I just got in from harvesting a hefty batch of green beans (one of the few crops that seems to have done well this season) and I have a few lessons to share.
1) Forget about those quaint looking traditional bean pole tepees made from bamboo stakes. I tried those this year, thinking they would make a nice change from the very prosaic metal poles and mesh that I had used previously on The Victory Garden. I grew my own 10′ supports, in fact, from a clump of arundo donax I have here in the garden. (Yes, I know, giant cane is a pest species in many climates. It isn’t a problem here though, as we are on the extreme northern end of its range where it maintains itself as a nice tidy non-spreading clump that provides all the bamboo rods I need.)
As for the old-fashioned tepees – great aesthetic, zero practicality. Not only are the canes insufficiently sturdy for the great weight of beans and foliage they carry – even now one is tottering dangerously in the direction of the prevailing wind – but their footprint takes up an immense amount of valuable space in the garden. Much better it would have been to grow the beans in a straight line as before.
2) Make whatever structure you use only as high as you can reach. My current tepees are 3 or 4 feet taller than I am – again very dramatic, but terribly impractical – requiring a step ladder each time I want to harvest the beans.
3) Choose your beans carefully. I grew two varieties this year. One from Burpee, ‘Kentucky Wonder’ which was fine. Great growth, OK flavor. But wow, check out the pole variety of ‘Northeaster’ next year from Johnny’s. Flat, buttery and tender, these beans melt in your mouth. (‘Fortex’ is another one I remember to be excellent from previous years.) Beans have many distinct flavors, so it pays to look around and try different varieties. Maturation date is another important consideration. Harvest dates can often differ by more than 20 days, so if your growing season is short, chose a quick-maturing variety.