A highly productive summer crop of tasty beans are versatile and healthy. Being susceptible to frosts, their growing period outside is restricted to summer and they need to grow fast to get the best results. You should expect to be picking your own crop between the end of July and the early October.
Soil and position
Most soils will give a reasonable crop of French green beans, but on the other hand, runner beans are more fussy. They will give disappointing results when planted in cold wet clay and any soil that is poorly drained or short of plant nutrients. For best results with both sorts of beans dig in some organic matter such as well-rotted garden compost or Levington Organic Blend Soil Conditioner.
If you are really keen on runner beans you may think about a traditional compost trench. Take out a spade depth of soil in a trench approximately 1 metre (3ft) wide and dig into the bottom of the hole all the organic matter you can get hold of including well-rotted garden compost, Levington Organic Blend Farmyard Manure shredded newspaper and cardboard. Then improve the nutrient level of the soil with a dressing of Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food.
French Green Beans: Standard bush plants 30-40cm tall will be produced from varieties such as ‘The Prince’, ‘Tendergreen’ and ‘Opera’. If you want climbing varieties ‘Blue Lake’ or ‘Cobra’ will give reliable results.
Runner Beans: Plenty of varieties to choose from including traditional ‘Scarlet Emperor’, ‘Enorma’ and ‘Prizewinner’. For stringless pods ‘Lady Di’ or ‘Polestar’ are worth trying.
Climbing French beans and runner beans need supports to clamber up to a height of around 2 metres (6ft). As the stems and the resulting crop are heavy, the supports need to be sturdy and held together so they are not blown down by the wind. A wigwam is an attractive shape and very stable if securely fasted where the canes meet at the apex. Similarly a double row of inward-facing canes that cross at the top will be just as sturdy if a horizontal holding cane is placed just above the crossing point and secured to all the uprights.
Indoors: For a really early crop, sow seeds in individual pots of Levington Multi Purpose Compost in May. Seedlings will be ready for planting out at the end of May or early June.
Outdoors: Sow seed 3cm (2in) deep at the end of May in a shallow drill with a gap of 25cm (9in) between each seed and cover with fine soil. To minimise any damage to new roots it is better to erect your wigwam or tent of supporting canes before sowing the seeds. Sow one seed at each cane or more if you throw a net over the supports. Water well.
Tie in the emerging stems to each cane, after which the plant will climb naturally following the sun each day. Pick the beans regularly so seed is not set.
A liquid feed of Miracle-Gro All Purpose Soluble Plant Food applied over the foliage and around the roots every couple of weeks will ensure the plants are fed and watered at the same time. If you’re using a hosepipe to water, try using a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Gun.
Pick the beans regularly and at the same time watch out for aphids on the underside of leaves. Spray with BugClear Gun! for Fruit & Veg whenever you see them.