Fifteen years ago I would have bristled at the mere thought of growing anything anywhere but in the soil I work ever spring in anticipation of harvesting the vegetables we love. But that was when the conditions were much different. My body was much younger and more fit, I was working to get my greenhouse business off the ground and working from day light to dark, so spending time outside was my thing.
Also, we had an outside dog that loved to hunt the critters that feast on garden plants. Seeing your hard work go to pot because the groundhogs and rabbits like your potential food source as much as you just rubs you the wrong way. So what can you do? Some people string up an electric fence. Maybe I did it wrong, but that barely slowed the assault.
So what is a better way? Last year (2016) we gave a raised bed a shot with our tomato crop. Four sixteen foot 2×8 boards allowed us to craft a 4 ft x 12 ft bed for our tomatoes. We wound up with too many plants in the space, but had the best tomato crop in many years, with fruit still present on November 1st. Following that success we began to imagine a longer bed for our beans.
When you create such a large bed you will need a fair amount of soil. In a garden you can just plow up the depth you require, working the ground to your desire with a roto-tiller. We chose to use compost from our local facility, which was a little bit of work and expense, but since it is loose it does not compact when wet like regular garden dirt.
I probably should explain we eat a lot of green beans in one year. At our peak we have canned up to 150+ quarts of Tenderettes, which is a bush bean. Obviously a 12 foot bed wasn;t going to provide much in the way of a crop. Instead we chose to work in the multiples of the 16 foot lumber from our local big box hardware store. Nine boards made the 4 ft x 32 foot bed we now are loving.
To make the most of our space we planted our rows as close to the side as we could, thinking the rows would fill in the space. Boy have they! It is difficult to see where one row begins and the other ends, but they will be higher than in the garden, so hopefully the picking will be easier.
I am sure many who read this will say ‘What’s the big deal? It is only beans!’ Well that is true, but for the last few years we have planted only to have our vines chewed off by every animal that loves green stuff. Luckily we haven’t had to battle the deer yet, so this solution seems to be our best bet. Seeing actual beans hanging is like a victory for our garden efforts.
My answer to the question ‘Can I grow green beans in a raised bed?’ is a resounding yes! I will soon be harvesting the first picking off ours and hope to get two or three more before the vines are spent. Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.
This is the Facebook post I made about the success of the raised bed. Yes, the groundhogs are officially booted from the roll!
AUGUST 21st of 2017 EDIT
Due to our love of green beans and two other factors: our daughter being away at school and our son potentially being married within the next year we are making special efforts to turn another crop during this growing season. With that purpose in mind I pulled the vines for our first crop the 24th of July and replanted on the 25th. Four days later God blessed us with a good all day soaker of a rainy day and two days later I had the second crop poking up through the soil.
With 60 quarts coming off the first crop we are in good shape, but if we can turn that again with this current crop I will be beyond tickled. So far the second crop has gotten just the right rain at the right time and looks well ahead of the frost deadline of mid to late October.