Texas Cooperative Extension,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

September 2004

Fall Beans Are Best

by Dr. Sam Cotner, Extension Horticulturist, retired
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Green beans
Trellised green beans

Green beans are a 'winner' in Texas all vegetable gardens. They are easy to grow and produce a high-yielding, high quality crop. Most people will agree that the flavor of the fall-grown green beans far exceeds that of those produced in the spring.

There are many different types of beans grown in Texas gardens, but the most common are green snap beans, lima beans, and the various types of horticultural beans. Green snap beans are usually of two types - bush or pole. However, bush beans are usually preferred over pole types due to the fact that they are earlier and produce a higher yield before the first killing frost.

Bush beans generally require about 60 to 70 days of good growing conditions to produce a crop. Often, fall beans are a little slower to make than spring beans, as they are maturing during cooler conditions and shorter days. For a steady supply of beans to the kitchen, you might try making small plantings every 10 days, keeping in mind the number of days remaining before the average date of the first killing frost.

Some of the more popular fall bush bean varieaties are TopCrop, Tendercrop, and Contender. The varieties Greencrop and Romano are bush forms of the popular pole beans. If you insist on planting pole beans, and space and time permit, try a planting of the pole varieties Kentucy Wonder, Blue Lake, and Dade. All three of these varieties produce high yields of excellent quality beans.

Lima beans, a popular garden item in many Texas areas, like warmer soils to germinate. But they often fail to set during extremely hot weather. They generally do well in most Texas gardens when planted in late summer or early fall and allowed to mature during cooler conditions. Some bush lima bean varieties which do well are Ford Hook 242, Henderson Bush, and Jackson Wonder. Recommended varieties of pole limas include Carolina Sieva and Florida Butter Speckled.

Many Texas home gardeners like to raise horticultural beans such as the Improved Pinto. These are large-seeded beans used in the green-shell stage. The fiber of the bean pod is often too tough for these beans to be cooked as snap beans unless they are picked at a relatively immature stage. These types can usually be recognized by their colorful striped or mottled pods. Some of the more popular variedties are Dwarf Horticultural, Bush Horticultural, and the pole variety King Horticultural.

As with the spring crop, many of the problems associated with garden beans begin at planting time. In the spring, many home gardeners plant the seed too deep. However, when planting in the fall, the seed should be planted a little deeper to compensate for the hotter soil temperatures. Covering the seed to a depth of about 1 to l l/2 inches when planting in the heat of summer or early fall is generally recommended. After planting, never allow the soil to crust, as this will result in poor germination and emergence. A light mulch over the seed row will help prevent crusting and often helps cool the soil slightly. If a crust does form at or near emergence time, water the soil lightly.

As the crop grows, you must be on a constant lookout for insects and diseases. Many of these problems are much more severe for the fall crop than the spring crop. Applications of recommended insecticides and fungicides will greatly increase fall bean yields.

For top yield of quality pods, pick the beans before the seed fully develops. A few pods left to mature on the plant will greatly reduce the set of new beans and reduce harvestable yield. Snap beans should always be picked in a young, succulent stage. To keep fall beans producing, side-dress the plants after the first picking at the rate of 4 to 5 teaspoons of ammonium sulfate, or 2 to 3 teaspoons of ammonium nitrate, for each 10 feet of garden row. Scratch the fertilizer into the soil, but avoid placing it too close to the plant, as damage can occur. Watering of the green beans is extremely important, especially near or at bloom time. Never allow the soil to dry out, especially during this period.