Legumes: Peas + Beans
Both pole peas and pole beans need something to climb on. Even the bush varieties appreciate some support. Tidy plants make it much easier to harvest the pods as the plants are held upright. Free standing trellises or netting and vertical strings tied onto a fence or wall are both good options. Try the following instructions if you want to grow your legumes in your garden away from a permanent structure like a fence or wall. Find 3 pieces of sturdy 6 to 8ft tall bamboo. Tie them together securely at the top and spread the legs out into a teepee shape. Push the feet into the soil to stabilize the structure.
If you look closely at a pea plant you’ll see it climbs by growing tendrils that wave in the breeze until they find something to hold onto and then they grip with surprising strength. They are pretty fine so they need something thin to catch onto. We use cotton or some other kind of natural string to wind around the bamboo legs in a horizontal manner. Start at the bottom and wrap the string in a circular motion around the three legs wrapping it around the poles to keep the string in place. Continue upwards in this way until you reach the top. We try to space these rows about 4 to 6” apart.
Using a natural fiber string makes it easy at the end of pea season to just cut off the string and old plants and dump the whole bundle into the green bin without having to separate the plants from the string.
Beans do not produce tendrils and climb by spiraling their stems up the bamboo poles. Other than a bit of early directional encouragement, they are just happy to figure it out on their own.
You can grow both peas and beans in containers. If you are using a large pot you can try the bamboo pole method. Bush varieties are nice and easy to harvest when grown in a container.
Any time we talk about peas we can’t help repeat our yearly plea — plant your peas in the FALL! You will be amazed at how early you can harvest. You will also have harvested abundantly before the depressing mildew problem that shows up on our vines in late spring here in the Bay Area.
Download PDF: The Amendment legumes