Planting beans enriches the soil while giving you an edible crop you’ll love. They’re so easy to grow! But the one question that many beginner gardeners ponder is whether they should grow bush beans or climbing ones. I prefer bush beans, but my grandmother used to like climbing ones better, and I must say that I’m starting to consider a change to the climbers. All the same, both have their pros and cons, and choosing between the two will depend on your garden space and your personal choice. There are no wrong answers here – just pick what’s best for you based on these points.
Lower Maintenance or Bigger Harvest?
Bush beans are a favourite of “lazy” gardeners like me, who couldn’t be bothered with building a trellis, but climbing beans have advantages, and the biggest of these is that they give you more beans per plant.
To be perfectly honest, building a trellis needn’t be that big of a job. All you need is some stakes about 2m tall. You can either build a ‘teepee’ shape, or you can plant them in rows, slanted over to form a triangle with string stretched horizontally between the stakes to help your beans find their way up the trellis. Once you’ve got your hand in, you can build a trellis like this in minutes.
If you have a wire fence for your beans to climb up, you don’t even need the stakes. Just sow your beans along the fence-line, and they’ll usually find their own way or can be helped to do so with a few bits of string.
Climbing Beans Need More Space but Yield More
It’s true. Climbing beans need more space to grow than bush beans. I usually sow my bush beans quite close together, but climbers need a bit more room because they are much more vigorous growers. I’d be curious to know just how many more beans you get per square metre with climbing beans, but the sources I researched say it’s definitely a higher yield for the space used. Harvest time is also over a longer period – and that could be why my gran was always such a fan of climbing bean varieties.
Varieties to Try
Whether you prefer bush or climbing beans, there are some interesting varieties to try. I was careful not to call either type of bean “green” and for good reasons. Of course, green is the most common colour, but I always loved purple beans. Apart from the colour being pretty, they’re said to contain more antioxidants. In bush form, Royal Burgundy is a good variety to grow. Prefer a climber? Try Purple King. For an unusual bush bean, try golden-yellow Cherokee Wax.
But the one bean I’m very eager to try is definitely a climber. Red Dragon snake beans utterly intrigue me. At first, I was convinced there was a catch to these super-long green beans, but everyone says they’re as tender as any other. So, watch this space! What’s your plan for this summer? Climbing or bush beans? Old favourites or new varieties?