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About a month ago I got the idea to try growing pole beans (Kentucky Wonder) and using my sunflowers as support instead of bothering to put up a trellis. Of course it wasn't until after I bought the seeds that I paused to wonder if the sunflowers would be able to keep ahead of the beans. I have no experience with growing pole beans.

The Sunflowers: One portion of the sunflowers are a variety I grew last year. It's a branching variety, the seed pack claimed they would grow to 6 or 7 feet. In my garden they reached 8 feet easily. A second is a mixed pack with at least 3 varieties in it, I think they are branching varieties and they also claim a final height of 6 or 7 feet. A third set is actually a descendant of the first variety (apparently I missed one head when I was clearing up stalks from last years flowers).

I'm fairly sure the sunflowers can handle the weight as I needed a hatchet to cut down the stalks this spring. I'm not too concerned about the beans wanting to get any taller than the sunflowers as I can't harvest any higher than I expect the sunflowers to grow anyway.

The real question is will the sunflowers be able to stay keep ahead of the beans? At the moment the sunflowers have about a 3 week head start (they're 6 inches tall, and likely to grow quick with the 70-80 degree days forecast for most of the week. Should I give them a little more time to put on size before I complicate things?

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  • Not a direct answer but for some reference... I did it with corn one year and my big sunflowers are much stronger than corn so weight shouldn't be a problem. I planted the corn 2 weeks before the beans but I should have waited longer, maybe a week or 2 more, for the beens as they grew faster than the corn. – OrganicLawnDIY Jun 1 '15 at 1:31
  • I'd have reservations as to the strength of the sunflower stems - yes, they're tough to cut down in autumn or winter, but they're not tough and stiff initially, nor when they're in the process of growing, they harden up over time. – Bamboo Jun 1 '15 at 10:00
  • There's also the problem of shading the sunflower foliage with the bean foliage, which will negatively impact the sunflower's growth. – Ecnerwal Jun 1 '15 at 14:12
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    Hmm... well, it looks like I'm going to be doing some science in my garden. If I'm not back by August the sunflowers fell on me. – GardenerJ Jun 3 '15 at 3:21
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    I know lots of people actually do have beans grow up live sunflowers (I've seen people discussing it online). They all seemed happy. So, it's apparently doable, whether or not it's ideal, but I don't know whether they plant the sunflowers ahead of the beans. My mom uses dead Mammoth sunflower stalks (from previous years) tied together to look kind of like a teepee. The beans do fairly well on them. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Jun 3 '15 at 21:49
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You can do this, but the big asteracea leaves of the sunflower will shade the beans.

Corn has been used for this purpose, and often also planted with squash or melons and that's called "three sisters".

I have done it, it's a fun way to garden if you have an irregular space.

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  • How big food you let the sunflowers get before planting the beans? – GardenerJ Jun 3 '15 at 23:29
  • Depends on the sunflower. They grow at different rates, but usually 6-12 inches – Escoce Jun 4 '15 at 0:47
  • Observations as of early September indicate this is the main concern. I started the beans when the sunflowers were about 8 inches tall. The beans have been rather pale and spindly from beginning to end, likely at least in part because of poor lighting, though I expect I have made a few other mistakes. The sunflowers appear to be totally indifferent to the bean's presence. – GardenerJ Sep 8 '15 at 14:39
  • Yep, sunflowers have big and not so shiny leaves. Corn has thin and shiny leaves. – Escoce Sep 8 '15 at 14:57

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