HOW TO GROW BUSH BEANS AND POLE BEANS IN NORTH FLORIDA
How can you tell an old-time Southern vegetable gardener from one raised outside the South? One sure fire way is take a peek in the vegetable patch and see what kind of green beans, or snap beans, are growing there. If bush beans are being cultivated -- and not pole beans -- it is probably the vegetable plot of a transplanted gardener, not a true Southerner.
Loads of gardening old timers I know prefer pole beans because they grow through the summer, have big yields over a longer period of time and produce larger beans. Many have been growing the same cultivar for generations; the name long forgotten. Climbing a ladder to harvest the beans from the towering vines only seems to add to the delight of growing them.
On the other hand, I find growing bush beans more to my liking because no support is needed, there seems to be a larger variety of cultivars available, they are easier for me to harvest and they produce their crop over a short period of time, which works best in our household for both fresh eating and freezing.
Recommended varieties of bush beans for Florida include some of the nation’s favorites: Bush Blue Lake, Contender, Roma, Harvester, Provider, Cherokee Wax, Bush Baby and Tendercrop.
We prefer the more delicate filet type green beans in our kitchen, so I have tried several filet cultivars. The ones I like best thus far are Flavor Sweet and Trofeo.
Recommended varieties of pole beans for Florida are Dade, McCaslan, Kentucky Wonder 191 and Blue Lake.
Planting dates for bush beans and pole beans in North Florida are March-April and August-September.
Before planting, prepare the soil as you would for most other vegetables by mixing in a two inch layer of compost or other organic material, such as dried, chopped leaves or dried lawn clippings, and some vegetable fertilizer at the rate suggested on the label.
For bush beans, sow two seeds about every six inches. Thin to one plant every six inches when the plants are about an inch or two in height. To extend your bush bean harvest, make successive sowings every two weeks.
Pole beans require a trellis or similar support. The trellis or stakes should be at least six foot long. Sow three to four seeds at the base of each pole.
The biggest challenges we face with growing beans in North Florida are seed and stem rots; rust and bacterial spots; and insect damage.
Rust and bacterial spots affect the leaves and bean pods if left untreated. Rusts are most common in the early spring. Bacterial spots frequently occur following rain or overhead watering because the water splashes bacteria onto the leaves. Both diseases are controlled with a fungicide. I have had good luck with copper-based fungicides on beans.
In North Florida, among other pests, the Mexican bean beetle feeds on the leaves of bean plants. Damaged leaves have a “lacy” look to them. The beetle looks very much like a Lady Bug but it is brown and has 16 spots on it. When insect damage appears, apply an insecticide, following label directions.
As with most other vegetables here in North Florida, water your beans once or twice a week if it does not rain. Fertilize as needed; about once every three weeks. Follow label directions. Harvest the bean pods when they are tender. Harvesting triggers the plants to produce more beans, so harvest often.
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