I may be 66 years old and may
have been food gardening for 35 years, but I still learn stuff every year. Last
summer I learned how to increase the productivity of the common pole bean. It
has long been my (probably incorrect) opinion that pole beans yield well for
some time and then the yield tapers off. I believed this habit was to be
expected/the nature of the beast/nothing to be done about that. When I lived in
Oregon, I usually harvested relatively few beans during the fall unless I had
started some—say about July 1st—especially for late harvesting.
I grew pole beans last year, as usual, planted in a single
row about 10 feet long. It was located in the middle of a new garden atop a
large hill that cops a fair bit of wind. The variety of pole bean I prefer,
Musica, is rather delicate and doesn’t handle wind too well. I suspect that
Musica was bred for glasshouse cultivation.
Several times last summer, the winds played up fiercely
for a few days, the vines lost a great many leaves and production was halted.
When the weather settled, the plants grew new leaves, bloomed and started
Despite all the damage and production halts, the yield was
excellent and the beans so choice that we began selling them to a local fancy
restaurant. The restaurant was so happy with Musica beans, this year we planted
nearly three times the length of row. To avoid having all that wind damage, the
bean trellis was located in my most protected spot, against the sun-facing wall
of our house. The beans grew lustily with this extra bit of heat and reflected
light, and the vines lost no leaves from wind damage. After we made three or
four good pickings this summer, the leaves began to get wrinkled, blistered and
lost their “newness”—and the vines stopped producing.
Yield from this 25-foot row of Musica beans declined to
the point that we were picking a bare handful of pods every other day, when
that much row should have yielded five to ten pounds of pods daily.
During the summer, I had visitors from southern India who
came to see our gardens and visit. The Varanashis are involved with organic
certification for local farmers in their area and are authors of books on the
organic cultivation of tropical crops. Mrs. Varanashi was with me when we came
to that non-producing row of pole beans. I told her about my difficulty and she
said that in India they remove old, senescent leaves on climbing beans to keep
production up. We began ripping the large wrinkled old leaves from those
vines—buckets of ‘em. Why not? They weren’t producing anyway.
In a few days new growth appeared all over the trellis. In
a few more days, flowers appeared, and now the vines are producing quite
well—not quite as well as they did originally, but considering that the vines
are a month older than they were when the yield petered out, I have little to
Now, when I harvest climbing beans I routinely remove the
old leaves from the vines .
I hope some of you will try stripping old leaves from your
climbing bean vines and let me know if you get the same results. E-mail
Northwest Garden News (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they will forward your
messages to me.
Renee’s Seeds offers Musica beans; Territorial Seed
Company’s Helda is similar to Musica.