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Beginner Vegetables: growing dry beans in containers on decks and rooftops in 6a

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awibs
Chicago, IL
(Zone 6a)

December 27, 2012
5:42 AM

Post #9368217

90% of authors (and internet sources) I've found so far insist that growing dry beans is a huge waste of time because you'd have to grow so many to get a reasonable harvest, especially in containers, which I would be doing. (I live in a six-flat in metro Chicago with literally no turnable earth on the property - it's parking spaces or building.)

However, in designing an urban container garden, I'm told the number one problem with city rooftops and back decks is the high winds, and the solution is lining the rails with pole beans, and lashing the poles to your balcony railings as a windbreak.

I have an 1600 sq foot totally unused flat rooftop that's private to my unit, and two southern-exposure back decks (about another 200 sq feet each) on the second and third floor, all surrounded by a waist-high railing perfect for lashing bean poles to. I'd pretty much have to line the perimeter with pole beans- EVERYTHING gets blown off our roof. Sometimes I'm afraid I will. Yet every author seems to think I can humanly eat the 8,000,000 metric tons of snap beans implied by these factors, and should never bother with dry beans because no one using a rooftop has space, ever. (Even though the vast majority of residential Chicago is three-flats with flat roofs and back decks, so theoretically 1 in 3 tenants lives on a top floor and has at least 1500-2000 square feet of unfinished and undeveloped space with full sun, and are encouraged to put whatever they want up there - it's like the landlord's cheap alternative to actually maintaining a yard, telling you you can use the rooftop, and Chicago culture usually involves grilling and sunbathing and other summery things up there instead.)

So... is there a real reason why I should avoid dry beans like the money sink everyone implies they are, or is it just that authors writing outside Chicago don't routinely have gigantic flat roofs on every building, surrounded by a waist-high railing and buffeting by high winds, just begging for pole beans?

Post script - high yield, short season cultivars have been identified. Water source is a tap for a hose on the roof. Building is 4 year old construction, brick, porches steel, and not likely to have weight-structural issues since I'm not planning to do giant beds for a green roof - just a row of containers along the edge as far as I get ambitious to do so (I REALLY doubt I'll go all the way around my first year growing something fancier than windowsill herbs.)

Thank you!
Doug9345
Durhamville, NY
(Zone 5b)

December 27, 2012
2:06 PM

Post #9368565

I'd say give it a try. They certainly will grow though I don't know what the wind will do to them. I'd also make sure that the poles couldn't get loose and blow over the side.

I have bush beans(Dragon's tongue) growing in 9 oz coffee cups on the window sill. They started to flower yesterday so I'll see if they will set beans. I don't know how many bean seed I'm going to get off them but I'll see.

Other things you could grow for a wind break are tomatoes, corn though you'd have to hand pollinate it most likely, and cucumbers on a trellis.
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

December 30, 2012
3:24 PM

Post #9370797

Never know until you try! I got a pretty big harvest out of just a few plants each of several kinds of dry bean.

I am not sure how much drying out will affect them, you describe a hot, windy location. If it is possible to set up irrigation on a timer that might help. Not too-small a container. You will want some reserves of water. Perhaps the water holding gel sort of additive would be a good idea.

Once you get the beans sprouted and offering just a little protection I would add leaf crops that like the extra nitrogen.

If you are using a bagged soil, I would also get some of the innocculant of the bacterium that is a companion to the legumes.
nancynursez637
Madras, OR

January 1, 2013
1:09 PM

Post #9372513

Your bean plants can also be attached to the railings with ties or by weaving some of the vine thru and around the railings. agree the poles need to be firmly attached and not something that will break down and become airborn. I pick up plastic or metal broom handles at garage sales, and use them for supports for tomatos while deeply anchored. Good luck with this idea, and let us know how it turns out
behillman
Plantersville, TX
(Zone 9a)

January 3, 2013
6:13 AM

Post #9373915

I would probally plant something low lying, like cucumbers, or herbs, so that the winds would not bother them. Otherwise, you could line the edges with pots of Evergreen Shrubs, for a windbreak. This would make for a nice Patio for sunbathing & just sitting outdoors. Then add a few flowering pots, & chairs & table. A bird feeder, a rug, I could go on & on.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

January 8, 2013
4:20 PM

Post #9379462

I'd plant something which will display better quality for the effort. Something you can't buy locally, or that will taste much better for being fresh picked. Tomatos, green beans. spinach?
I grew cream peas this summer, semi-bush, a patch about 16 feet square, and grew well but yielded less than 2 cups shelled..so I got about a dollars worth of beans. (But these are specially recommended by my sister, and not sold around here, I am not complaining)

If it is that windy, the beans may suffer by drying out just too fast. Check the final height the vines can grow to.

I'd still like to hear how it turns out, however you decide to go.

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