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Growing Vegetables - Beans

There are a variety of different beans you can grow in the garden. All taste great when freshly picked.

As well as green pod beans there are purple and yellow varieties you can try. Haricot beans are grown for seeds rather than the pods.

Runner Beans
Site and Soil
Well-prepared fertile soil, moisture retentive but not soggy, in sun.

Dig plenty of well-rotted manure, compost or leaf-mould into the soil to improve moisture retention and improve fertility. Neutral or slightly acid soils produce best crops.

A trench prepared the previous autumn will provide a good, nutrient rich site for beans, but if you only get around to making the trench at planting time in spring, it is still worth while.

Sowing Seed
Beans are not generally hardy and the soil must be warm before sowing or the seeds will not germinate.

Sowing Outdoors
Sow outdoors from 2 weeks before the last frost, in late spring to early summer.

Place the canes for supporting the plants in the ground 30cm (12in) apart, with 60cm (2ft) between double rows. Sow two seeds 5cm (2in) deep at the base of each support - you can thin out the weaker plant and have a more even and productive harvest.

Germination can take 6 to 15 days. Sow every two to three weeks to provide a succession of supply.

Sowing Under Cover
Sow indoors from mid- to late-spring in individual 8cm (3in) pots.

Beans can be started undercover but should be transpalented carefully. It is best to sow directly into the garden. Pairs of seeds sown into a 'newspaper' or milk carton pot (see Growing from Seed), removing the weaker plant after germination. Plant newspaper pot and all when the soil warms, milk cartons should be slit and removed before planting.

Sow seeds outdoors from late spring to early summer.

Sow indoors from mid- to late-spring

To avoid them coming ripe at once, sow seeds successionally resulting in a smaller crop at any one time but longer period of supply

You can plant in blocks and grow up the plants up a wigwam of sticks such as our 'beanhouse' frame. The support you choose depends on the amount of space available and the style of your garden.

Watch for slugs when the seeds first germinate, as these can devastate your crop before it gets underway.

Protect the seeds and plants from birds, especially in the initial period of growth.

Harden off seedlings started under cover and plant out from late spring to summer, once late frosts are over.

Plant out 23cm (9in) apart in a single row, with rows 45cm (18in) apart.

A wigwam of canes or supports, each 25-30cm (10-12in) apart is ideal. Loosely tie the plants to the supports when planting and then they will climb unaided. When the plants reach the top of the canes, pinch out the growing tips.

Keep the ground weeded and a generous regular watering after the flowers appear is the key to success, especially if combined with good soil preparation.

After the first crop, remove the lower leaves and drop the plants to the ground, new growth will produce a second crop.

Summer to early autumn. Pick once the pods begin to swell for tender beans.

Pick regularly to encourage a longer and more continuous supply.

Harvest Lima beans when the pods swell and show the bulge of the beans inside.

Haricot beans are left until the pods turn yellow and then the entire plant hung up to dry. The bean seeds are collected when the pods have become brittle.

As with peas and other pod crops, the more you pick, the more you get.

Days to Harvest Approximately 55 to 75 days. Bush beans harvest earlier than climbing beans, but climbing beans have higher yields and a longer season.

French Beans
Climbing French beans are grown in the same way as runner beans and crop over a longer period than dwarf French beans. As well as green pod beans there are purple and yellow varieties you can try. Haricot beans are grown for seeds rather than the pods.

Dwarf French beans are good small-space plants, and especially suited to deep-bed cultivation. You can grow them in a container on your terrace or balcony, or take the pot to the bach with you from the holidays!

Site and Soil
Open, sunny site, with good drainage and that has been well-cultivated. Neutral or slightly acid soils produce best crops.

Next Page

Butter Beans
Broad Beans

Beans fresh from the garden

Beans fresh from the garden

Beans to grow
  • Scarlet Runner One of the best known and reliable climbing
  • Purple Tee Pee Dwarf French bush bean
  • Purple King Heavy crops, vigorous variety with flat dark purple pods (green when cooked).
  • Roquefort Yellow French Bush bean.
  • Romano Pole Yard Long Oriental stringless bean, pods 60-100cm long. Needs hot summers
  • Hestia Early dwarf bean developed for containers. Red and white flowers followed by dark green stringless pods
  • Dragon's Tongue Yellow French bean
  • Evergreen Small, mild flavoured broad bean, goodfor spring harvest
  • Stringless Scarlet Runner Significantly less stringiness than other runner beans, up to full size
  • Crimson Flowered Broad Bean
Always check the seed packet to confirm sowing time, depths and spacing.

Preparing a trench
Preparing a trenchDig a trench on spade deep and 60cm (2ft) wide. Break up the soil in the bottom and then half-fill with compost, manure and screwed up newspapers soaked in water or liquid manure. Replace the soil and leave to settle.

Bean seeds
Scarlett Runner Bean seeds

Bean seedlings

Recycled containers - milk carton and newspaper 'cells' - with Bean Seedlings

Pests and Diseases

Birds and mice - netting tunnel or cloche of chicken wire will protect new seedlings and seeds.

Slugs and snails will devour emerging seedlings and also attack plants on the ground- supports will lift plants out of range.

Blackfly will attack the growing tips on broad beans, removing the top 7.5cm (3in) of the growing shoot when the plant is in flower will remove these.

Fungal foot and root-rot disease. These are soil-borne diseases. Always grow peas on a new part of the vegetable garden each year, and rotate on a minimum of a three-year cycle.

Some bean flowers have holes in the back, where bees cut through to get the nectar, but pollination does not occur. French runner beans, and white flowered varietiesseem to be immune.

Saving seed
Leave some pods to mature, when they turn brown hang in a dry, airy place until brittle and then you can remove the seeds.

Bean support

Support beans with a frame
An old bicycle wheel on a post- simple and ingenious

Strategies for Deterring Birds
You need to protect the seeds and plants from birds, especially in the initial period of growth.

Strawberry netting thrown over the vines will protect them, but may become tangled in the bean tendrils.

A scarecrow is an ornamental optionA scarecrow is an ornamental option, CD's hung from strings above the peas, a 'cat-scarer' with reflective eyes - there are a number of solutions.
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Last revised 21 Jan '02