String Beans!
There’s a joke in there and you don’t even know it yet.

There are days when I sit down to write a post and I have nothing to say.

I guess technically it’s writer’s block, but it doesn’t really feel like that.  It feels more like gardener’s block.  It is gardener’s block.  I’m  working on my front porch today since my front porch is clocking in at around 85 degrees.

The house is clocking in somewhere between boiling oil and a wool blast furnace.

I have everything set up comfortably.  A bottle of water at my side, my laptop sitting on a makeshift table made out  of a wicker bench and a vintage suitcase.  I have the telephone, my camera, my cell phone and some gum.

And the garden.

The front yard vegetable garden is just sitting there flirting with me.  Screaming out “HEY!  I’M KALE!  YOU COULD PICK ME NOW.”.  That slutty, slutty kale is always trying to get my attention.  And it works.  Kale is a smooth talker.

All it takes is the wink of a leaf and I’m jumping up, running into the arms of the Kale.  When I’ve devoured Kale, I move onto  some pea porn and then my sweet, sweet, sweet potato.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to ignore the call of the wild … leeks.

Clearly coming outside to escape the heat so I can get some work done isn’t going as planned.

So I may as well just get into it, forget about any clever, funny, entertaining writing and just get to the pictures.

When I planned this vegetable garden way back when, I knew immediately that I was going to grow beans.  Even though I don’t really like beans.  They get cold too fast.  But I DO like the look of beans growing.

I decided right away that I was going to use a technique that involves setting a row of bamboo poles and  running string in between them.  I picked a spot, bought the bamboo poles, hammered them into the ground , ran the string … made sure it was all picture perfect … and then I tore it all down and ran to my fence and decided to do something else entirely.

I ran in slow motion with a fan blowing my hair back.

I figured it would take up way less space to grow the beans vertically up my fence on strings.  I planted the beans at the base of my fence and a week ago I noticed they were starting to pop up, so I decided I’d better get moving on the whole string thing.  Otherwise I’d end up with a bean nest.

I got my string, some scissors and sat on the ground staring at the beans and the fence.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this.  Seems simple enough, but … it wasn’t.  I needed the strings to attach to the top of the fence.  Which was easy.  I have a rail up there I could just tie the string to.

Then I needed something to hold the string in the ground.  I didn’t want to put nails or anything in the bottom of my fence to tie the string to, so now I had what’s commonly known as conundrum.

That’s when I went on a Google Search and found this idea.


Tie the strings to a rock!



Then tie the strings to the top of whatever you’re letting your beans grow up (porch, fence, house, neighbour’s car) with the rock falling at the base of each bean plant.




The beans will curve around the string and follow it up the fence/porch/house/car.

Rock 2


And then I partially abandoned this idea, and went with a new idea.

Make a pattern on the fence.  Something free form.

To do this, I had to … wait for it … put nails in the fence.

I know.

I thought I’d try something simple and if it works next year I’ll do something elaborate.  Like a trellis pattern or a to scale, monochromatic reproduction of the scene from Seinfeld where Jerry chases the old woman for her Marble Rye.  Or something.


String 2



In one week, this is how much the beans grew.

I expect by next week they’ll be reaching over the fence and grabbing anything smaller than a 7 year old for lunch.

DSC 0022


Every so often just check to make sure the vines are making their way up the string.  You might want to check to make sure the odd toy breed of dog isn’t tangled up in there as well.

Hurmph.  Pole beans.  They’re an aggressive bunch.  They could learn a thing or two from Kale.


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  1. candace says:

    Oh cool, I love the pattern possibilities of this technique!

    I should have made my cucumbers grow vertically…there’s only 3 plants but they’ve taken over half the garden! Live an’ learn I suppose.

  2. Erin says:

    Love the fence pattern! We converted to pole beans two years ago – they taste so much “beanier” than the bush beans we’d been growing previously.

    I like to throw in scarlet runner beans with my pole beans for some pop. The hummingbirds are all over them. Last year, the vines were so heavy on the scarlets that they snapped the string (probably after a rain) We’ve got heavier twine this year.

    Thanks for the idea!

  3. Alex says:

    Is there a magic secret to pole beans actually, um, poling up? Mine seem to have stunted themselves into the height of bush beans and refuse to grow up?

    • Karen says:

      Alex – Hmm. No. Do you know what kind of pole beans you bought? ~ karen

      • Alex says:

        Sorry for the late reply, we got stuck up north with beer for the long weekend! I have this bad feeling that the nursery where I got them from as little seedlings mislabeled them as pole beans when they are, well not. As I watch the pole beans I started from seeds on the other side of the garden, its becoming pretty obvious. Rookie gardening 101 fail!

