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Pole Beans add music
and magic to your Garden

By Diane Stafford

Your yard, regardless of what size it is, can be a harmonic medley of color this summer and simultaneously grow vegetables for your table.

Pole beans or runner beans are an efficient use of vertical space in small or even larger gardens. While feeding your soul with beauty, climbing beans can sustain you and your family with an extended season and even attract wildlife. Hummingbirds especially love the bright blossoms of the Scarlet Runner beans.

* Growing tips: You can find many interesting varieties locally. Sow seeds directly in the ground when both air and soil are well warmed and settled - usually around mid-May. Plant seeds l inch deep every 3 inches, then thin half the plants once established.

If trellising, plant one row on each side of the trellis or arbor so they weave fully through it. Sow seeds with eye down for best germination. Vines can grow 6-8 feet tall.

Beans are a legume which have beneficial bacteria that grow on their roots and fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates which plants need to grow. If you have not grown beans in your soil before, you may need an inoculant to introduce the proper bacteria. Most garden centers have this inoculant which is mixed with the seed before planting.

* Harvesting: Beans are ready in 60-90 days. For snap edible pods pick when young and tender before pods get fat. This is especially true with the French varieties. Picking continuously encourages new pod setting and fruit. Latter in the season allow some to mature for shelling or dry storage.

* Companion planting: These combinations of plants can mutually enhance growth and productivity. Pole beans benefit from being planted with marigolds, radishes, summer savory (great to season beans with too), corn and potatoes. Keep away from onion crops.

Pole beans can be combined with other flowering vines like Clematis, Morning Glories, Cardinal Climber just to name a few. Experiment with your own combinations and create some happy plant marriages!

For flower color, some of my favorite varieties are Hyacinth bean, Scarlet Runner bean, and Asparagus or yard long beans. Favorites for good flavor are Emerite, the French varieties like Haricots Verts.

Whatever style of music your garden crops play this summer and fall, may it be a full concert of fruit and flowers. Plant some pole beans and watch the magic as they climb their way heavenward.