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Searcy, Ark. –

Snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) of all types originated in tropical southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. Their probable area of origin is expanded by some to include the Andes regions of South America. Lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus), however, are indigenous to tropical America. Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus multiflorus) also originated in South America and were introduced into Britain for their attractive flowers in 1683. Beans are tender, warm season vegetables that rank second in popularity to tomatoes in most home gardens. Beans may be classified by growth habit (bush or pole beans), use (as immature pods, shellouts and dry beans) and type (green and yellow snap and lima beans). Bush beans (also called bunch beans) stand erect without support. They are the most popular because they yield well and require the least amount of work. Green bush beans were formerly called “string beans” because of the fiber development along the top and bottom of the pods. Plant breeders have reduced the presence of these fibers, and green beans are now called “snap beans.” Bush beans are available in green, yellow wax and lima varieties. Pole beans climb supports and are easily harvested. They are available in green and lima varieties. Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost. Plant beans after all danger of frost is past in the spring and when soil temperature is above 62 degrees F.

They are usually planted in mid to late April in southern Arkansas and early May in northern Arkansas. To ensure a continuous supply of beans, plant every two weeks until mid-August.

Plant seeds of all varieties 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Bush beans should be planted 2 to 3 inches apart in rows that are at least 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant pole beans 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart or in hills (4 or 6 seeds per hill) 30 inches apart with 30 inches between rows. The seeds of most bean varieties tend to crack and germinate poorly when the moisture content of the soil is too high; therefore, do not soak bean seeds before planting or water immediately after planting. Frequent shallow cultivation and hoeing are necessary to remove small weeds. Beans are shallow rooted; close, deep cultivation injures the plant roots, delays harvest and reduces yields.

Harvesting Green and Wax Beans – Harvest when the pods are firm and crisp but before the seeds within the pod have developed significantly. Pick beans after the dew is off the plants and when beans are thoroughly dry. If beans are picked when the leaves are wet, bean bacterial blight, a disease that seriously damages the plant, can spread. The bean plant continues to form new flowers and produce more beans if all pods are removed before the seeds mature.

Lima Beans – Harvest lima beans when the pods are plump and firm. The pods of different varieties vary greatly in external appearance as the beans are developing. Test pick a few pods to make sure beans are at a desirable stage of maturity. Lima beans are best when young; they become mealy and tough-skinned if allowed to remain on the plant beyond peak maturity. Bush-type lima beans are usually harvested in two to three pickings. The pole variety continues to flower and yield until frost if the old pods are removed before the beans mature. Horticulture Beans – Harvest horticulture beans when the pods start to change from green to yellow. Then the beans, often called “shellouts,” are fully formed and can be stored for a short time under refrigeration.

Dry Beans – Dry beans are seldom planted in home gardens because they are generally available in food markets at reasonable prices. They may be grown much like snap beans and produce good yields. Pull the vines when the leaves of the plant have turned yellow and begin to fall naturally. Dry the plants in the garden or on a clean floor. When the plants dry up, pods start to split and the seeds are easily removed. Store dry bean seeds in jars or cans in a cool, dry location.

Common Problems: The bean mosaic disease causes the plants to turn a yellowish green and produce few to no pods. The leaves of infected plants are mottled yellow and are usually irregularly shaped. The only satisfactory control of this disease is to use mosaic-resistant bean varieties. Bright yellow or brown spots on the leaves or water-soaked spots on the pods are signs of bacterial bean blight. Bacterial blight is best controlled by planting western-grown, disease-free seed, avoiding working among wet bean plants and removing all bean debris from the garden. Bean leaf beetles feed on bean plants, causing holes in the leaves. These beetles can cause serious damage, especially when the plants are young. Use a suggested insecticide for control. Overfertilization may cause the plants to become too vegetative with dense foliage that is susceptible to diseases. High nitrogen levels will reduce pod set and yield.

By Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
2400 Old Searcy Landing Road Searcy AR 72143
(501) 268-5394


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