Often the very first plants many of us grow from seeds are beans. Preschoolers carefully plant them and water them, toddling home with little cups filled with soil and a small bean shoot. In middle school, when science teachers explain germination to their students, everyone gets a bean seed and places it in a wet paper towel and sets it on a window ledge to watch, and track, the germination process. Why beans? Of all of the plants, they are truly the easiest to grow from seed with very little care, making them an ideal plant for gardeners of all ages.
All beans are legumes which add nitrogen to the soil, making them a necessary part of your yearly vegetable garden. There are two groups of beans- shell beans, which are grown for their seeds, and snap beans, which are grown for their edible pods. Those two groups are then broken down into four groups, based on their growing habits: bush beans (self-supporting), pole beans (vines that need support), runner beans (like pole beans but need cool conditions), and half-runners (somewhere between bush and pole in support needs). Because there are so many beans, it’s important to do a little research and figure out which beans will grow best in your region. I like to flip through my seed catalogs, ask neighbors, friends, and especially regulars at my local garden center. Often times you’ll get advice about which beans grow best or, if you are lucky, get a few seeds to try from someone’s collection. Thanks to the wide variety of beans available, there is truly a bean for every garden, no matter the size, and every gardener, no matter their experience level- here are a few of my bean picks for the upcoming year:
Blue Lake Pole Beans - A Gurney’s Choice for good reason- these beans are easy to grow and fast (63 days from seed to harvest). Lots of seeds and lots of beans, this is a great bean for a beginning gardener who wants to see results and not spend a ton of time tending the plants, or a great introduction to vegetable gardening for kids or grandkids, who will have fun harvesting the beans. These are also great for canning. Be sure to get some kind of support, like a pole bean tower or vegetable trellis.
Improved Golden Wax Bush Beans - Another Gurney’s Choice, this bean is perfect for the gardener with a small space as it has a very minimal spread, only grows 18 inches high, and still gives high yields. A fast grower, just 50 days from seed to harvest, these big buttery-flavored beans are stringless, delicious and good for canning.
Roma II Bush Beans - These flat broad beans can grow up to six inches long and still maintain their full flavor. Perfect for those looking for something a little different, working in a compact space; these reach maturity in 59 days. Flavor and color do not fade with processing, making this bean a great option for those who enjoy home preserving.
Purple Pod Pole Beans - For something absolutely gorgeous and delicious, plant these in your garden- even better yet, use them as a way to add vegetables to your existing perennial gardens, as the leaves are beautiful and the blooms are pink before the deep purple pods emerge. 67 days from seeds to harvest and would benefit from a structure to twine around- perhaps an archway, fence, or bean trellis.
No matter which bean you choose, you are sure to have success with this easy-to-grow vegetable. Check out Gurney’s for all of your bean planting needs- vegetable trellis, bean tower, and of course, Gurney’s Vegetable Food.