  4. Erica says:

    Hi there. I just wanted to say that I found your blog through Stumble Upon and am loving it. So many fantastic ideas -thanks for sharing! I’m in Melbourne, Australia and it’s the middle of winter and freezing here: growth in the garden has crawled to a stand still, so I’m living vicariously through your blog and dreaming of sunshine, spring plantings and plants exploding out of the veggie patch :-)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Erica! Thanks for letting me know you found my site through Stumble Upon. I’m always curious about how people get here. Welcome! ~ karen

  5. Janet says:

    Sure wish we could share our weather….a high of 65 degrees here in (western) Washington (State)and it’s looking like that’s the high for the coming week…gee tomorrow it might get up to 57….is this NOT late June??? The only thing I have growing is potatoes, they are happy, of course….oh and a tomato in a topsy turvy thing….it’s
    been in freeze mode for a month…might be another year of green tomatoes. Like I said…too bad we can’t share our weather. Love hearing about everyones warm gardens…and the fact that you are actually eating things from them…..enjoy that freshness!

  6. Evalyn says:

    Drive a stake into the ground at either end of the bean row, attach a string to one stake and run it to the other stake, pulling it tight, fasten off. Weave another string from the fence to the string at ground level, and back to the fence, repeating once for each bean plant. Don’t forget to stop. As a child, this was my job in our family garden, and later in the commerical bean fields that used to grow in our area. (They had a top string and bottom string for each bean row, and many, many repeats betwixt the two.) Later, I picked beans for 4 cents a pound. I don’t remember what stringing paid, but it was the elite job of the bean field.

    I think if the rock idea is to work, you would have to bury the rock, otherwise the beans would just take the string along with them as they crawl up it.

    1 Pint canned green beans
    feta cheese as desired
    chives, chopped, to taste
    vinegrette dressing or balsamic vinegar
    Toss, Eat. Yum.

    • Karen says:

      Evalyn – Well the beans have grown even more in the past 2 days since I wrote the post and the rocks are doing fine. They’re heavy enough to keep the string tight so I can’t see any problems. Yet, anyway. :) ~ karen

  7. Shauna says:

    soooo, how do you know when sweet potatoes are ready? We have a lovely bunch of leaves coming out of our sweet potato planter box and not sure if we should be digging them up yet. And, yes, I will be giving whatever answer you give me to husband. He did say he needed to look it up. You are my way of ‘looking it up’. Because you seem to know everything. And, your blog tells me to ask you. So, I’m asking.

    p.s. awesome bean poles;)

    • Karen says:

      Shauna – Sweet potatoes will just keep growing and growing. And growing. Here in Southern Ontario where it gets colllldddd in the fall/winter you’re supposed to dig them up just before the frost hits the vines. Generally they take about 100 days to grow, so if you planted them 100 days ago you’re good. Don’t forget Sweet Potatoes need to cure. When you dig the up you have to let them sit on a table or something in the shade for a few days. Then, they need a couple of weeks (If I remember correctly) in a hot, humid room for a couple of weeks. Curing apparently makes a BIG difference in both taste and the potatoes ability to not rot. ~ karen!

  8. Courtney says:

    That is such a cool idea!

    I have been toying around with the idea espaliering my fig tree:
    I hope it makes it easier to pick the fruit.

    I cant wait to see how this turns out. Looks good so far!

  9. Deborah says:

    Maravilloso idea on the beans! and…maybe that is why they call them ‘string beans’ :) FYI – good thing you abandoned the Bamboo poles, earwigs LOVE to hide in the hollowness of the poles by day and come out at night to eat your plants. I have had some eating my pepper plants, until I got my war panties on to do battle with the ugly critters.

    I thoroughly enjoy the heat, HATE winter with a passion and will never once complain that it gets too hot here in the Great White North :)

  10. Rondina says:

    OK, I get the bean design, but I love that fence. It matches the coop. I’m copying your coop for my shed design. Even though I know its the Ikea handles that really made it. Now, I know that you know that nails are just wrong. They will rust. So next year when you do your pea Picasso, please use stainless steel screws.

  11. Jan says:

    I think I may be jealous…I can’t decide. It’s a scorcher at 85 degrees? I could maybe live with that. OTOH, I’d die if I had to endure winter in Canada! It’s WELL into triple digits here and we think we’re lucky if it gets down to 80 overnight. Throw in some water restrictions and gardening in Canada is looking darn good! Now if our veggies could just be pre-cooked on the vine instead of just burned to a crisp, maybe we’d have something goin’ on! Love watching your garden grow…I’m such a veggie voyeur.

