Vertical Gardening: Growing Beans

Growing beans can be a space-saver in the world of vertical gardening.

| January 2014

  • Scarlet Runner Beans
    As a group, pole beans are easy to grow and often produce bumper crops over a long season rather than in a single flush, as many bush beans do.
    Illustration courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Asparagus
    Asparagus, or yard-long beans, can grow to gargantuan proportions but remain tender and tasty if picked under 18 inches in length.
    Illustration courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Beans growing on a fence
    Beans love to climb and will grow up just about anything handy, so put your fencing to work for you.
    Illustration courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Old swing set with beans growing on it
    An old swing set is given a new lease on life to support bean vines.
    Illustration courtesy Storey Publishing
  • The three sisters plant trifecta
    The Three Sisters Garden is a plant trifecta consisting of corn, squash and, of course, beans. Grown together, these three offer each other support, protection and nourishment.
    Illustration courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Vertical Vegetables and Fruit Book Cover
    “Vertical Vegetables & Fruit” by Rhonda Massingham Hart explores the possibilities of vertical gardening for just about anything.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Scarlet Runner Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Beans growing on a fence
  • Old swing set with beans growing on it
  • The three sisters plant trifecta
  • Vertical Vegetables and Fruit Book Cover

In a very small footprint, you can take advantage of vertical gardening by planting vegetables that climb, ramble and twine toward the sun. Small, contained spaces also minimize weeding and pest control and maximize your harvest. Vertical Vegetables & Fruit (Storey Publishing, 2011), by Rhonda Massingham Hart, features gardening techniques that make efficient use of the space available, especially in a small yard. Use this passage to find out the not-so-secret secrets of growing beans vertically.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Vertical Vegetables & Fruit.

Growing beans

By the time Jack shinnied up the beanstalk, pole beans were already an established favorite among home gardeners. Not only are they easy to plant and grow; they also benefit the soil. Like all legumes, beans extract nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that plant roots can absorb. This conversion is accomplished with the help of soil-dwelling microorganisms. With nitrogen being one of the three most heavily utilized elements of all green growing plants, this is no small claim to fame.

Many types of legumes are used as cover crops solely for their nitrogen-fixing ability, but anyone who has ever savored the fresh flavor of beans just plucked from the vine, lightly steamed and buttered, knows there are even more enjoyable rewards. As a group, pole beans are easy to grow and often produce bumper crops over a long season rather than in a single flush, as many bush beans do.



Beans may be used or preserved in a variety of ways with healthful, satisfying results. Pole beans, while generally bearing a little later than bush varieties, make up for their late start with extended harvest, bigger beans, and a more old-fashioned, “beany” taste.

A Web search for pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) turns up nearly three million websites vying to sing their praises. They come in an almost infinite array of colors, sizes, textures, and flavors. To simplify things, we’ll look at a few general categories — snap (green), French, shell, runner, Italian Rampicante (pole), lima, and asparagus (yard-long).





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