In The Garden: Growing Yard Long Beans

Embracing Our Interdependence With Nature

In The Garden: Growing Yard Long Beans

In The Garden: It is nearly planting time and Pole Beans make a great hot weather crop and a great way to start out in the garden this August. There are several types of beans that grow on poles. The Yard Long Bean, Vigna ungulculata is my favorite so far. Yard Long Beans look like real long string beans, and they taste really good raw or cooked, tending toward sweetness at their best. The variety I am growing right now is called Gita. My friend Vicky says her Yard Long Beans only get to thirty five inches. That’s amazing and I don’t know if she is pulling my leg or serious, but my yard long beans are ready to pick at about 20″ and my longest one was 28″. I never measured Yard Long Beans until Vicky told me about hers!

Long beans should be harvested before the pod part begins to collapse around the swelling seed. Those that stay on the plant that long are best saved as seed for the next season. (See the article: Why We Should Be Saving Seeds.) If it is very dry outside I let them stay on the plant until they begin to lose their green color. If it is raining a lot then I will harvest an old bean and let it dry out on my counter top. Once it is dry, I crack off the pod and save the seeds which in the case of my Yard Long Bean variety Gita, are black. I put them into a paper envelope, mark the name of the seed variety and the date saved, and seal it. I used to make envelopes out of old brown paper, but more recently I have been saving return envelopes from junk mail. I seal the envelope, and cut it in half parallel to the short ends. That gives me two reasonably deep paper envelopes for seeds. Once I have put the seeds in the envelope I fold the top down once and seal it with some tape.

Pole beans need something to grow on, hence the name. It is fine to give them a pole. I think the pole should be at least five feet high. I prefer a fence for them though, or if your garden is a mound consider using long pieces of rebar that arch over the garden from one side to the next. You can plant the beans where the rods go into the ground, or you can plant them beneath the rebar going across the garden. Run a few lines of Sisal or Bailing twine from vertical to vertical parallel with the ground, and tie sisal strings or bailing strings to the rod long enough to reach the ground, knot them at the strings that run parallel with the ground, and bring them down to the ground where the beans will come up. I make a loose loop around the base of the bean plant to make certain the plant notices the string is there. It is so loose a loop that it will slip down over the existing leaves and stems easily so as not to damage the plant. Once the bean plants find the string they fly up it. One more idea for bean support is to sink two 6′ or 8′ 2×2’s vertically on either side of the bed along its length, with another secured horizontally across the top of the two and one more half way down also horizontal and again run sisal strings or bailing strings (if you have a surplus) from the top 2×2 down to the middle, knot them there and let them hang to the ground where the beans will find them, looping loosely around the plants.

I sow my bean seeds directly into the soil about 6-8 inches apart, and no deeper than the longest end of the bean. I pretty much let them fall how they will in the depression I make for them in the soil, and then cover them up loosely and water the soil.

Pole beans are Legumes. They are plants that are able to draw nitrogen gas out of the air and store it in nodes on their roots. They are great soil fixers though other plants will not derive a benefit from their presence until they have died and their roots have rotted into the soil. For that reason once your Legume plants are done you should cut them down to ground level, chop up the leaf and stem parts leaving them on the soil surface for mulch, and leave the roots behind.
You can plant your next crop right there where the old stems are.

Companion Plants for Yard Long Beans are those in the cabbage family, carrot, celery, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, pea, potatoes, radish and strawberry. They will benefit from being near nasturtium, rosemary, and summer savory. Pole beans should be kept apart from beet, onion, shallot and garlic plants.

The only insects infestations I get on my Yard Long Pole Beans are aphids and their ant tenders. Soon after the aphids show so do wasps, lady bugs and lizards. While I will see aphids on my bean plants for several weeks after the insect battle has begun I rarely lose more than a couple of beans to the ants and their aphids before the predaceous insects strike the balance.

