyriser" (green) are as quick to bear as most bush varieties. There are several other green-podded pole Romano types that mature quickly. "Kentucky Wonder" is a little later, and bears heavily... but since they must be harvested small to be stringless, it may not be the best suited to pot culture. "Emerite" and "Fortex" remain stringless to a large size, so you'll get more pod weight per plant, and both freeze well. In a large pot, I would recommend thinning to no more than 3 bean plants per pot.

For limas, I would still recommend a pole variety. "Sieva" (a.k.a. Carolina) has done well for me in Wisconsin, even when direct seeded. It bears heaviliy, and is probably the best pole variety for short seasons. "Sieva" has been in short supply commercially, due to recent crop failures; hopefully that will not be the case next year. "Carolina Red" is similar in all ways to its white-seeded cousin, and is available from Sandhill Preservation.

Started early as transplants, limas are more likely to reach maturity, plus that would open up your choice of variety a bit. The root systems of limas are larger than those of common beans, so I would recommend no more than 1 plant per pot.

Edamame soybeans are only available as bush. Like any bean, they respond well to additional spacing. I've never grown soybeans in pots, but you can probably get 3-4 plants per pot, depending upon pot size. The yield per plant, though, is fairly low, I'd estimate about 4 ounces or less per plant. I've had widely spaced plants yield much more than that, though; one plant produced over 100 pods, enough for 3 people.

Now the bad news. I'm not sure if it is reasonably possible to get 50 pounds of any shelly bean from pot culture, without a huge number of pots. Pole beans have large root systems, and I have observed considerable stunting in pot culture, even with large pots. My dry seed yield from pot-borne pole beans is less than half what it would be in open ground, and depending upon variety, sometimes no more than a few ounces of dry seed per pot. You might get a lot of snaps, but chances are that the limas would give you only a pound or two per pot. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try it, or that the results won't be worthwhile... just don't go into it expecting to fill a freezer.

I should mention that 50 pounds is a lot of edamame by any measure. I grow a lot of edamame soybeans in fertile ground, and a large crop for me is 25-30 pounds. That requires about 40-50 feet of row. But then, edamame soybeans are not typically eaten in large servings, so a little goes a long way.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2011 at 8:11PM
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Yeah I know based on what you're telling me, pole beans would be the best way to go since they're heavier yielding. However you're saying that since they have such deep root systems, they'd be difficult to grow in containers? If such is the case, then would I be better off just doing bush beans for container gardening?

If so, can you recommend heavy yielding bush bean varieties that germinate and grow well in cold weather.

Please specify how many lbs of fresh beans the green beans would yield as well as the name of the variety.

Thank you for taking time to post and your suggestions.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 6:05PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"However you're saying that since they have such deep root systems, they'd be difficult to grow in containers? If such is the case, then would I be better off just doing bush beans for container gardening?"

No, that was not what I said... perhaps I did not state my point clearly enough. Pole beans will out yield bush beans, even in pots. They are the best choice for gardening with limited space, such as a container garden. They are unlikely, though, to attain their maximum potential yield.

My point was that you are unlikely to get the large amounts of beans you quoted (50-75 lbs.) from any plants grown in pots. It is theoretically possible, given perfect nutrition... but it would be a major undertaking, and having no experience in that area, I can't help you there. You might want to review threads in the Container Gardening Forum, to see how others have dealt with that issue.

"Please specify how many lbs of fresh beans the green beans would yield as well as the name of the variety."

There are no guarantees in gardening. Different soils, different gardeners using different techniques, and different weather year-to-year all produce different results - even for the same variety. You can find plenty of evidence of this, such as the cross-country observations about specific varieties within this forum.

As one example, I have 2 widely-spaced garden plots on my property, plus a rural plot (my main garden) and a collection of large pots for things that need a little extra TLC. Plants will perform differently in all 4 locations. I grew "Bosnian Pole" in pots the first year, then in my rural plot. The results varied widely; a moderate seed yield from pots, compared with one of my highest seed yields ever in my rural plot.

I would estimate that you could get 1-2 lbs. of green beans per pot from pole beans, possibly more. Since you pick snap beans immature, the plant should continue to blossom & bear, provided it stays healthy. Mature beans - such as limas & edamame soybeans - are another matter, since overall plant vigor will determine the number of pods which are allowed to set. There's only one way to find out - give it a try!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2012 at 11:01PM
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