    • Karen says:

      Jan – The porch was 85 at about 9 in the morning. Don’t be jealous. Contrary to popular belief Canada gets HOT. And it not only gets hot it gets stifling, can’t breath because the air is so humid hot. It’s been well over 100 for many days this summer already with air so thick it’s hard to lift your arms. I like the heat but not when even after blow drying my hair for an hour it’s still wet. Cold today though! 70 or so. ~ karen!

      • Jan says:

        Whew! Then I’m off the hook for being jealous–it’s SUCH an unattractive trait anyway. But I’m still not giving up my veggie voyaurism, and yours are prime objects for it. Happy, healthy, green. You do good work! Just don’t go telling me you have bigger mosquitos…it would give me nightmares to think it could be worse. :-P

  12. Lisa says:

    you can plant cucumbers and spaghetti squash in hanging baskets. Zukes might be too heavy though.

  13. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    Karen, I only like green beans pan roasted with lots of olive oil, garlic and salt. Try it…it’s yummy. Make sure they’re nice and browned, brings out their sweetness. Oh, and I throw in some sliced almonds at times, too.

  14. Lisa says:

    Definitely adding beans to list of things to plant next year. I’m attempting to grown my zucchini vertically this year – wish me luck!

    • Karen says:

      Lisa – I do wish you luck. I forgot to immediately stake my zucchini and tie it up and now I’m wrestling with it. I think I’d rather wrastle an alligator. ~ karen

      • Langela says:

        Could you, please? “How to Wrastle an Alligator” I can’t wait for the pics!

      • Karen says:

        Langela – They’re hard to find in these parts, but I’ll do my best to give it a shot. Heh. Shot. Get it? Picture? Shot. heh. ~ karen

  15. gogothrift says:

    you continue to amaze me……I never get bored with your blog Karen. And by the way, for some reason it made me feel so much better knowing I’m the only person on the block without central air when I read you’re sweating it out with me :)

  16. Gayla T says:

    I love the rock idea. Beats the heck out of tent pole stakes. Have you seen the article/pictures of the front yard garden in Oklahoma City where they came and tore out a lady’s plantings? Even her fruit and nut trees! It’s so darn sad I could hardly stand to read it. However, there was a court order putting it on stand by until Oct. that the city ignored and she has an attorney. Plants are living things and to destroy them is like killing her dog or something. We seem to be having an overload of mean people. I’d rather think about string art on fences. That is going to be so cool and that’s a good thing when you live where it got to 103 yesterday after not breaking 90 up till now. Too hot to even be on the porch.

  17. Shirley says:

    LOVED the visual of you running in slo-mo with the fake wind blowing through your hair. I do hope Chariots of Fire was playing somewhere in the background …
    P.S. This reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor’s comment: “That’s the trouble with real life. Bad lighting and no sound track.”

  18. Langela says:

    Cool idea, Karen. I just use the boring cattle panel arch between two raised beds idea.

    Btw, after years of learning from you and other bloggers, I now have my own blog! If it sucks, I didn’t learn that from you. I did it all on my own. Stop by if you have the chance.:)

  19. Barbie says:

    Love the rock idea! We plant bush beans always now because of how crazy pole beans get. I LOVE the idea of making a design out of the string though….Please post a picture when they are in full growth on that string ok? I really want to see that! Wanna do that!!

  20. marilyn says:

    well then you will have to embrace the idea of eating the string beans cold.i have an excellent summer recipe for composed salad that uses cukes, tomatoes and green beans all at room temp and its sooo yummy.

  21. The rock idea is very good…I’m going to try the strings on the fence for my upside-down tomato experiment because it’s almost touching the ground now. Hmmmm….got my mind thinking now.

  22. Mary says:

    Boo, string beans. Heart, yellow beans.
    I grew string beans last year and almost expired choking on them. And, you’re right, they just take over everything. This year, I doubled up on the yellow beans and I’m already eating them. :)

  23. Amanda says:

    I like the design idea… goodness gracious you never stop amazing… although just a hint… get an awesome photo of Seinfeild chasing the lady with the marble rye… project it on your fence with an opague projector and you can use the picture to place your nails and string!! Because I already can’t wait to see a bean graffiti version of that scene!!! or I guess you can use any picture… LOL

  24. Pati Gulat says:

    The folks at the Biltmore could learn a thing or two from you, Karen ! Or do they ALREADY come to you for gardening advice ???? Hmmmmm ???? ;o))))

  25. Jodie says:

    So, I think you just posted this, and you might check… I’m pretty sure you accidentally left an unfinished thought and/or sentence in there?!
    Unless you’re just that much smarter than me and I totally missed the joke… again…

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