Monday, May 12, 2008

Vegetable 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 transplanted 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 succession ally 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.