They’re tasty, easy to grow and come in a huge range of varieties—no veg plot should be without a least one patch for beans. To give you a helping hand, here are ten top tips for growing success…
1. Avoid frosts
Apart from some broad beans, most bean varieties hate even the merest flicker of frost, so make sure you plant out your seedlings after the danger of cold snaps has passed.
If you’ve started your plants early indoors, harden them off before they make the permanent switch to outdoor life.
2. Feed well
Beans like to be planted in well-nourished soil, with home made compost or manure being ideal providers of good nutrients.
Due to their size and rapid growth, runner beans are particularly greedy, so give them an extra scoop of compost and consider an occasional plant feed when they start producing pods.
3. Water well
Similarly, a good supply of water is vital—particularly for those runners—so regular watering in dry spells will keep them running.
4. Succession sow
Most French beans grow quickly so extend their season by succession sowing three or four times throughout the spring and summer.
The later plants have every chance of producing beans until the cold autumnal nights begin to bite.
5. Plant in pots
Beans are a good choice for container planting.
Dwarf French beans don’t take up much space so can share a large pot with other veg, while some varieties of broad beans, such as Robin Hood, are small and compact, making them an excellent choice for big containers.
6. Add some colour
In some parts of the world, runner beans are grown more for their flowers than their pods, so consider growing them in your flower border. And if red doesn’t suit your colour scheme, white flowering varieties, such as Moonlight, make an attractive alternative.
Also look out for colourful pods—Goldfield is a bright yellow podded French bean while Purple Cascade’s pods are, you’ve guessed it, purple.
7. Share the space
As your runners begin their journey up the canes there will be space around the base of the plants.
These shady spots are ideal for planting quick growing crops such as lettuce, which will appreciate the protection from the full glare of the summer sun.
8. Go for variety
There are lots of types of bean you can try growing that you’ll struggle to find fresh in the shops, so sow a few different varieties and see which ones you prefer.
Borlotti is a French variety with fat beans loved by the Italians; Dwarf French bean Yin Yang produces tender green pods when young and big black and white beans when mature and even the Asian favourite edamame (soya beans) are now becoming a popular choice for gardeners.
9. Keep on picking
A bean’s duty is to reproduce by providing a healthy flush of seeds. Regular picking will encourage it to keep pumping out more in order to preserve its bean family tree—so pluck them while tender and reap a long harvest.
10. Save seeds
If all that regular watering and picking has produced a glut of beans, then save some and let them dry out.
They’ll store well, allowing you to use them in a hearty winter stew, and you can keep some of your most successful varieties so be sown next year.
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