Pole bean help please!

Austin, TX

I built a raised planter and a trellis for my first-time green beans (Kentucky Wonder). Immediately they shot up and most are climbing 4 feet up after only 3 weeks. Suddenly one plant at a time is failing. No obvious bug infestation. One plant just suddenly wilts up like it really needs water but doesn't recover. The first time it happened I pulled the plant out of the ground but couldn't find any bugs in the soil and the root system looked intact. Now a second one has fallen prey but I've left it in the ground so whatever's eating it will continue to do so instead of moving onto another while I'm trying to figure out what to do. Any suggestions?

(The sturdy wooden frame is covered by chicken wire and extends over the top of the fence so they should have plenty of room to grow. Good soil amendment, good sunlight. Got to be some kind of root bug.)

Thumbnail by bunsengirl
Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi bunsengirl, I dont know about your soil condition, but your beans need a good open soil with loads of compost or well rotted manure into it when digging the bed, they are hungry plants and also thirsty WHEN they start to produce flowers, I know you said you have dug up one of your plants and it looked fine, BUT, sometimes, unless you know what you are looking for by way of root problems, it is hard to identify what is wrong, over here in UK there are a lot of root deseases that attack the bean family, look for coloured markings on the roots (Fusarium) shows as red markings on the root and the bottom of the stem, it also causes the leaf to turn yellow, root rot of any other type also cause the leaf to go yellow, I am not saying you have any of these, but, keep a look out for it as you dont want to plant beans in the same soil for a good few years if you have root rot.
Maybe they got a nip with frost at night, there is still time to plant some more beans , but use another area of ground and dig in plenty of compost into the planting hole, if you still have the problem, check that your seed is fresh, I cant think of anything else to be honest, but I think it is worth another go this year, even IF it is only to satisfy yourself, if you dont have a long enough space, you can grow them up a wigwam of canes and this wont take up as much space, but remember to dig in plenty of manure OR compost.
Good luck, WeeNel.

Austin, TX

Thanks for your response WeeNel. The thing is, this is a brand new planter and a large portion of the soil was good compost I made myself. I actually got kind of carried away adding compost and didn't save enough for the rest of the garden. I asked my local nursery about it and they said if it was grubs I'd know because they'd still be attached when I pulled up the root. They said it was probably pillbugs (which I have a TON of and thought I read somewhere they were beneficial insects) puncturing the base of the plant sucking out moisture and suggested organic ways to get rid of them. The part that struck true was that now the very bottom leaves on most of the plants are turning yellow. Is there any way of correcting the root rot midstream? Will they ever flower and set beans now that they're symptomatic of root rot? I chose this location because of it's dappled sunlight/direct sun and built a large trellis for climbing. Can I not use this space at all because of the root rot or could I plant a different veggie? I'm considering nematodes or buying a compost tea maker which eliminates a lot of disease and pest problems.

Thank you! bunsengirl

This is a more recent picture showing the climbing progress. Don't know if you can make out the bottom leaves yellowing.
P.S. They've been in the ground almost four weeks and have already maxed out the 6 ft. trellis. No flowers yet. Is this normal?

Thumbnail by bunsengirl
Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

bunsengirl, your plants look a bit skimpy and yellow for pole beans. I'm wondering how much sun they are actually getting, they really prefer full sun. However, not being familiar with Texas climate(s) if you are in a really dry area (lack of humidity) pole beans will tend to lose moisture pretty fast.

As for your compost, are you sure it was thoroughly cooked? If not then it would tend to steal nitrogen from the plants, thereby causing the yellow leaves, and eventually death. The plants that have already died may have been in an area of your compost that was still cooking a bit hotter than other areas or, at the other end of the spectrum, could've been at the end of the planter that looks like it gets a lot of shade.

Also, too much watering will cause those yellow leaves so make sure your growing medium is well-drained.

If it were me, I'd check your soil to make sure it offers good drainage. Then feed the plants with some fish emulsion sprayed on the foliage (after the sun is off of them or early in the morning) to help green them up.

Hope this is helpful.
Happy Gardening!

Ottawa, ON(Zone 5a)

I think Shoe's comments are on the mark. I have a couple of other suggestions based on growing pole beans in the 80s and 90s at our family cottage (the garden has since been closed down, alas).

I always grew about twice as many plants as you have in that row, i.e., more thickly. They can take it, and you'll get better harvests. You could put another seed in between each of your existing plants. Once they sprout, they'll catch up in no time.

My other suggestion is about support. My pole beans grew as high as I had support for them, which was an old 2" copper pipe 8' off the ground. The vines grew up strings of jute tied to the bar and secured to the fence (see the photo, at the back of the garden). The fruit was borne on the top 4-5 feet, and that's where the strength was needed. I wonder about your chicken wire support and how you will harvest clusters of beans that grow between the wire and your fence. You could use twine instead and be able to reach all the beans.

BTW, on the left side of the garden are sugar snap peas. They also grew as high as they could!

Thumbnail by andycdn

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