Popular Spring Crops

Horticulture News


Beans are a tender, warm-season crop that is popular in Kansas gardens as either a spring crop or a fall crop.


• Bush snap. Snap, or green beans, are grown for their tender, immature pods. They can be green, yellow (sometimes called “wax”), and purple. Bush types grow on short plants typically up to 24 inches tall and do not require trellising.


• Pole beans. Pole beans have a climbing growth habit and will require a trellis. Pole beans often perform best when planted for a fall crop in Kansas. Pole beans can be either shelling or snap beans.


• Shelling. Shelling beans are grown for the mature bean seeds in the pod. They require a longer growing season and dry weather to cure the pods. Blossoms may drop if heat occurs too early in the growing season, making them difficult to grow in Kansas. These include lima beans as well as French horticultural types, cranberry, pinto, great northern, red kidney, and similar varieties.


• Long beans. Long beans are relatives of Southern peas (cowpeas) and are vigorous climbers requiring a trellis. The bean pods can grow to 3 feet long, although best eating quality for snap beans is usually 12 to 18 inches.


• Southern peas. Also known as cowpeas, field peas, or black-eyed peas, southern peas are actually beans that are grown throughout the south and originated in Africa. They are very heat and drought tolerant, which makes them a good choice for a low maintenance summer crop. Some varieties are more bush-type and others are more vining.


Variety considerations. Choose early maturing varieties, because beans may not set as well in the heat and have problems with spider mites in the middle of summer. Many newer cultivars of snap beans produce large yields at one time, whereas older cultivars may spread the harvest over a longer time period. Some cultivars have larger pod diameter, whereas others have been developed for more slender, filet beans. Look for varieties resistant to bacterial blight and that are heat tolerant.


When to plant. Beans are sensitive to cold temperatures. Soil temperatures should be 55 to 60°F with danger of freezes well past before planting. Fall beans can be planted in late July or early August. You can have a continuous supply by planting at intervals several weeks apart. However, beans planted to bloom in hot, dry weather frequently will be of poor quality.


Spacing. Plant seeds about an inch deep. A plant every 3 to 5 inches is desirable, so drop seed about every 2 to 4 inches. Plant pole beans 6 to 12 inches apart.


Crop rotation. If possible in your garden space, do not plant beans in an area where peas, beans, or soybeans have been planted in the previous 3 to 4 years.


Care. Do not soak bean seed before planting. Moisten the soil to provide moisture for germination, but do not water to form a tight crust. Beans have a shallow root system and require careful cultivation, good weed control, and water in dry periods. Beans are sensitive to soil salts; avoid alkali spots or “salty” locations. Excessive nitrogen in the soil can delay flowering, so take care not to overfertilize.


Harvesting. Harvest snap beans when the pod is crisp, smooth, and before the seeds enlarge significantly. Do not harvest in early morning when dew is on the plants as this may spread bacterial blight. Harvest lima beans and horticultural beans when the pods are fully formed and seeds have enlarged to the degree you desire. To use fresh, harvest when the pods are thin and tough, but not dry. To store, harvest when pods are fully dry and the beans inside rattle.


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