NC State Extension Publications


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In North Carolina, pole beans are grown commercially in the mountain counties and, on a limited scale, in a few of the eastern counties. They are produced in home gardens throughout the state. Pole beans are grown for their distinctive flavor, long pods, high yield, long harvesting season, and high price. With the rising interest in heirloom vegetables, pole beans are increasing in popularity.

Soils - A well-drained, loose-textured soil is preferred. Soils that cake or crust easily result in poor stands. The soil pH should be 5.5 to 6.2, preferably in the 5.8 to 6.0 range. Well-drained bottomlands in the mountains have been most satisfactory for producing pole beans. To reduce soil-borne diseases, follow at least a 3-year rotation during which no beans or peas are grown. If root rots are a problem, use a 4- to 5-year rotation. Plowing under small grains as a green manure crop will increase the organic matter of the soil as well as the yield and quality of the beans.


Skip to Varieties

Pole Lima Beans

Carolina Sieva (65-80 days) - an heirloom butterbean. Small, white seed. Vigorous vines.

Florida Speckled Butter (95 days) - an heirloom butterbean. Mottled seed. Has a reputation for thriving in hot, humid weather.

King of the Garden (88 days) - an heirloom pole lima bean. Large, cream colored seeds produced on vigorous vines.

Pole Snap Beans

Cornfield Greasys or Cornfield Beans (58-83 days) - mountain heirlooms. - There are a large number of cornfield bean varieties. They have a smooth pod (thus "greasy") and most have strings. Seeds can be white, colored, or mottled. Most will produce under some level of shade and are heat tolerant. Tenderness of the beans varies by variety.

Greasy Beans and Greasy Cutshorts (53-90 days) - mountain heirloom varieties; and there are many. These have smooth, slick pods that make them look "greasy", especially when cooked. The seeds tend to be quite large. Grown for green beans and dry beans.

Half Runners (about 73 days) - heirloom varieities. Varieties that grow from three to roughly ten feet long. The true heirloom varieties have very tender pods even when the seeds inside are large, but the "improved" varieties have tougher pods to withstand mechanical harvests. Usually white seeded.

Kentucky Blue (63-73 days) - a cross between Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake. Deep green pods are very straight and smooth. Sweet and tender. White seeds.

McCaslan (70 days) - Grown as a stringless snap bean or as a dry shell, white seeded bean. Pods are flattened. Drought tolerant.

Red Noodle (a yard long bean)

State Half Runner - tender pods

Stringless Blue Lake

Volunteer Tennessee Half Runner (not for the coastal plain) - tender pods

White Seeded Kentucky Wonder 191

In the western part of the state many heirloom varieties are grown, such as Greasy Cutshorts, Greasy Backs, and Cornfield Greasys. Seeds of these heirloom varieties are generally not commercially available but are saved by growers from year to year, obtained through seed exchanges, or purchased at farmer's markets. These beans are very popular on a regional level and often bring twice the price of other pole beans. Avoid saving seed from virus-infected plants.


Skip to Fertilizer

Follow soil test recommendations. Average soils will require about 400 to 500 lb of 10-20-20 per acre. Fertilizer should be either banded or broadcast and disked in before planting. Some growers broadcast half of the fertilizer and put the remaining half in the row before planting. Sidedress with 20 to 25 lb of nitrogen per acre when the plants begin to "climb" and again when the first blooms set fruit. Additional sidedressing may be necessary if leaching rains occur. Beans are very sensitive to fertilizer injury.

Seed and Seeding

Skip to Seed and Seeding

Buy "western-grown" seed if available. The ideal stand is 3 to 5 plants per feet of row. Plant seed 2 to 4 inches apart and 34- to 1 inch deep in rows 4 to 5 feet apart. If root rots have been a problem in the past, planting on a 6-inch ridge may help reduce its incidence. To get uniform stands and to reduce seed injury, operate the planter at a speed of no greater than 3 mph. About 40 to 50 lb of seed are required to plant one acre.

Black Plastic Mulch

Skip to Black Plastic Mulch

Some mountain farmers grow pole beans on raised beds with black plastic and drip-irrigation. This is a more costly way to grow them but the result is earlier production, higher yields, and improved quality.


Skip to Trellising

Stakes (2 by 2 inches) should be spaced every 15 to 20 feet in the row. At least 5 feet, preferably 6 feet, of the stake should be above ground. Tightly stretch a 10 to 12 gauge wire and nail to the tops of the stakes. Stretch a smaller wire or twine and nail to the posts 5 to 6 inches above the ground. Then tie the twine in a crisscross fashion to the top wire and to the bottom wire (or twine) on which the beans will climb. Bean supports should be put up before the bean plants begin producing "runners" and falling over. If home gardeners wish to avoid staking beans, they should consider planting along fences. Another option is to plant field corn and beans together. In this system, bean seeds are planted along with or shortly after the corn. The bean plants climb the corn stalks as they would a trellis.


Skip to Cultivation

Since standard tractor equipment cannot be used after the trellis is put up, cultivation just prior to trellising is suggested. Many growers use horse-drawn equipment or small, narrow tractors for cultivation after the trellises are erected.

Pest Management

Skip to Pest Management

Fruit worms, red spiders, bean beetles, bean leaf beetles, root rot, and bean rust have been the most common pests. Consult the current North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual for specific pesticides. In some years, peanut stunt virus can be a serious problem. Little can be done to control this aphid-spread disease except to avoid planting near any fields containing alfalfa or clover.


Skip to Irrigation

Adequate moisture (1 to 1.5 inches per week) is extremely important during pod development. Hot, dry weather after flowering begins will result in poorly-shaped pods that are tough and woody. Irrigation is the best insurance you have against dry weather damage. Irrigation can be supplied through an overhead system or through a drip-irrigation system used with black plastic mulch.


Skip to Harvest

About 60 to 70 days are required from seeding to first harvest. Pole beans are usually harvested 5 times (occasionally as few as 3 or as many as 10), with about 3 to 5 days between harvests. Pole beans should be harvested before they get tough and woody; thus, timing is important. The seeds should just be starting to show through as bumps in the pods.

A reasonably good yield would be 250 to 300 bushels per acre, although yields of 400 to 450 bushels per acre (in the mountain region) are not uncommon.


Extension Specialist, Herbs/Organics/Specialty Crops/Vegetables
Horticultural Science

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Publication date: May 1, 2005
Revised: May 22, 2024

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