Yard Long Beans are used the way we use string beans. They can be steamed or stir fried or eaten raw in salads or as crudite. Healthy plants will produce flowers and beans continuously for many months. For the best flavor and a good snap, beans should be picked while their shape is still smooth and before the seed or bean shape shows thru the skin. Even if that means they are not actually a yard long. My best performing Yard Long Bean plants this summer are in a bed mulched with old tree leaves. What I love about these beans is it doesn’t take very many twenty some inch beans to make a side dish for the family. In ten to twelve snips I have harvested a side dish for dinner, and these beans grow up to me so I don’t have to bend to get them, and they are easy to see. I know there is also a burgundy colored variety of Yard Long Bean. I imagine that would be lovely in the garden, and so easy to see at harvest time.

Good luck with your Yard Long Beans.

42 Responses

  1. Sara says:

    What other kind of pole beans are there? The burgundy sound interesting.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Hi Adina, great article. I have tried yard long beans but the aphids love them, too much! I never had luck getting any. They like my other pole bean varieties too. I I wonder what it is they love so much. So I have given up for the time being until I can find a remedy.
    You are a true inspiration for gardening in Florida. Keep up the great posts!

  3. Adina says:

    Hey Sara, thanks for your comment. Any bean that needs a pole to grow upon is called a pole bean. There are several different ones. Some have large flat pods, others are round and long, or round and short. The burgundy ones are very cool for sure, but the ones I am familiar with loose their red color when steamed.

  4. Adina says:

    Hey Suzanne, thanks for your comment. I have seen what you grow at your farm. You do beautifully with your crops. Sorry about your aphid experiences so far. This has been a banner year for aphids. I have been lucky to have had the right predaceous insects on hand, and lots of food varieties for those aphids! This year I learned that having nasturtiums growing nearby is supposed to help with that.

  5. john says:

    Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the mound at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter in the soil and improve its structure.

  6. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment John. That is excellent information on the relationship between Corn Squash and Beans, the Three Sisters of the garden.

  7. Benny says:

    Hi, My name is Benny Robles and I’m from Bonaire,The Dutch Caribbean.Our island is dry and further we have the sun 365days/year.Not easy to grow veggys but we try.We grow the yard long beans too.Further our island has good soil.I still wonder why our plants are loosing a lot of flowers but maybe this is normal.We do have a lot of wind on Bonaire but we grow our veggys in a protected spot. Hope somebody can help us with some answers.Thanks.! Benny

  8. Adina says:

    Hi Benny, thanks for your comment. Those yardlong beans are amazing. Drought can cause flowers to drop, though you didn’t say how much rain you get, and whether or not you irrigate.
    I hope you will communicate again when you figure out what is going on.

  9. Tami says:

    Hi Adina great article and site. After you save the seed do you refrigerate or freeze I live in the virgin islands so I don’t know if keeping in a drawer would be to hot or even make a difference. Also to use the seeds for planting is there anything special you need to do them? New to gardening in case you cant tell. 🙂 Thanks for all your great info. Tami

  10. Adina says:

    Hi Tami, thanks for your comment. Seeds that are for our hottest season I don’t refrigerate, while the cold season seeds, like lettuce, carrots, onions, cole crops like cabbage, collards and mustards I refrigerate. So choose your best beans (probably early in the season, and plan to leave them on the plant until they are dry. If the weather is very wet, or if you are getting bugs that infest your beans bring your biggest best beans indoors and dry them in the pod on paper. Once dry you can shell them and put them in a paper envelope. Mark the date and the variety of bean you are saving, and put them aside until the next growing season. If you are planting the beans in a garden that has never had beans or peas before then invest in some bean and pea inoculant. You can get a small pack that will treat about 8 lbs of beans for under $5 through the mail.

  11. Kay says:

    You said that pole beans should be kept away from garlic – why is that? (I just plant my pole beans in a bed that is half planted in garlic).

  12. Adina says:

    Hi Kay, thanks for your comment. If you check out companion planting charts, and specifically an herbal companionate you will see that it is not recommended that onions, shallots, or garlic be planted with pole beans or peas as it may inhibit their growth. However you have a good opportunity to discover for yourself if this is true. Though it won’t be a perfect experiment, you might try planting some more pole beans anywhere else in the garden where there are no onions or garlic, and see which crop does better.

