To the average home gardener the word bean implies only two types, the kidney, snapper string bean and the lima beans, both of which belong to the genus Phaseolus and are native to the Americas. There are, however, a large number of other types, many of which are native to the Old World and include broad beans, soybeans, and Southern Pea Bean, Velvet Bean, Mung Bean and Tepary Bean, to list a few. Beans, as a group, constitute crop plants that are worldwide in culture to provide food for man and animals, to improve soils, for ornament and in some instances, e.g., soybeans, for industrial uses.
Snap or String (Phaseolus vulgaris) are cultivated more generally than any other crop of the bean tribe both for its edible pod and its dried seed. It is a very important home-garden crop in all sections of the U.S. Commercially large acreages are grown for the fresh market, for canning and freezing, and for dry beans.
Bean varieties are listed under hundreds of names, many of which are synonymous and are of little importance. Beans may be classified according to:
- Use. (a) snap beans for the edible pod, (b) green shell, for the still green immature seed, and (c) dry shell or ripe seed.
- Color of pod as green or yellow wax.
- Habit of growth, namely dwarfs or bush and climbing or pole. The following varieties are recommended for home garden planting:
- Green-podded bush—’Tendercrop’, ‘Tender-green’, ‘Contender’, and ‘Harvester.’
- Wax-podded bush—Pencil Pod’, ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Brittle Wax.’
- Green-podded—’Kentucky Wonder.’
- Wax-podded—’Kentucky Wonder Wax.’
Bean Soils and Fertilizers
Beans will grow satisfactorily in most all types of soil but do best in well-drained, warm, sandy loam and loam soils. Growth of the plant is slow and stunted in soils that are either too acid or alkaline and thus a soil pH of 5.5-6.5 is best. Thorough soil preparation is important.
Beans will respond to a normal application of well-rotted animal manure or compost if available, 20-30 bu. per 1000 sq. ft. If no manure is used, increase the fertilizer amount by two lbs.
Beans are tender to frost and usually are planted after that danger has passed. The seed germinates slowly in soils of a temperature of 60° F. and if lower they may rot. Cold, wet soils result in poor stands. In the North 2-3 or more plantings are made to provide a continuous harvest. In the far South additional plantings are possible.
Bush varieties are planted in drills 1-2 in. deep and 24-30 in. apart. The plants should stand about 2-3 in. apart in the row. Pole beans are planted in hills, 4-5 seeds per hill, and spaced at 24-36 in. between hills. For most varieties the poles should be at least 6 ft. long. Various types of trellises can also be used satisfactorily. Eight or ten hills are adequate for the average family.
Frequent shallow cultivation should be practiced basically to control weeds and to prevent a caking of the soil surface. Commercial growers have used the chemical Premerge or Sinox as a selective herbicide. Again it is not advisable for the home gardener to use these chemicals because they can cause severe damage if not used properly.
Kidney or snap beans are hand picked before the pods are full grown and while the seeds are very small. Harvesting of green-shell sorts is delayed until the seeds have reached full size but are still soft and succulent.
Lima beans (Phaseolus limensis). The lima bean is very tender and, therefore, sensitive to frost and cold or wet soils.
Both the Mexican bean beetle (a copper-colored, 16-spotted ladybird-type beetle) and the larvae (orange-yellow and fuzzy) feed on the leaves and pods. Larvae are found largely on the underside of leaf. You can control these insects by dusting at 7-8 day intervals and up to 4-5 days prior to harvest with rotenone dust, malathion or methoxychlor. It is important to cover underside of leaves and apply in early morning when plants are damp with dew. Leaf hoppers are green, very small insects that fly quickly when disturbed. Both adults and nymphs attack leaves causing a curling and yellowing condition.
Anthracnose, a fungus, attacks the stems, leaves and pods causing elongated, sunken, dark red cankers. The disease is carried from year to year with the seed and the only control is in using western-grown seed; also, do not cultivate or work with the beans when the plants are wet. Bacterial blight appears on the leaves as brown blotches surrounded by a reddish-yellow halo. Control is the same as for anthrax-nose. Mosaics are caused by several types of virus. The affected plants are stunted and have crumpled and yellow-molted leaves. Control lies in controlling aphids which carry the disease and using resistant varieties such as ‘Contender’, ‘Toperop’, ‘Kentucky Wonder’ or ‘Blue Lake.’ Rust shows up as red to black pustules on the leaves, causing leaves to dry up and fall off, carried over from year to year in plant refuse. Burning old bean plants, using varieties which show some resistance, and dusting the plants with sulphur or maneb are possible controls. In the case of pole beans, treat the poles with formaldehyde—1 pt. to 5 pts. of water. Downy mildew on lima beans shows up as a downy white growth. Dust with copper-lime or use maneb as directed on the container.