Agriculture

Growing Snap Beans
in West Virginia

By Lewis W. Jett, Horticulture Specialist

Snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are a popular summer garden vegetable grown throughout West Virginia. Snap beans are highly nutritious containing abundant dietary fiber and Vitamin C. Snap beans can have several types of growth habits including bush, semi-vining, and vining. Bush varieties tend to have a concentrated set of beans and do not require trellising. Semi-vining or determinate types include half-runner beans which are popular in many regions of West Virginia primarily for their canning quality and high marketable yields. While semi-vining beans do not require trellising, a support for vine growth will increase yield and make it easier to harvest the beans. Pole beans are vining, indeterminate beans and require a trellis for growth. Pole beans are an excellent bean to grow in limited space since they are amenable to vertical trellising.

green snap beans

There are several types of snap beans including round-pod, flat-pod (Romano), wax and filet beans. Many snap beans are harvested as round pod types, but there is a market for flat pod and filet beans. Filet beans are very tender, young beans (1/8 inch diameter) without any strings. There are several varieties of filet beans which perform well in West Virginia (Table 1).

beans under black pastic
Figure 1. Green beans can be planted into black plastic mulch for early harvest and weed control

Snap beans are tender vegetables and should be planted after all danger of frost has passed. Beans require a soil temperature at the 1inch depth of at least 60°F for optimal germination. Beans are planted approximately 1 inch deep and approximately 5-7 seeds per foot with rows spaced 30-36 inches apart. Pole beans are seeded 6 inches apart. Planting too deep will reduce emergence. Planting too early will result in cool soils which will reduce germination. One pound of seed will be enough to plant 100 feet of row or 70-100 lbs of seed/acre.

Beans can be planted on bare soil or into plastic mulch which accelerates germination and suppresses weed germination/emergence and soil moisture evaporation (Figure 1). For planting on plastic mulch, black, embossed mulch is used, and 2 rows are planted on a 36-42 inch wide bed. Rows are approximately 18 inches apart on the plastic mulch. A single line of drip tube is placed on each bed with a medium flow rate to provide water throughout the growing season.

bean flowers
Figure 2. Snap bean flowers will drop from the plant if exposed to high temperatures and drought

Succession or staggered planting of green beans every 2-4 weeks will provide a continuous supply of beans over the summer and fall. To harvest fall snap beans, plant in early August. Snap beans are sensitive to high temperatures and drought stress. When beans are exposed to high temperatures during flowering, the flowers will abort or fall off the plant.

Snap beans are harvested approximately 14 days from flowering. An even supply of water during flowering through pod set is critical for good yields. Beans should be picked before the seeds get too large and the pods too tough. Filet beans are harvested when the pods are 1/8-1/4 inches in diameter and are harvested every 3-5 days.

Mexican Beetle on bean leaf Mexican Beetle damage
Figure 3. Mexican bean beetle adult and feeding injury to bean plants results in skelotinized leaves

Picking in late evening when field heat is lower will improve post harvest shelf life of green beans. Avoid picking beans after a rain or heavy dew when the foliage and beans are wet. Bush beans tend to have a concentrated set of beans and can be mechanically harvested while half-runner and pole beans are harvested repeatedly through the season. To remove field heat, beans can be hydrocooled in cool water and stored at 38-42°F for optimal quality. A good yield of green beans is approximately 150 bushels/acre or 2.5 tons/acre. Common insect pests of beans in West Virginia include the Mexican bean beetle (Figure 3) corn earworm and mites while diseases such as bean mosaic virus, anthracnose, bacterial blight are common diseases.

Mexican bean beetle larvae and adults feed on snap bean plants (Figure 3). If damage exceeds 20% of the foliage during pre-bloom or 10% during bloom, then treatments can be made. On small plantings, the beetles can be physically removed from the plants. Consult the Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations Guide for further information on managing pests of snap beans.

beans grown in high tunnel
Snap beans can be grown within a high tunnel for early and late season production

Table 1. Marketable yield of green bean varieties in West Virginia (2009)

Cultivar Days to harvest Marketable yield
(lbs/10 ft row)
Disease reaction1 Comments
Boone 58 1.3 BMV, R, CB Very dark green pods
Crockett 58 1.0 BMV, R, CB Excellent quality
Maxibel 60 3.6 - Excellent filet or haricot vert bean; stringless
Strike 53 3.3 BMV High marketable yields
Goldtito 58 2.8   Baby yellow wax bean
Isar 52 1.3 A, BMV Yellow filet bean
Ferrari 58 2.0 A, BMV Dark green filet bean; erect plant
Volunteer Half-runner 60 1.9 R, BMV Good disease resistance
Mountaineer Half-runner 60 1.8 -  
State Half-runner 60 3.1 - High marketable yields

Table 2. Other recommended varieties of snap beans for West Virginia

Cultivar Days to harvest
from direct seeding
Disease reaction1 Comments
Bronco 58 BMV Straight, dark green pods
Caprice 56 BMV; CB  
Jade 60 BMV Green, long and straight pods
Roma II 59 R, BMV Flat pod (Romano type)
Eureka 56 BMV Yellow wax
Kentucky Wonder 65 - Pole bean

1 A=Anthracnose; BMV=Bean Mosaic Virus; CB=Common Blight; R=Rust