  13. Kay says:

    Adina –

    Thanks for your comments. Can you tell me how close is too close since the garlic is about 3 – 4 feet away from the pole beans. Still too close?

  14. Adina says:

    Kay, The spacing you have may be sufficient. I don’t know for sure how close is too close. I guess if both crops do well you have your answer. Look on this experience as an opportunity to learn first hand about companionate relationships. Is there another crop between them? That may provide a perfect buffer zone. Thanks for reading, and for your comments.

  15. Doug and Christina says:

    I have a question for the forum and any help would be greatly appreciated. We planted a bunch of (Royal scarlet?) pole beans in our garden here in Maryland the plants are over 6 feet and have been growing since april. They flower and the flowers then drop off but no beans!?!?!? Can anybody give some advice?
    Doug and Christina

  16. Adina says:

    Hi Doug and Christina, thanks for your comment. I am afraid this isn’t a forum, but anyone who reads your question is able to comment. I know your weather is warm enough there in Maryland for pole beans. I think if there was too much nitrogen in your soil the flowers wouldn’t even form. Do you see any flying insects there? I wonder if you are missing some key pollinators. You might try spreading pollen from flower to flower yourself if you don’t see any insects, and you might consider ways to attract insects to your garden if that is indeed the case.. If you have insects buzzing around your flowers then this may just be a case for patience.. that is remain patient. You should get beans.

  17. Doug and Christina says:

    Adina Thanks for the comment and yes we have insects we will just wait and see
    Stay well
    Doug and Christina

  18. Adina says:

    Doug and Christina. I’d be interested to hear how this plays out. Lots of luck and beans,

  19. Julie says:

    Thanks so much for the info on beans. I live in south Florida and would like to plant something in July…so this is perfect!!!

  20. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Julie. Have fun with those beans. They are great eating.

  21. Jim says:

    Doug and Christina, I read on another website ( I think) that the flowers drop while it’s too warm, but when the weather cools, the fruit (ie, the beans) develop. This is my first year growing them, and I’m in the Northwest where it’s not particularly hot, so I can’t say from experience. Mine seem to be growing quite slowly.

  22. Vasa Vijayakumar says:

    Hi there,
    We have this pole long bean plants in our backyard grown so wild, no crops at all. What can we do to get product??

  23. Adina says:

    Hi Vasa, If you have this plant in your yard, and it is making lots of growth that is good. When it starts to flower you should get lots of beans. One of the reasons it may not be flowering is if there is a lot of nitrogen in the soil. Then the plant will make lots of growth before flowers. Once it has used up the available nitrogen it should start to flower. You don’t say how long the plant has been in the ground and whether it is a volunteer, or a plant you planted from seed you bought or saved from last season.

  24. Claire says:

    I grew yard long beans this year and they didn’t produce either for the longest time. I read up on them and found out that they are day-length sensitive and that daylight had to be 12 hours long at least for them to produce. We don’t get that until end of August and September. Sure enough, they started producing then and quite prolifically! I also planted seminole pumpkin and it apparently is day-length sensitive, but no flowers or pumpkins either. So, not sure.

  25. Adina says:

    Thanks for your comment Claire. I wonder if day length was the issue for Vasa. I am in the northern hemisphere, and our days are at their longest by mid June. Seminole pumpkins do well with very fertile soil.

  26. Yassinn Haque says:

    How big should my snake bean plants be by the end of 2 weeks? Im trying to grow them to 10cm but im not sure how.

  27. Adina says:

    Hi Yassin, 10cm in the first two weeks seems okay. I don’t know where or in what season you are growing your long beans, but when mature they can easily grow to be 2 meters high. As with most plants the early growth is slow, and then growth speeds up as the plant develops more of a root system and is able to photosynthesize more. Best of luck for continued growth and a great harvest.

