All garden beans are sensitive to cold soil and cold air temperatures. Seeds planted in cold, wet soils rot, but colored bean seeds are more tolerant to cold soils than white bean seeds.
Soil type is important to bean seed germination. In germination, the two large seed halves (cotyledons) must come through the soil surface. Clay or compacted soils hold the cotyledons, and germination is poor. Cover seeds with a non-crusting material, or add sand, peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite to the soil. If a crust forms, carefully break it or sprinkle it lightly with water several times to soften it and aid germination. All beans are nitrogen fixing plants, so be careful to avoid heavy nitrogen fertilization and nitrogen-rich soils.
Major problems with beans are blossoms and pods shedding, diseases, and insects. Both too much and too little moisture cause blooms and small pods to shed. This also occurs when summer temperatures are extremely high. Control most diseases by buying western-grown seeds, selecting disease-resistant varieties, using treated seed, rotating land, and not working or harvesting beans when leaves are wet. Major insect pests are bean leaf beetle (round holes in leaves) and Mexican bean beetle (lace-like leaves).
Bush snap beans can be green or yellow (wax) and round or flat. They are sensitive to hot, dry weather; therefore, do not plant them to mature in midsummer. Late-planted bush beans do not set a big crop, and the pods that develop are of poor quality. Bush beans should be planted in a broad band of several closely spaced rows.
Harvest beans at the tender snap stage, but any snap bean variety can be allowed to grow to the green shell stage and be used much like lima beans and southern peas. Most bush snap bean varieties require 50 to 60 days from planting to harvest.
- Atlantic—mottled seed; medium green; slim; round-oval; long pod; mosaic resistant.
- Blue Lake—white seed; dark green; round pod; slow to develop fiber; good flavor; processing type.
- Contender—old variety; colored seed; pale green; oval pod; frequently curved; early; fresh-use type that develops fiber rapidly.
- Derby—white seed; round; long, slim, straight pods; slow seed development; resistant to common bean mosaic virus; AAS 1990.
- Magnum—long, flat pod; light-medium green color; 6.9 inches long; tan seed; 51 days from planting.
- Greencrop—white seed; long, flat pole bean type pod; fresh use and processing; no disease resistance; AAS 1957.
- Provider—purple seed; round; medium-length pods; white seeded type also available.
- Topcrop—medium green; round; medium-length pod; slightly curved; mosaic resistant; brown seed; AAS 1950.
Green-shell beans are grown like bush snap beans. These are special varieties:
- French’s Horticultural—pods and beans cream colored, splashed with scarlet; a semi-runner type; 68 days.
- King Horticultural—similar to French’s Horticultural; 75 days.
- Taylor’s Horticultural—non-running plant; pods and beans similar to French’s Horticultural; 75 days.
Pole snap beans extend the harvest of snap beans through the summer. They are more tolerant of hot temperatures than bush beans. Support vines with cane poles, strings, or a trellis, allowing for 6 to 8 feet of growth. Bean vines are heavy, so construct a strong trellis. Barbed wire as the top wire prevents poles and strings from slipping. Support posts to prevent trellis collapse in wet weather. When exposed to very hot summer temperatures and dry soils, beans drop their blooms and small pods. Harvest all beans to keep vines producing. Pole beans yield more than bush beans because they produce over a longer period of time. Nitrogen-rich soils result in excessive vine growth and no beans. Most pole snap bean varieties require 65 to 70 days from planting to first harvest.
- Alabama No. 1—black seed; nematode resistant.
- Blue Lake—white seed; fresh and processing type; pods long; round-oval; smooth; meaty.
- Cornfield (Striped Creaseback) —colored seed; pod flat; light green turning purple brown; stringy.
- Dade—white seed; fresh use type; similar to McCaslan; tolerant to several diseases; early.
- Kentucky Blue—pods 6 to 7 inches long, round, straight; good flavor; mature in 58 to 65 days; vines resistant to strains of bean rust and common bean mosaic virus; AAS 1991.
- Kentucky Wonder—colored seed; fresh use; pod long, flat; meaty, brittle; low fiber; good flavor; popular old variety.
- Kentucky Wonder 191—white seed; similar to Kentucky Wonder.
- Louisiana Purple—purple pods that turn green when cooked.
- McCaslan—white seed; fresh use; light green pod; flatter and smoother than Kentucky Wonder; very productive.
Asparagus (yardlong) beans are pole beans that reach 2 feet in length. At this stage they are past their prime and should be used like southern peas. Harvest when pods are 10 to 18 inches long for use as a snap bean.
- Red Seed—long, dark green pods.
- Red Noodle—red pods.
Bush lima beans (butter beans) are more sensitive to cold than snap beans, so delay planting until the soil temperature is at least 65 degrees. Both small- and large-seed types are used as green-shell beans. The small-seed limas produce better than the large-seed types. Most varieties require about 65 days from planting to harvest. Use treated, fresh seeds. Do not use last year’s dry garden beans for this year’s seeds because of disease carryover problems. The major disease is stem anthracnose. Control this disease by using western-grown seeds and planting rotation in the garden. Do not plant lima beans in the same garden location where they were grown last year.
- Dixie Butterpea—white seed; 3 to 4 small, plump beans per pod; sets pods under high temperatures; large and vigorous plants; late maturing.
- Early Thorogreen—small, flat, rich-green baby lima; heavily productive; sets throughout the plant; very adaptable and vigorous; green-seeded Henderson Bush.
- Henderson Bush—creamy white seed; 3 to 4 small, flat beans per pod; most popular older variety; small plant; productive; processing type.
- Jackson Wonder—speckled butter bean; seed buff with purple markings; beans small, greenish-white with purple markings at green shell stage; medium-sized plant.
Nemagreen—seeds greenish-white; 3 to 4 small, flat beans per pod; plants small; productive; resembles Henderson Bush; resistant to root-knot nematodes.
Pole lima beans are grown like pole snap beans.
- Carolina (Sieva)—white seed; 3 to 4 beans per pod; pole type Henderson; popular old variety; widely grown; 80 days.
- Florida Speckled Butter Bean—seed buff, splashed with maroon; 3 to 4 small beans per pod; greenish with purple at green shell stage; bears well in hot weather; 78 days.
- Willowleaf—dull white seed; similar to Carolina, except dark green leaves are narrow; 90 days.
If you read this Southern Gardening column frequently, you realize that I grow much more than pretty flowers in my home garden. Besides ornamental plants, I love to grow vegetables that my wife and I can enjoy for dinner.
If you’re anything like me, I find any excuse to get outside. The warmer temperatures and colorful blooms are refreshing, especially after the cold winter we had! Working on outdoor chores is a great excuse to get some fresh air. Here are a few tasks you need to cross off your checklist during April:
Don’t believe everything you hear. That piece of advice can be applied to gardening as well. We’ve all done something because a friend said that it works.
Pat yourself on the back. You made it through the historic February ice storm! The weeklong event probably set you back on your garden chores and likely created more work for you to do. Tidy up any damage and get your spring garden in shape with these garden tasks.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Each February marks the occasion for producers to share their research and programming needs with Mississippi State University agricultural specialists in person.
To comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the opportunity will be extended virtually this year.