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How many pole beans to plant?

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  • How many pole beans to plant?

    I love beans and after years of only growing bush beans I am trying some pole beans this year. I have been trying to figure out how many plants to have, and how many to grow per pole--I've been dredging the internet, but I have found almost nothing on the first question and conflicting opinions on the second.

    So, I have Kentucky Wonder pole bean seeds, a household of one, and a desire to have beans for dinner about twice a week. Roughly how many plants do I need?

    Related to that question: How many plants per pole? In going through here and Gardenweb I've seen it claimed (and this does make sense) that fewer plants make for bigger yields per plant, but as I have a small garden I am more interested in yield per square foot. Does anyone have any experience, evidence, or opinions on what the ideal range is here?

  • #2
    I've been dredging the internet, but I have found almost nothing on the first question and conflicting opinions on the second.
    You'll probably get the same here. There are different garden philosophies, and while they may disagree, they are not necessarily "wrong". The cool thing about gardening is that there can be more than one "right" answer.

    The two questions are related, since they both impact yield. KY Wonder is a high-yielding pole bean; it would not be unreasonable to expect 2-3 pounds per plant. In full sun, kept picked & well cared for, they could easily do much better. If the beans are to be used fresh only, for one person, you won't need many plants.

    What kind of poles/support will be used? Provided that you have single poles that are strong enough to take the wind, that might be the best solution. Since KY Wonder tends to bear in "flushes", you might want to succession plant 10-14 days apart for continuous yield. As little as 3-4 poles could keep you in beans all summer.

    I am personally an advocate of wide spacing for pole beans, since the plants are healthier & less prone to disease when not crowded. 3-4 seeds per pole, thinned to the strongest one or two plants, would be my recommendation. You could succession plant additional poles in the space opened up when you harvest early vegetables.

    Since you have stated that space is an issue, I would also recommend placing the poles on the North side of the bed(s), where they will not shade shorter plants.

    If you intend to freeze any snaps, then you might want to plant more, perhaps using tripods or short trellises.


    • #3
      Depending upon fertility of your soil and type of pole, number per pole may be 3 to 8. If it's a thin bamboo pole, even 3 may be too many. It it's a 5" base of an 8' Christmas tree trunk, 8 may still allow 3" spacing. Just completed a project today with 20 varieties of pole beans on 20 tepees comprised of 4 each used Christmas trees. Only one got less than 32 beans and that was because I only had 30 to start with.

      Cheapest and most readily available supports are the abovementioned Christmas trees. Of course, timing means that they have to be collected during a short period at a time not favorable to reducing them to bare poles. Thus one may end up with a large pile of them in the back yard until better weather comes along. I've some which are 10-12 years old and going strong. Just need fresh twine annually.

      Boughs also can be easily recycled. They are soft enough so that a good sharp mower can chew them up without much effort. Several times through a bagging mower turns them into super potato mulch!