  28. Nick Bester says:

    I want to know where can I get some seeds of a yard long bean.Can someboby assist me please.I will verry please if somebody let me know.

    Many thanks

    Nick Bester

  29. Adina says:

    Hi Nick, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange sells yard long bean seed so does Johnny’s Seeds, and Kitazawa Seed Company.

  30. Nick Bester says:

    Manny thanks Adina,

    I am in South Africa,and I believe the place you gave me,is overseas.



  31. Adina says:

    Oh Hey Nick, Ah ha, you are overseas and we are overseas from you. You are right I gave you seed companies that I would use here in the United States. Here is a link for an heirloom seed company called Living Seeds in South Africa. They have red noodle and green yard long beans. I noticed they also have rattlesnake beans which are my absolute favorite to grow and to eat. I recommend them highly. Thanks for looking at my blog. I am thrilled to have a reader from South Africa.

  32. Leon says:

    Hi could someone help me with some seeds for this Yard Long Beans. Been looking all over but with no luck please help.

  33. Adina says:

    Hi Leon, Where do you live?

  34. gardena says:

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter
    group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your
    content. Please let me know. Cheers

  35. Adina says:

    Sure, post a link.

  36. Ron Bliss says:

    This is my first year in planting these Japanese seeds and now there are ants crawling and covering the little pods. I sprayed them with soapy water, hoping that was okay!???

  37. Adina says:

    Hi Ron, Yes I have found the Yard Long Beans to be great attractors of aphids and then ants. I have even seen the big red and black Carpenter Ants on the pods before. If there aren’t aphids there I don’t know what the ants are doing.. With aphids the ants are farming them bringing their sugar filled bodies down into the nest to feed the queen. So you are not the only farmer on your land! I don’t generally do battle with insects, but I know that some soaps are too detergent to spray on plants and will strip the leaves of necessary protection and do more harm than good. In the case of an aphid infestation in which the pods become fuzzy and grey entirely covered by the aphids they are no longer good to eat having had the sugars sucked out of them, so I cut the plant down to a few inches above the ground, leaving the cuttings there on the ground, and have found in some percentage of cases that the plant makes new growth and produces a new crop of beans that are aphid free. It may be because in attracting aphids the plants have also attracted lady bugs which are present when the new crop comes and can keep up with new blooms of aphids. I hope this helps.

  38. […] In The Garden: Growing Yard Long Beans | Manure Depot – In The Garden: It is nearly planting time and Pole Beans make a great hot weather crop and a great way to start out in the garden this August…. […]

  39. […] In The Garden: Growing Yard Long Beans | Manure Depot – Hi Ron, Yes I have found the Yard Long Beans to be great attractors of aphids and then ants. I have even seen the big red and black Carpenter Ants on the pods before…. […]

  40. […] In The Garden: Growing Yard Long Beans | Manure Depot – In The Garden: Growing Yard Long Beans | Manure Depot – Hi Ron, Yes I have found the Yard Long Beans to be great attractors of aphids and then ants…. […]

  41. Mark Tele says:

    Aphids have wiped out my entire long bean crop in the past. This year, they went for my summer squash instead and wiped them out. But the beans are really producing right now. I have tried to neutralize aphids with soapy water, soapy water with oil, and neem oil – without success. Blasting them with a spray from a hose seems to be the most effective, easiest and cheapest method to keep them in check.

  42. Adina says:

    Yes, aphids do seem to love Long Beans. Long Beans can be used as a trap crop for aphids, to keep them off of other crops. If you stop doing battle with aphids, predaceous insects will be able to get a foothold in your garden, and they will restore the balance there. Our first summer on a new landscape project we planted the landscape with mixed flowering cover crops like buckwheat, millet (a grass), and cow peas. The cow peas flowered and the peas got absolutely hairy with aphids. Not long after that the lady bugs began to fly in. They were everywhere. In the fall when we planted our kale crop, and other plants that aphids love, we already had a willing army of ladybugs on the landscape to keep our food crops aphid free. It was a very successful food forest landscape.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.